We’ve all heard of ‘’anaemia’’, or more specifically, ‘’iron-deficiency anaemia’’.
‘’Anaemic’’ brings to mind an image of a pale, wan, drawn person, so fatigued a gust of wind could them blow over. Then there’s the description ‘’a little bit anaemic’’, as in: ‘’I always get a little bit anaemic during my period…’’. It may not be quite accurate, but many women can identify with it! So we know that anaemia can be debilitating, and if a GP suspects it, they will order a full blood count, where chiefly the haemoglobin rating helps them identify this.
But what about when your haemoglobin is normal?
The GP tells you ‘’Well, you’re not anaemic, so I’m not sure why you’re so tired. Probably just the general pressures of life.’’ What then?
The next thing to do, if you really suspect that low iron is a problem (that big juicy steak makes you feel so much better during your period!) is to ask to have full iron studies done. This is the only way to get an idea of your iron stores.
Your iron stores reflect your ‘’money in the bank’’, whereas the haemoglobin represents the cash in your wallet. You might have fifty bucks in your wallet, but if that’s all the money you have in the world, you wouldn’t exactly call yourself flush with funds. On the other hand, if you have $50 in your wallet and a few thousand in the bank, you’ve got a bit of a buffer for if an unexpected bill comes along. Your iron stores, represented by the ‘’ferritin’’ level on a full iron studies test, gives you an idea how much buffer you’ve got in your overall iron status. If you’ve got enough to see you through the day, but throw in an unexpectedly hectic visit from relatives, you might find you’re feeling really drained…because you didn’t have any stores to back you up.
So if you are exhausted, fatigued, and have low libido, finding out your iron stores is essential. Your haemoglobin can look fine on a full blood count, but your ferritin can show up low in full iron studies.
But there’s more…new research confirms what I see in clinical practice all the time: just because your ferritin is in the ‘’normal range’’, doesn’t mean it’s high enough to not be causing fatigue. A 2012 study looked at menstruating women with ferritin below 50ug, who did not have anaemia. They were divided into two groups: one received 80mg/day of iron (the dose often used in anaemia) and the other received a placebo tablet. Surprise, surprise! The iron group resulted in the reported fatigue being cut in half. So, don’t rule out low iron causing your fatigue, just because you’ve been told you don’t have anaemia.
To help interpret your iron results, book an appointment now at Equilibria.