Ferritin levels in the blood indicate how well your body is storing iron. Low ferritin levels have been connected to chronic fatigue, iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, liver disease, and autoimmune disorders. Low ferritin levels can also indicate liver, spleen, and bone marrow damage. A blood test is required to determine your ferritin level. Normal range is considered between 30 and 300 mg/dl but some doctors believe the ideal level is between 70 and 90 and anything below 60 should be treated.
Eat iron-rich foods. The iron in food has been classified into two types. "Heme-iron," found in animal products (especially liver), has a higher absorption rate by the body than does "non-heme iron," found in vegetables. A few foods, in addition to liver, that are high in heme-iron are clams, muscles, and oysters. Some foods that are high in non-heme iron are tofu, cooked beans and lentils, pumpkin seeds, cooked spinach, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
Eat iron-enhancing food in conjunction with iron-rich foods. Iron-enhancing foods are those rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances the level of iron absorption by the body. Avoid tea, coffee, and chard as these inhibit iron absorption.
Take one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in the morning and one in the afternoon. Its a food rich in iron that is quickly absorbed by the body. It will also give you an energy boost.
Snack on raisins. These are not only high in iron, but also high in vitamin C and fibre.
Take ferrous sulphate tablets (an oral iron supplement) according to the directions on the label. Take a vitamin C tablet at the same time to boost absorption.
- The difference in absorption between heme and non-heme iron does not mean that iron from vegetables is not as "good" as iron from meat. The classification is only a tool to help you understand your iron intake as it relates to how much iron your body is actually absorbing.
- If you are relying on a multivitamin supplement for added iron, be aware that multivitamins are formulated to release slowly into the bloodstream. Iron from multivitamins are not absorbed as well by the body as is ferrous sulphate.
- If you have a sensitive stomach, there are ferrous sulphate supplements available that are specially formulated to reduce stomach irritation.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake as these inhibit the absorption of iron and lower ferritin levels.
- Have your ferritin level rechecked after three months and adjust your iron intake accordingly.
- Low ferritin levels can be a symptom of colon cancer. Before undertaking a change in your iron intake, consult your doctor.
- Use caution when using iron supplements. It is easy to overdose on iron, and iron overload can have serious consequences. Discuss dosage with a health professional first.
- Symptoms of iron overload include stomach pain, dizziness, bloody diarrhoea, nausea, vomit resembling coffee grounds, shallow breathing, weak and rapid pulse, blue lips, pale skin and seizure. If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue taking supplements and see your doctor immediately.
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