So you have an iron deficiency?

by - May 07, 2017

I have been so tired for a few months now but to be honest I thought it was just a result of a very full schedule, planning a wedding and dealing with a pretty stressful financial situation that caused more than a few sleepless nights. I mean, life is busy and everyone is tired, right?

I work two early mornings per week but on the other days try to get up between 6.30 and 7am. I write from home during the day working on a variety of projects and then, come around 2pm, start thinking about heading off to the studio for a night of dance teaching. I teach five nights per week and work anywhere from three to five hours meaning I'm home around 8pm most nights. Some Saturdays I'll take a few hours of teaching here and there but I always try to keep Sundays clear.

It's definitely a very full week but nothing that I haven't done before.

Turns out though my iron levels are way below where they should be and could be the reason behind my lack of energy. I don't feel too bad in the morning and try to get as much done early as I can including any household chores and taking the dog for a walk. But once lunchtime comes around I hit that ubiquitous wall - the past few weeks I've even been taking a nap around this time because the thought of teaching a few hours in the evening is just too much.

My lack of iron and ferritin was picked up during a blood test after I complained to my doctor that I wasn't getting over a chest infection as quickly as I had hoped. It was really lingering despite a course of antibiotics and a night or two off work and he suggested, as I work with children, it may in fact have been a strain of whooping cough.

I knew I didn't feel ill enough for it to be whooping cough but went off for the test anyway hoping that it may reveal some answers. Needless to say it did and since Saturday's diagnosis I've spent hours researching my options for upping my iron levels.

Supplements and infusions are definitely the most popular options and seem to have had mixed levels of success amongst my friends and a women's online community I consulted for answers last night. But both also present side effects that sound less than desirable - constipation, irritability, stained teeth and nausea. These are all things I could do without quite frankly but, on the flip side seem a small price to pay for increased energy levels.

But the common thread in everyone's answers is that the underlying cause of the deficiency needs to be addressed before any course of action is decided on.

My ferritin levels were the cause for most alarm with my doctor. My test showed a ferritin level of just 3μg/L with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service reporting "ferritin levels below 30μg/L for an adult is diagnostic of iron deficiency". A normal ferritin level would be anything between 30-290μg/L.

Ferritin is a protein that carries iron around in the blood and can be used to measure the amount of iron in the body. If the ferritin is low, this often means the body is low in iron. In my case, that's exactly what it means. My iron measurement was 4 umol/L with normal levels being between 10-33umol/L. My saturation levels according to test results are 5% with normal levels between 16-50%.

So before I start on any supplements I want to figure out if the problem is with my diet and the amount of iron I'm consuming or if it's my body's inability to properly absorb iron that is causing the low readings.

I've resolved to try some major dietary changes over the next four weeks and see if that makes a difference to my energy levels. I stocked the grocery trolley with leafy green veggies, dried fruits, and red meat today and am also conscious I need to up my Vitamin C intake which will assist the absorption of iron.

With any luck, this will have me feeling more energetic and will negate the need for supplements or infusions. The doc wants another blood test in three months so we'll just go from there I guess.

I'd love to hear from anyone with a similar experience and find out what worked for you.

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