Iron, infections in the body, and the immune system have a direct relationship. If there is an iron deficiency in the body, the immune system is said to be weak.
Iron deficiency and fighting infections
It is difficult for the body to resist diseases when there is iron deficiency. It is even more difficult to cure the infection once it occurs. One of the common symptoms is the iron deficiency with frequent infections, brittle nails, an enlarged spleen, odd food cravings, and soreness of the tongue. Children are more prone to iron deficiencies which leads to severe infections and even lead poisoning.
Infection susceptibility to iron deficiency
There are two types of infections; chronic & acute. When we talk about chronic infections, it is most common that anemia is responsible for it. For example, anemia often accompanies chronic infections and inflammatory disease. Anemia can coexist with acute infections, but it is usually due to other factors as well. When anemia is left untreated, it is widespread that the immune system is affected. When the immune system is affected, it is most likely that problems of infections would recur. It is the most common case with infants and children.
Iron plays a key role in a healthy immune system, so a lower level of the essential minerals in our body can make us more susceptible to infections. The red blood cells assist in transporting oxygen to the spleen, which is one place where germs can be fought off. Red blood cells also carry oxygen to the lymph nodes, which house infection-fighting white blood cells. When someone has an iron deficiency, the white blood cells aren’t being produced as well, and they’re not as strong because they’re not getting enough oxygen, making that person more susceptible to infections.
The link between iron deficiency and immune system
An increased susceptibility to infections has been observed in some patients with it, etiology of which is not well known. Deficiency of zinc and iron are well documented for impairing immune function in experimental animals. It also has some impact on humans too. Iron plays an essential role in immune-surveillance, because of its growth-promoting and differentiation-inducing properties for immune cells and its interference with cell-mediated immune effector pathways and cytokine activities. Reported immune defects in iron deficiency include decreased cell-mediated immunity, mitogen responsiveness, and natural-killer-cell activity. Neutrophil phagocytosis and B lymphocyte function are reported to be intact, but lymphocyte bactericidal activity is decreased.