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  • Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

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    Old 04-17-2008, 05:51 PM   #1
    spydergirl06
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    Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    First, I am a 40 year old female with no children who is in otherwise excellent health.

    This past February I got the flu for the first time in my life. Ever since, I've been tired and lethargic. I'm a VIP blood donor, and was denied the opportunity to donate in early March due to low iron. I eat very healthy and work out 5 days a week, so I figured a visit to the doctor was in order. After doing some bloodwork, it turns out my ferritin level is a 6...a number that my doctor mentioned very casually and simply stated was "low". My CBC, folic acid, and B12 are normal, so I'm not anemic. I also tested positive for Epstein-Barr antibodies, indicating prior infection. My doc then ordered a colonoscopy...which I had done yesterday...and turned out to be normal. I have endometriosis and do not menstruate, so blood loss is not the cause of my iron deficiency.

    My symptoms include: fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, lack of mental focus, little energy (although I've been doing 5 days a week of cardio for years)....I'm seriously sick & tired of being "sick and tired"!

    My doctor says I'm either not taking in enough iron, or my body isn't absorbing it. He wants me to try taking Repliva for 2 months to see if my ferritin levels improve. Is this a waste of time? Will that help enough to make a difference? My iron intake is already very good...I take a women's multi with iron, eat a lot of chicken, seafood, eggs, whole grains. I can't help but wonder if there's something else going on! I'm not too happy about spending another 2 months feeling like this when it would seem I'm taking in plenty of iron already.

    Please help! I just moved to GA recently, and have only seen this doctor twice, so I don't know him well enough to trust his judgement completely. Any advice or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!

    Thank you,
    Kelly

     
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    Old 04-17-2008, 07:25 PM   #2
    Grazianna
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    When you take your iron you need to take it with vitamin C so that the iron can be better absorbed into your system. Take the vitamin C and your iron on an empty stomach - that's the best way to do it. If you are that low and you are doing all of those wonderful things, I would go with the prescription iron for at least 8 weeks and then retest again and see where your blood count is after that.

    When your iron count is low it's more than just fatigue, it's stressful on your organs including your heart and your bone marrow. It puts your body into overdrive and puts demands and exchanging oxygen in your bloodstream that's like driving across country on a cup of gasoline.

    Do this hightest iron and then retest. Do in the morning, on an empty stomach with vitamin C and in about 2 months you should be fine. Do not donate blood during that time, as you want to really build up those stores of iron rich, oxygen rich blood during that time.

    Peace always,

    G

     
    Old 04-17-2008, 08:18 PM   #3
    spydergirl06
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    Thank you for your post, Grazianna. The thing that makes me curious is "why now?" I've been taking the same women's daily supplement (which has oodles of Vitamin C, as well as 100% USRDA of iron), have been on the same healthy diet, and had the same work-out regimen for years. Nothing has drastically changed in any one of those areas. I could understand if I'd slacked off on the diet, or stopped taking the multi, maybe quit going to the gym.....but nothing has changed. Any thoughts? I'm just concerned because my otherwise healthy world had done a complete 180 so fast, as though someone has flipped a switch......

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    BTW - I just moved here from the Philly area, Norristown specifically...how's life in Bensalem??

     
    Old 04-17-2008, 11:57 PM   #4
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    You'll get alot of good advice here. Reading many of the posts, you will quickly see that alot of people are hunting down a mystery as to why this is happening to them now. It's a fairly serious thing and you do need to persevere until you get the answers as to why your ferritin is so low. Others here will know better than I do as to what other tests you should request. I think your doctor should test your thyroid levels. If he questions you as to why you might want other tests, I would say he's not adequately prepared to figure this out. Alot of doctors apparently don't agree that a low ferritin level will make you feel crummy. This was news to me because many people here will tell you they can barely lift their heads when their ferritin is low. If it turns out for whatever reason, that you don't like this doctor, can you talk to someone in your new hometown that likes their doctor? That's how I found my doctor when I moved to Oregon 3 years ago. Our first doctor was a seemingly competent doctor and she also came through a recommendation from someone, but she seemed very rushed and low and behold, she confused a heart problem from another patient with my husband and made him go through a ton of tests not to mention scaring the heck out of him.

    I am also suspecting something perhaps with your workouts. I was just doing some cursory checking on the internet, and apparently athletes acquire anemias and low ferritin alone, but I am not sure of the mechanisms which make this happen. One site I found said that athletes who have a low ferritin but normal HGB should be careful supplementing with iron for too long. So perhaps talking to someone who deals with performance or sports medicine might be helpful. Plus your body is fighting an infection. Working out harder is not going to help and, in fact, the fatigue is your body's way of telling you something isn't right. Don't misunderstand, you DO need some cardio, but really gentle stretching stuff that oxygenates your blood without taxing your heart so much. Loving to workout myself, I know this is going to be tough. Also, I saw alot of healthy foods on your menu, but I did not see any red meat. If this is something due to your workouts, wouldn't you rather get your iron from meat rather than a pill? You can get very nice grain fed lamb or beef from one of the healthy foods grocery chains (board rules don't permit us to post the names, but I'm sure you know which stores I mean.)

    These are just some thoughts. I'm sure you will get many answers here. Good luck!!!

    Last edited by ChickieLou; 04-18-2008 at 12:08 AM. Reason: Tired. Not making sense.

     
    Old 04-18-2008, 08:17 AM   #5
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    Kelly--If you donate blood on a regular basis, this can use up your ferritin stores. Also, this is quite common in runners, and athletes, (as the previous poster points out), to have low iron. Perhaps it is a combo of both things. There can be more than one reason as a cause, sometimes many.

    The amount of iron that is used by the body must be replaced by the amount of iron intake, through diet and/or supplements. If this is insufficient, that is when the body begins using the iron stores. My doc explained it to me as if there were a hole in my bucket and the bucket never fillis up. Over a long period of time, for many it is years, the ferritin is being used when the body signals that it is needed. Slowly it drains your ferritin from the bone marrow and organs where it is stored. Anemia is the end and final stage of ferritin stores. For you it means that your iron stores are exhausted, a ferritin under 10 with no anemia. Anemia is the next stage when the iron deficiency decreases the Hgb. Your body has been keeping up for a long time, most likely years.
    FLFLOWERGIRL

     
    Old 04-18-2008, 08:20 AM   #6
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    Kelly,
    I have to second Chicky Lou. I'm a runner, and I was getting faster and faster then, one day, very strange - the running routine that used to leave me feeling happy and energized just kicked my behind. My heart rate would soar into the 170's while doing a very slow mile- where just a few weeks before I was running fast mile with a heart rate in the low 150's. It just was crazy. I was dead tired -and I had these dizzy spells when I stood up too fast. I had a CBC. My hemoglobin was a little low (11.9) - nothing major, but my ferritin was 10.

    Well, according to some of the running sites, if your ferritin is low, it shows up in your running (This theory is controversial - some trainers say yes, some say no, but too many long distance runners experienced this for it to be dismissed out of hand). This draining of your ferritin happens over time, slowly, until eventually, you've got nothing to draw on, and then your hemoglobin starts to fall. I just wonder if your exercise routine has eventually drained all your stores? Especially if you sweat a great deal in your workouts.

    Jill

     
    Old 04-19-2008, 05:42 AM   #7
    spydergirl06
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    ChickieLou:

    Thank you so much for the information! I agree, that I will probably get a wide range of "advice", and that I need to find out what's wrong with my ferritin levels personally. But, it's a little refreshing hearing that others are suffering from the same thing, and it's not just "all in my head"...something that crosses my mind quite often! It's hard to get a feel for a new doctor after 2 visits, so I'm not convinced either way yet about his diagnosis and treatment. My aunt is a nurse back home, and she's going to consult with the docs she works with and get back to me with a "second opinion". That's terrible to hear what your husband went through! I guess for every good doc out there, there's a lousy one! I hope he's doing better now

    It's hard to imagine that working out could be the cause of my illness! It just naturally seems like being in good shape would be a GOOD thing! But, I have been reading that endurance athletes tend to be anemic and have low iron levels. I guess in theory I could cut back on some of my training, but I'm concerned what that would do to me mentally....you know how us women stress about getting fat, and simply taking this past week off from the gym is KILLING me! Ugh....exhausting both physically AND mentally!

    I hope you're having a great weekend...I'll let you know if I find out anything new. Thanks again so much for your help..you're a doll

    Kelly

     
    Old 04-19-2008, 05:52 AM   #8
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    FLFLOWERGIRL:

    Thank you for the info. I am starting to learn that endurance athletes tend to be anemic, and where you said that it probably has been going on for years makes a lot of sense to me. I guess years of draining one's iron levels takes a long time rebuild. One site I read said that it takes a LONG time to replace depleted stores of iron. I imagine that's something that would be difficult to reverse simply by changing my diet, which is probably why my doc prescribed Repliva. It's just tiresome thinking that it will be another month or 2 before I know if it's working and see some relief! I'm used to having so much energy, and it's tough for me to feel like I'm just dragging through life right now...just getting through it day-to-day.

    I'm also thinking about your comment that anemia may be the next step for me. I just found out last night that my grandmother and her sister were both anemic...good information to know! It just might be in the genetic cards for me in the long run anyway. Maybe this can help me cut it off before it ever happens...education is always a good thing!

    Thank you for your help. I like the bucket analogy...definitely helps it make sense! Hope you're having a great day...I'll keep you posted!

    Kelly

     
    Old 04-19-2008, 06:00 AM   #9
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    Jill,

    I'm learning very quickly that endurance athletes are prone to iron problems. I'm not a runner, but I do indoor cylcing like it's going out of style!! And yes, I sweat a lot...it would be impossible not to when you're training at that level. I've never had problems with my heartrate tho...my standing HR is around 56-58. In fact, it's hard for me to get my heartrate elevated when I train. But, I breathe really hard, and it feels like I'm "sucking air" and not getting any oxygen. I even got checked to see if I have asthma...Mom, Dad and Bro all have it...but tests came out fine. I know what you mean about standing up too fast and getting dizzy....scary!!

    I guess whatever happens, it's going to take a long time to rebuild what's been drained over the years. How are you feeling?? Do you still have low ferritin and difficulty running? If not, what did you do to make things better? Any suggestions would be soooo appreciated!

    Thanks for your help...I'll keep you posted!

    Kelly

     
    Old 04-19-2008, 03:18 PM   #10
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    Hi Kelly,

    There are genetic types of anemia, and certainly if the obvious steps don't fix the low ferritin levels, then you will want to explore those. I am Greek, so I thought for sure that I had thalassemia. But it's looking (at least for now) that I have the garden variety type of anemia. (Thank God, really.)

    I haven't had what I would call a "decent" workout in months, so I know that my standards had to change on that, and I didn't like it one bit. But I had a scare walking up a simple flight of stairs in February and now that I think about it, before that incident, I was struggling more and more during my workouts. So it was so gradual that when I finally had the episode on the stairs, I actually had to call 911. (Nice to be rescued by 5 great looking EMTs, but I could do without the near heart attack!)

    I would have my thyroid checked if I were you, take the iron supplement for three months, cut back to gentler aerobic exercise (outdoors if possible, where you can get really good oxygen) and re-test in three months. From the bit that I was reading, if this is caused from your exercise, you'll just learn to figure out when you need to increase/decrease workouts and increase/decrease iron consumption and you'll feel good as new.


     
    Old 04-20-2008, 12:54 PM   #11
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    Re: Low ferritin and chronic fatigue

    Kelly,
    I started feeling a wee bit better doing ferrous sulfate with vitamin C twice a day. It took a week, and I noticed I was running better. I cut my workouts in half and took three days off. I'm running much better now.

    I looked through my old research into B12, and I saw some research that said that when someone is rebuilding their B12 stores, the body draws on ferritin. That would explain for me why the ferritin was running low. I was running, not supplementing with iron, getting the B12 shots - my ferritin didnt' have much of a chance. Now that I know, I'll just continue to supplement. It's hard, because it really does a number on my digestive track, but I know I have to do it. For my blood - and for my thinning hair. I used to be able to wind a ponytail holder around my ponytail only twice. Now it goes three times around no problem.

    Jill

    Last edited by japlopper; 04-20-2008 at 12:55 PM. Reason: Mistype

     
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