Your lack of balance could be due to low iron

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Your lack of balance could be due to low iron



  • Key findings: If you have balance issues, a 2021 study reveals it could be a sign that you’re low in iron, a common issue if you menstruate, especially if you have heavy or long periods. 

OCTOBER 31, 2021—Do you consider yourself clumsy or uncoordinated? Find yourself frequently reaching out to steady yourself by grasping furniture, stair banisters or nearby people so you don’t fall over or sway?

If you can’t pinpoint the reason for your lack of balance, the culprit could be low iron–a common issue if you menstruate, especially if you have heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, suggests a 2021 study from the University of Sfax in Tunisia.1

What the researchers found

In their study, investigators compared two groups of women who get regular menstrual cycles: One group of 24 had been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia (IDA), indicating their iron levels were low. A second group of 24 had healthy levels of iron and served as the control.

The study authors asked all the women to perform a variety of tests that measure their physical balance, such as striking various postures on foam and firm surfaces with their eyes open and closed.

What they discovered: The women with low levels of iron were less able to maintain their balance than those with healthy levels of iron.

The iron-balance connection

Why would low iron impact your balance? The study authors point out that this mineral helps maintain muscle strength, energy and attention span. When your body’s store of this mineral dips too low, it can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue and inability to focus that makes it more difficult to stay upright.

Low iron is a common issue that comes with menstruation. That’s because you lose iron as you bleed since it’s released in your menstrual blood. And if you have heavy or long periods, you’re losing even more iron than someone with lighter or shorter periods.

If you’re in perimenopause, which are the five to ten years leading up to your final period, this information is important to keep in mind. During this phase of your life, your periods can get heavier, longer and more frequent, which puts you at greater risk of low iron. So, if you’ve chalked up recent balance issues to simply growing older, consider whether your iron level may actually be the culprit.

You can take iron in supplement form or get more iron from your diet by consuming fortified cereal, beans, dark chocolate, tofu, spinach, chickpeas, tomatoes and lean beef.  The recommended dietary allowance in the U.S. is 15 mg. of iron daily for ages 14 to 18 and 18 mg. of iron from ages 19 to 50.2 However, if you’re athletic,  have a history of iron absorption issues or have other unique needs, your doctor may recommend different dosages. So, ask your healthcare provider before upping your iron intake.

The takeaway

If you’re having trouble keeping your balance, it’s always a smart idea to talk to your doctor about what could be causing it. And if you suspect low iron could be a possibility, print out the summary of this study and take it with you to your physician  to discuss it.

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If you have balance issues, it could be a sign that your iron is low. Learn more:

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(1) Mohammed A Harrabi, et al., “Iron deficiency anemia induces postural control disorders in young women”, Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 68 (2021): 126868

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