Ferritin is very essential for proper functioning of the body. Low ferritin count can lead to multiple health complications. This article discusses about what does low ferritin count mean and how do you increase it?

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Iron is a very essential mineral required by the body. It is available in two forms, one is the readily available form, that will be circulating in the blood and the other one is in the stored form in the cells. Iron is stored in cells and it is released when the body needs it. The protein which stores iron is called ferritin. As ferritin is essential for the body, it is important to check the normal ferritin level, and know how low ferritin level affects the body, its causes, risks, treatment and prevention.

Normal Ferritin Level

Though the values differ from laboratory to laboratory, in general accepted values are given here:

  • Adult males: 12 to 300 nanogram/ml
  • Adult females: 12 to 150 nanogram/ml
  • Females older than 40 years: 12 to 260 nanogram/ml
  • Newborns: 25 to 200 nanogram/ml
  • Infants of 1 to 2 months: 200 to 600 nanogram/ml
  • Infants of 2 - 5 months: 50 to 200 nanogram/ml
  • Children from 6 months to 15 years: 7 to 140 nanogram/ml

What Does Low Ferritin Count Mean?

Although the values vary in different laboratories comparing with the standard ranges, the doctor determines the level of ferritin in the body. Ferritin level is assessed as low if the values of blood test are lower than the standard and assessed as high if the values of the blood test are higher than the normal values.

So, what low ferritin count means is that some of the functions related to ferritin may be affected. Also, it may present itself with some symptoms that indicate low levels of ferritin, which must be known. It is important to understand the functions of ferritin, the causes and symptoms of low ferritin levels, to be able to take appropriate action.

Functions of Ferritin

Some of the most important functions of ferritin are given here. Low ferritin count means that either or many of these functions can be affected, which can affect your health in many ways.

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Ferritin is released only when the cells receive the signals to release them for the production of red blood cells. It combines with another protein called transferrin and is brought to the place where new red blood cells are to be produced. Here one can imagine the importance of storage of iron.

  • Ferritin helps in detoxification by reducing the formation of reactive oxygen species.
  • Ferritin regulates the concentration of other minerals such as zinc, cadmium, etc. in the cell.
  • Ferritin builds equilibrium between iron deficiency and overload.
  • Ferritin also protects skin against UV radiation.
  • Ferritin is also found to stimulate the growth of blood vessel and helps in healing process.

Causes of Low Ferritin Count

There might be many causes of low ferritin count which depend on the age, gender and any unhealthy condition which the patient is already suffering from. Some of the causes of low ferritin count are:

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  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Side effects of other medicines
  • Antacids cause absorption problems
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • During delivery and breast feeding
  • Internal bleeding
  • Chronic blood loss
  • Ulcers or tumors in the gut
  • Malabsorption of iron
  • Insufficient intake of iron through diet
  • Celiac disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vitamin C deficiency

Signs and Symptoms of Low Ferritin Count

When the ferritin count is low, it can show in many ways. Some of the signs and symptoms of low ferritin count include

Complications of Low Ferritin Count

When considering what low ferritin count means, it is important to know about the different types. Low ferritin count may be of different categories. Let us check some of them below:

  • In one category, there is low ferritin level but the serum iron level may be normal. This condition may lead to production of small sized red blood cells and also will be fewer in number. This leads to iron deficiency anemia.
  • In another category, there may be deficiency in both hemoglobin and serum ferritin. In the beginning, the ferritin level would be normal. This ferritin is used when iron is not supplied through diet. Then the concentration of iron in ferritin would become low and there would not be enough iron for production of hemoglobin. This condition may lead to anemia.
  • In one more category, low serum ferritin and normal hemoglobin is observed where the people suffer from iron deficiency without anemia.

Thus, it is important to detect the exact category, based on which appropriate treatment can be planned and action to increase it can be taken.

Tests to Detect Low Ferritin Level

Ferritin level can be measured by performing ferritin blood test. This simple blood test reveals the level of ferritin in the body. There might be high level also which leads to hemochromatosis. Low ferritin levels also can be confirmed and also understood to what extent it is low. The necessary investigations and blood tests are best suggested by the physician, hence it is necessary to follow medical advice.

How to Increase the Ferritin Count?

A commonly asked question is how to increase the ferritin count. Ferritin level can be increased by including iron rich foods in the diet. It is important to note here that as one concentrates on increasing iron rich supplements, there is a need to include food that increase the absorption of iron.

Iron rich foods may be of two types. One is animal source and the other one is plant source. Iron from animal source is called heme iron. Iron from plant source is known as non-heme iron.

Some of the greatest sources of heme iron are listed below and they are known to increase iron level immediately:

  • Iron in meat, poultry and fish
  • Liver in a moderate level as it is high in cholesterol
  • Oysters
  • Clams
  • Lean red meat
  • Pork
  • Shrimp
  • Canned tuna or canned salmon

Some of the greatest sources of non-heme iron are listed below:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Baked potatoes
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dried apricots
  • Raisins

Food which are proved to enhance the iron absorption from the diet:

  • Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits
  • Orange or tomato juice
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sweet peppers
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Melons
  • Strawberries
  • Vitamin A rich foods

Foods are to be avoided which decrease the absorption of nonheme iron from the foods. Foods containing phytate, polyphenols, and calcium rich foods are known to inhibit the absorption of nonheme iron from the diet. They are found in the following foods:

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Coffee or tea with the meal or immediately after the meal.

Conclusion

Iron is an important mineral which plays a major role in maintaining the health of an individual. The storage and circulating iron are in equilibrium in the body. People suffer from deficiency of iron when they don’t include much iron rich foods in the diet. Low ferritin count may mean possible health problems. When this occurs, the ferritin is released from the cells to do the normal functioning. If the condition is not treated, may lead to many complications like deficiency of iron or deficiency of ferritin or both.

If you are worried about how to increase ferritin count, you need to incorporate iron rich foods in your diet. It is found out from researches that the iron from animal source is better absorbed by the body than from plant source. Depending upon the requirement, the iron rich foods can be taken through the diet to lead a healthy life. For any other nutritional supplements for iron and other nutrients, it is best to follow medical advice.

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 3, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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