Iron is important because an iron level that is too high or too low can cause fatigue, poor immune function, cold intolerance, decreased thyroid function, and poor memory.

A review of 40 years of research shows that iron deficiency contributes to hair loss and, according to Cleveland Clinic dermatologists, treatment is important for restoring hair growth. In their opinion "treatment for hair loss is enhanced when iron deficiency, with or without anemia, is treated."

How to Test Your Iron Level

To check your iron level, you need to have both your iron level and your total iron binding capacity (TIBC) checked. Although not useful by themselves, dividing the iron level by the TIBC gives you a percent saturation, which is a useful measure. In addition, you should have your ferritin blood level checked. These three tests all measure iron status. Even if a person’s iron percent saturation is low but still normal, that person will often feel fatigued, despite not being anemic. The ferritin level, however, will pick up subtle deficiencies. Unfortunately, even minimal inflammation, such as a bladder infection, will falsely elevate the ferritin measurement and make it appear to be falsely normal. This is why all three tests are necessary to determine iron deficiency. A holistic doctor should be able to help you read the results of these tests properly.

Sometimes Normal Isn't Enough

Once again, a "normal" iron test does not mean that you have enough iron. For example, one study reported in the British medical journal Lancet showed that infertile females whose ferritin levels were between 20 and 40 — a ferritin level over 9 is technically normal — were often able to become pregnant when they took supplemental iron. Other research shows that low-normal iron levels cause poor mental functioning and poor immune function. This suggests that levels considered sufficient to prevent anemia are often inadequate for other body functions.

About Taking Iron

Iron must be taken on an empty stomach. Otherwise you will lose 85% of the absorption. Do not take calcium or iron supplements within 6 hours of your thyroid dose, as they block thyroid absorption. It is normal for iron to cause constipation and a black stool. You do not need to be alarmed unless it is very foul-smelling, in which case you should alert your doctor as it may indicate a bleeding ulcer. Fortunately, if you take the iron every other day you get almost as much benefit as taking it daily — with fewer side effects.

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