Well what does low iron have to do with hypothyroidism you ask.
Turns out quite a bit.
Low thyroid makes it hard to hang onto iron, and low iron makes it hard to treat thyroid. It’s a classic “Catch 22″.
The more scientific explanation: Iron deficiency is shown to significantly reduce T4 to T3 conversion, increase reverse T3 levels, and block the thermogenic (metabolism boosting) properties of thyroid hormone. Thus, iron deficiency, as indicated by an iron saturation below 25 or a ferritin below 70, will result in diminished intracellular T3 levels. Additionally, T4 should not be considered adequate thyroid replacement if iron deficiency is present.
This is the situation I find myself in, if you’ve read the My Journey page on this blog, you know that during my labour and delivery of my second son I lost a lot of blood, to the point where I almost lost consciousness. I can tell you right now, my iron issue were never properly addressed, it was one of those things that fell through the cracks, dealing with babies and three auto-immune diseases. I guess it happens. It did raise a red flag with one doc that I can think of. It was around 2006, I had been in for some regular blood tests and I guess it came back abnormal, I got a call saying I have to come in as soon as possible, when I arrive the doc says I need iron shots. I got a series of 6 shots over several weeks, but he was not happy with the results, so off to the the Hematologist I went. The Hematologist took a look at my latest results and ordered more tests. I went back a few weeks later and he declared me ‘fine’ and that was that. Of course 20/20 hindsight, I should have asked for a copy of my test results, whaddyado!
Note to readers: Always ask for a copy of test results. ALWAYS! And interpretation is EVERYTHING!
Here’s a link to a great article about iron deficiency. It describes in full who is at risk, complete list of symptoms, function of iron in the body and so on, it’s an interesting read.
I have to cover one more thing before you go running off to the doctors to get your blood test.
Here’s the thing, your doc may only order 1, maybe 2 tests to determine if your iron deficient. If you want to get the real picture you’ll need more than those two tests.
I will use my latest iron labs as an example:
Hemoglobin 128 – Ref range 115-165
Normal, right? The doc would declare me ‘fine’ and move on.
Ferritin 14 – Ref range 11-145
Low normal, most doctors wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with this. Why? Well your hemoglobin in fine, so no need to worry, you can’t possibly be symptomatic (most docs think you can only have symptoms of low iron if you hemoglobin is low. And that is just plain W-R-O-N-G!).
The real picture of my iron status:
So what this basically all means is that I am Iron Deficient. And if the doctor only relied on Hemoglobin/Ferritin alone this would have gone un-addressed. Labsonline.com has a chart outlining what the more comprehensive iron tests mean.
Reasons I am iron deficient and you might be too:
Un-diagnosed hypothyroidism (5 years)
Inadequately treated hypothyroidism ( 9 years)
Pregnancy/labour/delivery/breastfeeding (x2 – babies are iron sucking machines)
I’m a menstruating women (having un-diagnosed/inadequately treated hypothyroidism can result in heavier periods)
Malabsorption (un-diagnosed/inadequately treated hypothyroidism can result in lowered production of hydrochloric acid)
Low body temperature (low body temp is a symptom of both low iron and hypothyroidism, which causes you to make less red blood cells)
So, what’s the solution? Well it’s time for corrective measures!
If you suspect that you have un-diagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism visit www.stopthethyroidmadness.com.
If you are pregnant or nursing and you suspect that you have an iron problem, first get tested, then have your doctor recommend supplements that are safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. You may require more iron than what your prenatal vitamin provides.
If you suspect low stomach acid, thyroid issue or not, there are plenty of hydrochloric acid supplements to choose from at your local vitamin store.
Heavy periods? Fixing any thyroid issues would be a good start. But if that turns out not to be an issue for you there is some evidence that vitamin deficiencies could a problem. Taking vitamin C, K, and vitamin A have been shown to help curb heavy menstrual bleeding.
I’ve made all the necessary corrections and now it’s time to replace the iron my body is so desperately craving.
Not knowing how important it was to have optimal levels of ferritin, I had only made feeble attempts at taking iron after the birth of my second son. And from 2006 to 2011 I have taken a number of iron preparations to correct my very low iron, for me, none of it has seemed to work, despite all my best efforts, and making corrections mentioned above.
That’s why tomorrow I go for my first of three appointments at my local hospital to receive IV Iron. Yaaay! After years of struggling I can have my iron problems corrected in three weeks! THREE WEEKS! I’m so excited!
Here’s to new beginnings!