Shelves Are Bare: Iron + Hypothyroidism
In my medical practice, the main mantra I hear from my patients is this: “I’m depleted. I need my vitality. Can you help?”
When sleuthing the root cause of my patient’s low vitality, I notice certain clusters of health problems. Recently, I noticed that many of my patients with underactive thyroid glands also have low amounts of iron in their body. Turns out this is well documented.
How do I know my hypothyroid patients are also low in iron? I measure ferritin, the most sensitive indicator of iron storage in the body. You need a ferritin of 70 to 80 to rock your hormones. You need a ferritin of 40 to make new hair on your head, according to my dermatologist who prescribed red meat to me three times per week (and didn’t know I’m a vegan). Low ferritin is the first stage, and if persistent, can lead to anemia.
Why do we hypothyroid types have low ferritin? Several reason. First, some women with undertreated or undiagnosed hypothyroidism have heavier periods. When the faucet is wide open, you lose a lot of iron. Second, some people with hypothyroidism make less hydrochloric acid, which causes you to not absorb iron from your diet. All those leafy greens may be going through your system without dropping off the goods.
What are the symptoms of low ferritin, and eventually, anemia? Interestingly, the symptoms mimic hypothyroidism: fatigue, mood problems especially low-grade depression, low sex drive, hair loss, palpitations, and brain fog.
What’s a girl to do? All women with hypothyroidism should know their ferritin. If you don’t, ask for a ferritin test from your doctor with your next blood draw. There are many ways to boost your iron stores if your ferritin is low – please share your count and what has worked (and not worked) for you.
Written by Dr. Sara Gottfried
(Thank you, Dr. Gottfried, for everything you do!)