Have you had a medical exam (blood test) and your ferritin levels or, better known as iron, are below normal levels? Next we will show you the consequences of having it low, why we have it like this and its causes, and how we can raise serum ferritin levels to normal values.
What is ferritin?
The serum ferritin is a protein found in red blood cells and is responsible for storing the iron which is obtained by feeding to the body in use when needed. A blood ferritin test allows knowing the amount of concentrated iron in the fluid, for this reason low ferritin is associated with iron deficiency.
Symptoms of low ferritin vary depending on the cause of the condition. Detecting low levels of this protein in the blood in time is essential to properly treat the condition and prevent the lack of iron in the body from significantly compromising health. To learn more about the causes of low ferretin, symptoms and treatment, we invite you to continue reading this eHealth article.
Low blood ferritin
To diagnose low levels of serum ferritin in the body, it is necessary to carry out an analysis. From a person’s blood sample, the levels of this protein in the bloodstream can be determined. Normal ferritin values are :
- Ferritin levels in men: 30 to 300ng / ml.
- Ferritin levels in women: from 18 to 200ng / ml.
- Ferritin levels in newborns: 25 to 200ng / ml.
- Ferritin levels in children between 6 months and 15 years of age: 7 to 150ng / ml.
Any serum ferritin test that returns lower than the minimum mentioned above indicates that the person has low levels of ferritin and iron in the body. Given this diagnosis, the doctor may order a series of additional tests to find the origin of this deficiency.
Causes of low ferritin
The most probable causes of why we have low iron, even with normal hemoglobin , can be different. There is a myth that having ferritin levels below it is due to suffering from Anemia. In a high% of cases it is true, but in many others the reason is not that, so below we show you the most likely causes of having transferrin saturation below normal levels, and what risks it may pose to our health.
Anemia is a condition that occurs when the blood is not carrying enough oxygen throughout the body . The most common cause of anemia is having iron deficiency, and that this mineral is responsible for producing hemoglobin, a protein substance responsible for the red color of the blood and for transporting oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. There are several types of anemia, but those associated with low ferritin levels are:
- Iron deficiency anemia : This is the most common type of anemia and occurs when the body does not have enough iron to make healthy red blood cells. This type of anemia can occur because the body does not absorb iron from food properly, because the person is on a low iron diet, or because the body needs higher levels of iron than normal due to pregnancy or breastfeeding. Celiac disease, bleeding, bariatric surgery, excessive use of antacids, prolonged use of aspirin, and frequent and heavy periods can cause iron deficiency and lead to iron deficiency anemia.
- Misuse of iron by white blood cells can trigger anemia. In these cases, the levels of iron in the blood are normal, but the body does not use this substance to its advantage.
- If the body does not adequately transport the iron obtained through food to the red blood cells, the production of hemoglobin is hindered and the proper oxygenation of the human body is compromised.
- The spleen removes old blood cells daily, which usually last 120 days in the body, and these are replaced by new cells that are produced in the bone marrow. An underproduction of red blood cells healthy by the bone marrow can cause anemia chronic.
The thyroid is one of the endocrine glands that secretes hormones and is located in the neck, above the clavicle. Thyroid hormones control much of our body : body temperature, the rate of the heartbeat, how quickly we lose weight and other functions related to metabolism. When a person’s thyroid gland does not secrete enough thyroid hormone, it is called hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a disease that affects more women than men and although it is associated with other thyroid conditions, it can also be congenital. Hypothyroidism makes it difficult to absorb iron since the body stops producing hydrochloric acid . Additionally, this condition causes weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation , joint pain, dry skin, and slow heart palpitations, among other symptoms. A person diagnosed with hypothyroidism will need to take synthetic hormone daily to correct the consequences of this condition.
Any condition that impairs the optimal function of the kidneys can compromise the production of erythropoietin by these organs. Erythropoietin is a substance that is involved in the formation of red blood cells , which is why low levels of ferritin are often linked to kidney disease. People with chronic kidney disease often take iron supplements.
In the age of miracle diets and the obsession with fitness, more and more people are following very strict diets to lose weight. Most of the iron that the body stores is obtained through food , when we do not eat properly we significantly compromise our nutrition, causing, for example, a deficit of iron in the blood that can lead to anemia.
To avoid low ferritin due to an extreme diet, it is important not to follow the dietary guidelines of magazines or artists, if you want to lose weight or lose a couple of kilos, the ideal is to do it in the healthiest way possible and in the hands of a nutritionist. Dispense with the consumption of any food group is detrimental to health, the ideal is to learn to eat healthily without starving.
Some treatments such as chemotherapy can cause low levels of ferretin. Chemicals used in cancer treatment can kill healthy red blood cells before their lifespan , which lowers iron levels. In some more severe cases, people with very low ferritin levels will need blood transfusions.
Symptoms of low ferritin
When ferritin levels in the blood begin to drop, it is totally normal that there is no discomfort. However, with the passage of time the symptoms become present and depending on the origin of the condition the symptoms may vary. Among the most common we find:
- Fatigue : Fatigue is a symptom of low ferritin closely linked to anemia. It is an extreme exhaustion that prevents the person from doing all their activities as usual and feeling chronically tired with minimal effort.
- Pagophagia : it is not such a common symptom, but it is closely related to a lack of iron and ferritin. It is about the uncontrollable urge to eat and chew ice. Many people go unnoticed by this sign.
- Repsiratory problems : iron is essential for hemoglobin to correctly transport oxygen to all tissues. Low levels of ferritin can affect the oxygenation of the body and cause respiratory conditions that must be treated in time.
- Weak hair and nails : blood is the fluid where all the nutrients are found, such as iron, responsible for strengthening the hair follicle where each hair is born. Iron deficiency weakens the follicle and thus causes hair loss. Also, the low ferritin produces weakness in the nails, causing them to split very easily.
- Restless legs : Low ferritin levels can cause the need to move your legs constantly.
- Lightheadedness . When low ferritin is caused by iron deficiency anemia, the person may feel dizzy and weak.
Low ferritin treatment
Treatment for low ferritin will depend on its cause . In general, people with anemia will need to start eating foods rich in iron to reverse the condition. In more severe cases it may be necessary for the person to take iron supplements. The main objective of the treatment will be to normalize the blood values to avoid compromising the oxygenation of the organism and to prevent all the conditions that this can cause. When low ferritin is caused as a side effect of a disease, such as hypothyroidism, once the person begins treatment, the values should return to normal.
When the body does not store or use iron correctly, taking supplements is almost always the most effective treatment. Supplements can be very useful to prevent chronic anemia and the dose to be taken is at the discretion of the medical specialist .
How to raise ferritin
Food plays a fundamental role in raising low levels of ferritin, which is why it is advisable to go to a nutritionist to develop a meal plan that provides a large amount of iron to the body. The following may be recommended on a low ferritin diet:
- Reduce the consumption of dairy products , as these foods make it difficult to absorb iron.
- Increase your intake of iron-rich foods such as watercress, parsley, tree tomato, beet, and carrot.
- Include dark chocolate in the diet , since it is made with 100% cocoa and cocoa is one of the foods that contributes the most iron to the human body.
- The calf ‘s liver is also an excellent protein to correct low levels of ferritin.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.