Whenever I have a person come in to my clinic complaining of fatigue, one mineral deficiency often comes to mind -the commonly known but much neglected Iron.
Iron levels are of prime importance for many reasons.
• For the formation of Haemoglobin, the oxygen carrying part of our red blood cells
• For the formation of Myoglobin, the protein that assists in the storage and use of oxygen by our muscles
• For the production of energy in our cells via the Electron Transport Chain
• For the function of enzymes that assist in the detoxification of chemicals via the liver
As you can see, with low iron levels, none of these systems work correctly, and fatigue among many other concerns, can develop.
If I suspect an iron deficiency in a patient by their symptoms, physical observations and iridology analysis, I will send a patient to a Dr. for a Full Iron Study. It is not enough to just check the iron levels in the blood, as this can be misleading.
The marker that I look for in the Full Iron Study is called Serum Ferritin, which gives us a guide towards the level of iron stores within the body. I find it a much more accurate tool for measuring the iron status and function.
The difference between orthodox practitioners and Naturopath’s comes to light when we look at these results. Dr.’s are often looking for a disease such as iron deficiency anaemia and they only look for a blood test result that is outside the normal range. A good Naturopath however will be looking for optimal levels of a nutrient, rather than only noticing when a deficiency has gotten so bad that it has become a disease.
For example one of the laboratories in Australia has a range for Serum Ferritin of 15-290. If a patient has level of 20, the Dr. will normally say “You are within range, everything is fine”. But at that level, the person does not have long before they may be in serious trouble, and they cannot obtain optimal health with such low iron stores. My aim would be to have a person close to the middle of this range to know that they are achieving optimum function of this mineral.
Serum Ferritin can be deceiving however. In a person with inflammation in the body, this level will rise, and can actually mask an iron deficiency. This is why you do need a practitioner who is able read a full iron study properly, to guide you on this.
If you are suffering from fatigue, especially if you are a menstruating woman or have a condition such as fibroids that causes heavy bleeding – and your Dr. says that your iron levels are fine, ask for a print out of the report and find someone that can analyse it properly for you. You don’t want to take the risk that your Dr. missed an important warning sign.
And believe me, then can happen. I had one patient that had such low iron levels she was in a potentially life threatening situation and was on the verge of needing a blood transfusion – and yet her Dr. called her and said that she needed to take an iron tablet. That was the understatement of the year!
Iron levels can be low for many reasons – poor absorption, mineral competition, drug interactions, low intake and blood loss – but finding out that you have low iron is the first step. The second step would be working with a competent Naturopath to find out why your iron levels are low, and then putting in a program to correct not only the deficiency, but the reason why you became deficient in the first place.
Although there are many brilliant Dr.’s doing great work, always keep in mind that most Dr.’s are trained to look for the markers of disease, not for what constitutes vibrant health. So if vibrant health is your goal – find someone who has trained in how to best help you create it.