About Ferritin Deficiency
Most people don’t know they have a ferritin deficiency until they have become borderline anemic. It’s important to educate yourself about ferritin: why we need it, what causes people to become deficient, and what can be done to correct the problem and prevent it from happening again.
The Role of Ferritin
Ferritin is a protein that enables our bodies to store iron. It adheres to iron and holds it in a perfect state – ph balanced and non-toxic – for use when the body needs it. Without ferritin, usable iron levels decrease in the body, eventually causing deficiency. Ferritin also serves as a regulator, maintaining optimal levels of iron so that we have as much as we need available to us at any given time.
Testing for Deficiency
The only way to find out if you have a ferretin deficiency is a blood test. It is a quick and painless draw, like any other simple lab test. (A lancet may be used in place of a needle if the test is being performed on a baby or small child).
The result of this test, called serum ferretin level, can vary greatly so it’s important to work with your doctor to make sure you understand what your particular numbers mean. Since normal levels can range from 12 – 300 ng/mL, it is virtually impossible for someone without medical training to interpret any one person’s results accurately.
Signs of Depletion
Look for the following symptoms in determining whether you might have a ferritin deficiency.
- Muscle aches
- Heart palpitations
- Confusion & trouble concentrating
- Low or no libido
- Restless Leg Syndrome
Ferritin deficiency has also been associated with hypothyroidism and ADHD. Conversely, too much ferritin is often indicative of a serious infection or inflammation somewhere in the body.
There are a lot of things that can cause a person to become ferritin deficient, including:
- Heavy menstruation
- Iron-deficient anemia
- Chronic intestinal bleeding
- Ongoing digestive tract problems
- Poor diet, malnutrition
Raising your levels
If you do have a ferritin deficiency, you’ll want to work closely with your doctor to increase your levels – and also to maintain them once you’ve gotten them back to normal.
A doctor will likely prescribe an iron supplement like ferrous sulfate or ferrous fumerate. You will also be told to adopt an iron-rich diet. Some great foods to include in your ferritin-raising menu are:
- Leafy greens
- Lean meat
- Whole grains
- Wheat germ
Eating these foods on a regular basis is a good idea for anyone seeking to maintain healthy ferritin levels. Once you’ve become depleted, it can take awhile before levels begin to normalize. It took a while for levels to dip so low as to cause physical symptoms, and it will take some time to replenish the missing iron.
You can complement your iron-rich regimen with vitamin C, which can help the body to absorb iron more easily. You can take a supplement, or just make sure to include orange juice in your diet. Depleted iron can also lead to the production of free radicals. The antioxidant powers of vitamin C can help to combat this.
Note that taking an iron supplement can cause some people to become constipated. Magnesium citrate is a gentle laxative that can help. Remember to start with a very small amount, and work up to the dosage that works for you.
Once you have brought the iron and ferritin in your body back to healthy levels, make sure to get tested periodically to prevent a future deficiency.