Our body is filled with minerals and nutrients that help running our anatomy smoothly and healthily. Iron is one such important mineral that is responsible for producing hemoglobin which makes the Red Blood Cells red in color that composes of oxygen. If your iron content is depleted or abnormally higher than normal levels, it indicates some medical condition that needs to be addressed quickly.
In this article, we walk you through the importance of Iron, what is Ferritin and how it is related to Iron content, iron-rich foods, and more.
Why is Iron Important?
Iron content needs to be normal to make hemoglobin in the cells. Hemoglobin is crucial for transporting oxygen to every single part of the body. If there is less hemoglobin, you may experience a lack of oxygen and as consequence fatigue, weakness and frequent illnesses may appear.
Iron is also vital for the proper functioning of muscles and their wear and tear recovery. According to a study by the University of California, nearly 70% of iron content in your body is stored in hemoglobin and the other portion is either stored as protein in the bone marrow. Thus, maintaining normal iron levels in your body determines how healthy your oxygen circulation is and can also determine how well you are immune to infections.
What is Ferritin?
Ferritin is a type of protein in blood that stores the primary form of iron and releases it when the body needs it. When your body signals that it needs iron, then ferritin releases it and binds to another substance called transferrin. Transferrin is a protein that helps in transporting the iron to the place where new red blood cells are made. Thus, Ferritin acts as an iron warehouse until the body needs it to make new red blood cells.
If you experience the following symptoms caused due to the low iron content or excess iron, your physician may order a ferritin test which is also known as the “serum ferritin” to assess the level of ferritin in the blood and gauge the iron storage capacity in the body.
Symptoms of Iron-deficiency
A healthy adult should have their Ferritin levels ranging from 20 to 500 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) in men and for women, it should stand anywhere between 20 to 200 ng/ml.
If the ferritin levels are low, i.e. below 20 ng/ml, then you do not have enough iron, resulting in iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include –
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Misshapen nails
- Tongue and mouth sores
- Difficulty concentrating
Iron deficiency can lead to Anemia which is the most common blood disorder affecting more than 3 million Americans according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you need to check your Ferritin levels and diagnose what is causing the issue.
Symptoms of Excess Iron Content in Blood
Not only depleted iron levels can make you sick, anything higher than the required amount can cause trouble as well. Excess iron content, i.e. more than 500 ng/ml if you are a man and 200 ng/ml if you are a woman, then the following are the symptoms you can encounter –
- Stomach ache
- Darkening of skin
- Pain in the joints and chest
- Sexual dysfunction
- Unusual weight loss
Stomach ache is one of the most commonly reported if you are taking iron supplements. Excess iron can irritate the stomach and digestive tract, leading to stomach ache and may also result in bleeding. Within hours of an acute iron overdose, your blood cells can be poisoned and their chemical reactions can be affected. If excess iron levels are left undiagnosed and untreated severe illnesses like liver damage can occur.
How to Get Your Iron Levels Back to Normal?
Ferritin levels need to be under control to maintain normal levels of iron. Iron needs to be cut out from your diet if you have too much iron. If you are taking iron supplements, it is highly recommended to stop those until you get back to normal levels.
Take iron supplements if you are suffering from low iron levels. It can help in improving the low iron levels and helps to recover from anemia and other iron deficiencies. Also, include iron-rich foods like spinach, red meat, beans, turkey, honey, and cereals. However, always consult your doctor on what to take and what not to because everyone’s body is different.
What Happens if Abnormal Iron Levels are Left Untreated
Without enough iron, red blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen to body tissues resulting in anemic conditions and similar other health conditions.
Excess iron is also termed iron poisoning. The most common excess iron disorder is hereditary hemochromatosis. This disorder leads to the build-up of iron in tissues and organs. Over the long run, it can result in a risk of arthritis, cancer, liver problems, diabetes, and heart failure.
Health is the greatest gift to mankind. It is our lifestyle choices that make our life easier or the harder way. Always choose the best and healthiest foods and include a lot of fiber-rich foods in your diet. Iron levels play a vital role in the overall health of your body. Keep track of your iron and ferritin levels. If you suspect you are experiencing an iron deficiency or excess iron symptoms, get tested and diagnose the root cause immediately to avoid future health complications.