Fatigue is a common concern I hear in my office. It is no wonder women and men present with fatigue given the high stress and low sleep lifestyle that many of my high powered professional patients lead. Could fatigue be related to a simple mineral deficiency?
Anemia (low red blood cells) is a common reason for fatigue, because if you don’t have enough iron and oxygen carrying cells in the body, why, yes, you will be tired! But what if there are no signs of anemia as measured by red blood cell counts? Is there anything else to check? Research suggests that yes, there is another missing link to the puzzle. A marker called ferritin, that looks at “iron storage” may be the answer.
In a recent study, women with fatigue and WITHOUT any sign of anemia were given iron or placebo for a total of 12 weeks. All of these women also had a ferritin level of 50 or less. After 12 weeks, fatigued decreased 47.7% in the iron group and by 28.8% in the placebo group! This means that ferritin <50=reason to consider iron deficiency!
In my practice, iron and ferritin levels are just one way to evaluate fatigue and other symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Thyroid function and inflammation levels are also influenced by ferritin. The picture above shows some food sources of animal and vegetable sources of iron, which may or may not be enough to boost levels. As evidence suggests, checking iron may play an important role in finding the why for fatigue.
Reference: Vaucher P, Druais PL, Waldvogel S, Favrat B. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2012 Aug 7;184(11):1247-54. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.110950.