Ferritin is a protein which helps store iron in the body. It is present in iron-storing cells of all living organisms, including microscopic organisms. Blood ferritin levels are measured to evaluate a person's iron stores. If your doctor suspects 'too much of iron in the body' or 'iron deficiency' then he/she may order a ferritin test. When the protein 'ferritin' gets bound to iron, then only the body is able to store iron for future use. Iron plays an important role in healthy blood composition. Low ferritin can lead to iron deficiency anemia. How to maintain normal ferritin levels? Is it possible to increase ferritin levels naturally? Find answers to these questions and more in the following section.
Normal and Abnormal Ferritin Levels
As explained above, ferritin levels help to know about the iron stores in the body. Normal ferritin levels may vary according to age and gender. 18 - 270 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) of ferritin is considered as normal range of ferritin for adult men whereas adult women may have ferritin within the range of 18 - 160 ng/mL. These values may vary slightly from lab to lab.
Low ferritin is noticed when a person suffers from long term internal bleeding (for example, digestive tract bleeding), heavy menstruation (common in women), scarcity of iron in diet and digestive system dysfunction leading to poor absorption of iron in intestines. Low ferritin can seriously affect your energy and stamina. Insufficient ferritin can lead to loss of libido, increased irritability, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, breathing difficulty, ringing in the ears, etc. Women may have to suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding and long periods.
High ferritin levels are noticed when too much of iron is absorbed in the digestive tract. This condition is known as hemochromatosis. Frequent red blood cells transfusion or damaged liver due to alcohol abuse can lead to higher than normal ferritin in the body. Any inflammatory disorder can result in high ferritin.
How to Increase Ferritin Levels?
Correct Diagnosis: Correct diagnosis helps plan proper treatment. Finding out the cause of low ferritin is essential if you want to increase the levels fast. Certain health problems like hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis, certain cancers can lower the levels of ferritin. If long term gastric bleeding is detected, its cause should be found out. Ulcers or excessive consumption of drugs and medicines like aspirin, steroids can result in internal bleeding. Even infections and premature breakdown of red blood cells can be the cause of lower than normal ferritin in the body. Prompt and proper treatment can correct ferritin levels.
Iron Supplements: The amount of ferritin depends upon the amount of iron provided to your body. Ferritin level rises as you provide more iron through diet. Your doctor may prescribe iron supplements and tonics to raise ferritin levels in your body. While taking the supplements, you should strictly follow the instructions of the doctor regarding 'dosage'. Otherwise you may have to suffer from toxicity caused by too much of iron in the body.
Iron Rich Foods: It is always better to raise ferritin levels naturally. You can include iron rich foods in your regular diet. Both animal and plant sources of iron can be included in diet. Red meat is an excellent source of iron. Enjoy lean meat at least in one meal every day. Chicken liver, beef liver, pork, turkey, fish like halibut, tuna, trout, oysters, shrimp, crab, etc. are good sources of iron. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli and fruits like dates and figs help increase iron levels. Lentils, various types of beans, blackstrap molasses and nuts also contain a good amount of iron. Cornflakes, wheat germ, fortified food products, brown rice, buckwheat are some other good sources of iron. Remember, it may take months to raise ferritin levels. You need to follow a healthy diet sincerely.
Vitamin C: Not only iron rich foods but foods rich in vitamin C should be consumed in large amounts, if you want to increase ferritin levels. Vitamin C promotes iron absorption in the digestive tract. Oranges, grapefruit, berries, etc. can be included in the daily diet to enhance iron absorption.
Foods that Affect Iron Absorption: Excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol can affect iron absorption in intestines. Even calcium interferes with iron absorption. You may take iron supplement four-six hours after taking calcium supplement or four-six hours after consumption of calcium rich foods like milk or other dairy products. Thus healthy and balanced diet plays an important role in maintaining normal ferritin levels. You need to take into consideration all these points if you want to raise ferritin levels in the body.
Low ferritin can lead to anemia, resulting in lack of concentration, behavioral problems and learning difficulty. Low energy levels, weakness can seriously affect your day-to-day activities. While trying to raise the levels of ferritin, you need to consult your doctor and monitor the levels regularly.