Dietary Counseling and Consultations

HN4U Blog

Ferritin Equation

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD. BCHN. BCIH

ferritin test

No one knows your body and health better than you do, if you are exposed to information that empowers you in taking back control of your health, and as an informed consumer do so, the job of your primary healthcare provider just got easier, because you are doing your part to stay healthy, vibrant and productive.

Many health challenges have the same symptoms; that is one of the reasons family history is important. Familial tendency’s shed light on what may be the answer to your health problems such as fatigue, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath or anyone of the symptoms associated with low ferritin. Low ferritin may be only a symptom of other more pressing health challenges like celiac, Crohns, and thyroid dysfunction. The challenge is to make sure a deficiency like low ferritin is not overlooked allowing for better long-term management of illnesses.

So how do I know what my ferritin level is? If you have a healthcare provider who is partnered with you to achieve health, ask them to order a serum ferritin level when they do your blood work[1], you should also routinely check your vitamin D, A1C hemoglobin and homocysteine levels.

What to do if ferritin is low? For starters know, in order for your ferritin levels to read “low”, you biologically have been in an iron deficient state for quite a while. When reviewing lab results depending on the lab, you will see ferritin ranges are 12-500ng/mL or 15-400ng/mL.[2],[3],[4] That is a huge range and not the best gage of optimum. So clinically, here is what I have gleaned. The thyroid and adrenal glands works best when ferritin is somewhere between 80-110ng/mL, women will routinely complain of hair loss between 60-40ng/mL, fatigue and lightheadedness between 40-20ng/mL, 20ng/mL and lower can manifest in heart arrhythmias, breathlessness, irritability nerve pain or restless leg to name just a few. Note that all of these “symptoms” are within normal range according to the lab tests.

The very best food source of ferritin (iron) is liver, preferably pork. I know, I know all the objections and can see in my mind the distorted faces from even suggesting liver. Keep in mind that the U.S. is alone in the aversion to organ meat consumption. This cultural fact may account for the growing numbers of individuals low in not only iron but vitamin D and B12.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9]

Hem iron is the most bioavailable of the bound forms of iron, and that means flesh foods; lean red meat, lamb, buffalo, wild game, sockeye salmon, tuna, pork and chicken legs; the next best are molasses, sesame seeds pumpkin seeds, pistachios, the herbs dandelion, coco, rice bran, spirulina and cold water kelp.[10],[11] The iron and health promoting minerals zinc and magnesium are tightly bound by phytic acid in all plants rich in these minerals, that is why it is so very hard for the digestive system to extract iron (ferritin) from plants.

Phytic acid discovered in 1903, is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially bran and seeds. Phytate is indigestible for humans and many animals, making it a useless source for inositol or phosphate. Phytate chelates and minerals such as zinc and iron, and to a lesser extent, calcium and magnesium, rendering them of no biological value for health.[12]

While spinach, beans, and lentils are high in iron, the phytic acid reduces absorption by fifty percent. A balanced blending of fruits, vegetables, grains and organic organ foods allows the body to absorb iron without gastric upset as common with supplementation. The consumption of whey protein, tea both green and black, anti-inflammatory medications, alcohol, caffeine, milk thistle, excessive calcium supplementation, and high dose zinc all contribute to low ferritin levels.

It is believed, most individuals are not low in iron, however as we age we lose hydrochloric acid production, and many increase the amount of calcium to reduce the chance of osteoporosis, the use of anti-inflammatory medications for aches and pains associated with osteoarthritis and ageing all interfere with ferritin. This combination along with reduced and subpar dietary intake could easily increase the likelihood of elderly individuals being low ferritin as well as those with chronic illness.

The utilization of a blood test may prevent unnecessary falls, or medications. Adding to the vitality and quality of life.

Take Back Control of Your Health.

  1. [1]
  2. [1]
  3. [1]
  4. [1]
  5. [1]
  6. [1] Stanford University (2005, April 6). Undiagnosed Anemia Common With Chronic Illness.
  7. [1] [Guideline] American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Anemia in pregnancy. Jul 2008;[Full Text].
  8. Zittermann A, Jungvogel A, Prokop S, Kuhn J, Dreier J, Fuchs U, et al. Vitamin D deficiency is an independent predictor of anemia in end-stage heart failure. Clin Res Cardiol. Apr 7 2011;[Medline].
  9. Omar N, Salama K, Adolf S, El-Saeed GS, Abdel Ghaffar N, Ezzat N. Major risk of blood transfusion in hemolytic anemia patients. Blood Coagul Fibrinolysis. Apr 19 2011;[Medline].
  10. [1]
  11. [1] In-Tele-Health © 2009 (from Hyperhealth Pro CD-ROM)
  12. [1]