Ferritin Deficiency & Fertility
The Fertile Life Method is an integration of Western, Functional and Chinese Medicine, sometimes the hidden gem is amongst all the blood tests, finding out what is being missed is the basis of the Fertile Life Detective System, this is one of the differences that makes us the place to come to when starting out or in the midst of struggling with fertility. We leave no stone unturned when it comes to working out what is preventing pregnancy & a live birth.
The blood test that I see that hasn’t been explained properly by doctors or other allied health professionals, or simply not ordered, over and over and over again is iron stores and more specifically ferritin. It is such a simple test and has a huge impact on you being able to conceive and carry a baby full term plus is a simple fix for us Chinese Medicine practitioners. Iron is important for egg development, the cells around the egg (granulosa cells) rely on it to work, low iron= low egg quality. We need blood to build a healthy thick uterine lining. If you think about ferritin as a bank account. We need $150 to run your body healthily and effectively, we run the most important systems first, your heart, brain & lungs, the last thing it runs is your reproductive system. Some patients come in with Ferritin at 9, they are starting on $9 a day!! Women are exhausted, and they are taught to push through, told there is nothing wrong, running on empty thinking this is normal. Let me tell you it is not normal!!
In healthy people, most of the iron absorbed by the body is incorporated into the haemoglobin of red blood cells. Most of the remaining that are stored as ferritin are present primarily in the liver but also in the bone marrow, spleen, and skeletal muscles.
When the level of iron is insufficient to meet the body’s needs, the level of iron in the blood drops, iron stores are depleted, and ferritin levels decrease. Approximately one-quarter of the total iron in the body is stored as ferritin. Ferritin has a vital function in the absorption, storage, and release of iron. Because ferritin is a storage protein for iron, low ferritin levels are not the cause of anaemia, instead, low iron levels are the cause of iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia. However, because blood levels of ferritin are directly proportional to the body’s iron stores, ferritin is a good indicator of the condition.
To get a complete picture of what your iron status is, the tests to have are FBE & Iron stores. The iron stores blood test is made up of 4 components, Iron, transferrin, transferrin saturation & ferritin.
Iron – is an essential trace element and nutrient that, among other functions, is necessary to produce healthy red blood cells. The body cannot produce iron and must absorb it from the foods we eat or from supplements. The purpose of the test is to see the levels of iron in the blood.
Ferritin – is a protein that contains iron and is the primary form of iron stored inside of cells. The small amount of ferritin that is released and circulates in the blood reflects the total amount of iron stored in the body. This test measures the amount of ferritin in the blood
Transferrin – is the main protein in the blood that binds iron and transports it around the body. Your body makes transferrin in relationship to your iron needs. When iron stores are low, transferrin increases, and when transferrin is low there is too much iron.
Transferrin Saturation – this is a calculation that represents the percentage of transferrin that is saturated with iron.
I often explain it in a train carriage analogy. Ferritin is the stored iron in the factory, the Transferrin is the number of carriages the train has for transporting the iron and the Saturation is how many carriages are full, you want full carriages to get the iron from the factory into shops (circulation).
Reading the test: Labs have a massive “healthy” range for ferritin, with values ranging from approximately 30-300 ug/L in women. From our perspective for fertility and honestly in all women we want to aim for 100ug/L at a minimum. From a Western medicine perspective they offer iron infusions at 30ug/l and below. Unfortunately, we often see tests with ferritin as low at 5 and nothing has been said or the patient has been told it is “all good” by their specialists, dr or allied health practitioner. This happens so much in our clinic that even the receptionist know the ranges for ferritin and on a daily basis give out details to our favourite doctors on the Peninsula. We don’t know why this happens and don’t want to focus on that, we would rather get the awareness out there and help women advocate for their health and fertility.
Signs of low iron or what we call Blood deficiency
- Shortness of breath
- Heating up at night
- Brain Fog
- Restless legs
- Poor appetite
- Brittle nails
- Cold hands & feet
- Hair loss
From a Chinese Medicine perspective blood is much more than just iron, it is essential for life and central to the reproductive system. Its production includes the Liver, Spleen & Kidneys. Blood can become hot, cold, deficient and/or stagnant. This is seen in fertility as short or long cycles, luteal phase defect, anovulation, clots in menstruation, light periods yet sometimes heavy periods which is a vicious cycle leading to more blood loss & low BBT temperatures.
Its functions from a Chinese Medicine theory include:
- ensures nourishment & moisture for the entire body
- keeps our tendons, skin and hair healthy, strong and flexible.
- lubricates joints
- nourishes the mind, basis for metal clarity
- Nourishes the ovaries, produces menstrual blood & nourishes the feotus
At MCM we want to treat the root cause of your ferritin deficiency not just treat the symptom. We want to diagnose you from a Chinese Medicine perspective, and we absolutely want to see all your blood test, ultrasound and surgery results. We want the whole picture, not just half of one. When ferritin is below 30ug/L an iron infusion is like liquid gold, I can tell you from personal experience that you will feel amazing! Although… it hasn’t fixed the actual problem. We will then address specifically what is going on with your body/diet that has created the deficiency in the first place and resolve that with Acupuncture, herbs, supplementation of iron, B Vit, Vit C, rest and look at other factors including autoimmune, coeliac, leaky gut, SIBO, blood loss at birth, bowel problems, over exercise, poor diet, inflammation & miscarriage to name a few. There is no one size fits all treatment, individualised, personal care is our speciality.
Kirsten is available at Mornington Chinese Medicine from 2-8pm on Monday and Tuesday and 9am to 2pm on Wednesday.
138 Tanti Avenue, Mornington, VIC
03 5973 6886