Low levels of this key nutrient can worsen thyroid function
Suffering from fatigue, heavy periods and hair loss? Did you know that these are symptoms of low thyroid function AND low iron levels?
An iron deficiency actually makes it harder for your body to make and use thyroid hormones. It prevents the optimal conversion of the T4 hormone to the "active" T3 hormone that is needed by every cell in the body. This can result in symptoms of low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) even without a change in the TSH level which is the most commonly measured thyroid blood test.
How does an iron deficiency develop? It is primarily due to:
Low intake. For example avoiding meat which contains the most easily absorbable form of iron.
Low absorption. For example in the case of chronic gut issues, IBS, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, SIBO, or with the use of certain GI medications like proton pump inhibitors.
Blood loss. For example in the case of heavy periods.
How do you know if you have low iron?
Hemoglobin and hematocrit-- included in the Complete Blood Count (CBC)-- may be low in the case of iron deficiency anemia.
But I find that iron deficiency shows up most often as low ferritin. Ferritin is the storage form of iron.
Sadly, many female patients I see have NEVER had their ferritin levels checked even though low ferritin is VERY common.
Beware that the lab reference ranges for ferritin are almost meaningless. Lab "normal" ranges are based on a general sample of people in the population. The problem is that many women in the population have low iron and the "normal" reference ranges reflect this. Research suggests that the optimal ferritin level is 70ng/mL or greater.
I should also note that ferritin is known as an "acute phase reactant" which means that it may become temporarily elevated in the case of inflammation or illness. Something to remember if it ever comes back high.
Also, don't bother with the test that measures total serum iron levels, it is not an accurate reflection of the iron inside the red blood cells or in storage form.
If you have fatigue, heavy periods, hair loss or any of the MANY other symptoms of low thyroid function, it's worth making sure that you have optimal iron levels and work with a physician to correct the underlying root causes of deficiency.