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Iron Deficiency
Pat Elliott, ND


Diagnosis - An iron deficient state exists for quite some time before it begins to cause anemia.  Unfortunately, iron deficiency is often not screened for if a patient is found to not be anemic, even if the patient is feeling fatigued.. This common practice makes it one of the most commonly missed diagnoses.  If iron deficiency is suspected but anemia is not present, then specific blood tests for iron deficiency (including serum iron, TIBC, %saturation, and ferritin) are used for diagnosis. The most sensitive early indicator for iron deficiency is a low or borderline low ferritin level. One's ferritin level is representative of the amount of stored iron present and will be   abnormal before anemia symptoms appear.  Many laboratory reference ranges report  ferritin values between 15 and 40 as being within the normal range; however, many experts believe that ferritin levels below 40 indicate depleted iron stores and a need for iron supplementation for optimal health.

Causes - The most common cause of iron depletion is bleeding such as that which occurs with heavy menstrual periods or stomach and intestinal disorders. Digestive tract disturbances which impair digestion or absorption of iron can also contribute as can the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Treatment - It is usually necessary to treat iron deficiency with supplemental iron especially in the case of menstruating women. The dosage used can depend on the type used and the tolerance of the patient (iron can cause digestive upset and/or constipation in some) but is usually in the range of 50-150 mg of iron per day. It often takes 6 months to a year to bring ferritin levels up above 40. When each dose of iron is taken with a dose of vitamin C, iron absorption is significantly enhanced.

Food sources - The best food sources for iron are all meats (especially liver), eggs, clams, oysters, shrimp, dark green leafy vegetables, lima beans, navy beans, soy beans, kidney beans, split peas, green peas, dried peaches and apricots, raisins, potato, the cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower family of vegetables, nuts including peanuts, and blackstrap molasses.

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Pat Elliott, ND
Elliott Health Care
1155 N State ST Suite 610
Bellingham, WA 98225

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