What You Need to Know About Anemia and Your Period

Editor’s Note: This article is for informational purposes only. You should not use it to replace any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health issues. Any questions about your blood health should be directed toward a physician, hematologist, or other licensed healthcare professional.

Women are more likely to get anemia than men, and your period is a big reason why.

Periods can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, nausea, and in some cases, can also cause iron-deficiency anemia and lead to other health issues.

That’s not to say every woman will become anemic during her period—especially if their iron levels are high enough before and during their cycle. Generally speaking, this only happens in women with prolonged periods or in those who experience heavy bleeding. It could also affect those with already low iron levels.

In this piece, we’ll discuss how your period increases your risk of anemia, what symptoms you should look out for, and what you can do to better your health.

Iron Intake and Loss During Your Period

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women between the ages of 19 and 50 should eat 18 mg of iron per day. Women older than that, in addition to men, only need about 8 mg per day.

The reason for the large discrepancy is, as you probably guessed, due to your period. Iron is the key nutrient for preventing anemia, but up to 70 percent of it is stored in our blood. During their periods, women can lose around 1 mg of iron per cycle.

That number can vary depending on the severity of your period. Women who experience excessive bleeding can sometimes lose 1.5 mg of iron per day during their cycle.

This is also why older women don’t need as much iron—because they’re no longer having their period, and therefore don’t need as much iron to prevent anemia.

We want to reiterate that not all women will become anemic, but for those who do it can present certain health risks, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Physical weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Pallor (Pale or yellowish skin)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Cold hands and feet

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, odds are your hemoglobin levels are probably lower than they should be.

How You Can Prevent Anemia Symptoms During Your PeriodWoman with cramps sitting on a couch

When your iron is low, your hemoglobin is low, and when that happens you’re likely to experience some anemia-related symptoms. So how do you make sure your hemoglobin levels don’t dip below acceptable levels during your period?

The No. 1 way is to adjust your diet. Eating iron-rich foods before and during your period will ensure your hemoglobin estimation remains high, even as you experience blood loss.

Iron-rich Foods

Here are some foods you should focus on adding to your diet if you’re looking to increase your iron intake.

  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Tofu/tempeh
  • Oats
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Lentils
  • Palm Hearts
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Pumpkin and flaxseeds
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Dark Chocolate

People on a plant-based diet should be aware that vegetables and fruits have a type of iron called non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed as heme iron, found in animal products. To counter this, vegans and vegetarians should make sure they’re eating enough Vitamin C, which helps the body better absorb non-heme iron.

If you’re still not getting enough iron even after adding these foods to your diet, consult your doctor about taking an iron supplement.

How AnemoCheck Mobile Can Help Women on their Periods

With AnemoCheck Mobile, you can get your hemoglobin estimation with just a quick fingernail selfie.

We can’t promise it will take away all the discomfort caused by periods, but it can certainly help to make sure no other health issues pop up.

Click here to download the app via the iOS or Android app stores.

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