How to Increase Ferritin Levels – Iron Out Your Health

How to Increase Ferritin Levels – Iron Out Your Health

You probably read this because you did a blood analysis and now wonder about the blood marker “ferritin.” Ferritin is your body's personal savings account for iron, a precious mineral that sort of fuels your every breath by powering up hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in your body. Low ferritin is often the first sign of a developing iron deficiency. If you're on a quest to optimize your health and unlock your body's full potential, understanding and managing your ferritin and iron levels can be the key you've been searching for!

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in General Health
10 min read · Mar 29, 2024

Hero Image

Table of content

What Is Ferritin?

Ferritin is a crucial protein in your body that plays a vital role in storing iron and simultaneously protects you from the toxic effects of too much free iron in your blood. Imagine ferritin as a safe where your body keeps its iron reserves securely locked away until needed. This is essential because iron is not just any mineral; it's a key component in creating hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. [1]

Without enough iron, your body can't produce sufficient hemoglobin, leading to a condition known as anemia, characterized by fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, among other symptoms. [1]

For anyone looking to optimize their health, understanding and monitoring your ferritin levels can be key to ensuring your body's oxygen transportation system is running smoothly.

Adequate ferritin levels mean your body has enough iron to support the production of hemoglobin, which in turn ensures your muscles, brain, and other organs receive the oxygen they need to function effectively. This is especially crucial for athletes, pregnant women, and those with conditions affecting iron absorption or experiencing chronic blood loss. [1]

What Is the Difference Between Ferritin and Iron?

Blog detail image

Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, and iron is a mineral. Hemoglobin, a blood protein that carries oxygen, requires iron to function correctly. Ferritin ensures that your body has a readily available supply of iron to produce hemoglobin efficiently. [2]

Understanding the connection between ferritin, hemoglobin, and iron is fundamental to appreciating why maintaining adequate levels of ferritin is so important. Together, they are a beautifully orchestrated system where ferritin regulates iron's availability, ensuring there's enough for hemoglobin synthesis without allowing excess iron to cause harm. Did you know that excess iron can be toxic, leading to organ damage? Hence, ferritin also acts protectively, preventing iron overload.

Now that you know what ferritin is and why it is so important, you can also imagine that ferritin levels are a great biomarker to get insight into your body’s iron storage.

Ferritin levels in your body serve as a useful indicator of your total iron stores. Low ferritin levels can signal inadequate iron reserves, potentially leading to iron deficiency anemia, while high ferritin levels might indicate conditions such as hemochromatosis (iron overload), inflammation, infection, or chronic disease.

What Are Optimal Ferritin Level Ranges?

Ideal ferritin levels vary depending on age, gender, and individual health conditions, but generally, for adults, a normal range is approximately 24–336 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) for men and 24-307 ng/mL for women. [3]

  • 24 to 336 ng/mL for adult males
  • 24 to 307 ng/mL for adult females
  • 25 to 200 ng/mL for newborns
  • 200 to 600 ng/mL at 1-month-old
  • 50 to 200 ng/mL at 2 to 5 months old
  • 7 to 140 ng/mL for children 6 months to 15 years

How Can You Get Your Ferritin Levels Checked?

A blood test is the primary and most accurate method for measuring ferritin levels to assess iron stores in the body. [3]

Ferritin Blood Test

  1. Consult Your Healthcare Provider: If you suspect your ferritin levels might be low or if you're experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency, the first step is to talk to your doctor. They can evaluate your symptoms and decide if a ferritin test is necessary based on your health history and current condition.
  2. Blood Sample Collection: A ferritin test requires a blood sample typically drawn from a vein in your arm. The procedure is quick and usually done in a doctor's office, a clinic, or a laboratory.
  3. Understanding the Results: Once your blood sample is analyzed, your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you. They'll explain your ferritin levels in the context of your overall health, symptoms, and any other blood tests you may have had.

If your ferritin levels are low, your healthcare provider can discuss appropriate methods with you on how to increase ferritin levels naturally, including dietary changes. If you ask your healthcare professional how to increase ferritin fast, he or she will probably recommend iron supplements.

Would you like to know your ferritin level or check whether your oxygen transport system is working properly? At CARE, you can do regular blood check-ups and keep an eye on your blood values.

By now, you probably ask yourself, “And how do I raise my ferritin level?”. We are about to tell you!

Let us just take a quick look first at what even causes low ferritin.

What Causes Low Ferritin?

Low ferritin levels can be concerning, reflecting insufficient iron stores in your body, and it's understandable if this worries you. Here's a concise list of what might cause low ferritin levels:

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

This is the most common cause. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that carries oxygen. Without enough iron, you can't produce sufficient hemoglobin, leading to fatigue and weakness. [1]

Blood Loss

Loss of blood can deplete your iron stores. This might happen due to heavy menstrual periods, a peptic ulcer, a hiatal hernia, a colon polyp, or colorectal cancer.

Poor Iron Absorption: Certain conditions like celiac disease or surgical removal of part of the stomach or small intestine can impair your body's ability to absorb iron from food, leading to decreased ferritin levels. [1]

Dietary Insufficiency

Not consuming enough iron-rich foods (like red meat, beans, spinach, and fortified cereals) can lead to low ferritin levels, especially if you're in a life stage requiring more iron (e.g., pregnancy or growth spurts in children and teens). [1]

Your body's ability to manage iron, reflected in ferritin levels, is a delicate balance influenced by various factors, including diet, health conditions, and even genetics. If you're concerned about low ferritin levels, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help identify the cause and recommend appropriate treatments or dietary adjustments to help replenish your iron stores, aiming to restore your energy levels and overall well-being.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Ferritin Levels?

Blog detail image

Low ferritin levels, indicating reduced iron stores in your body, can lead to several symptoms, often related to the decreased capacity of your body to transport oxygen effectively. Here’s what you might experience:

  • Fatigue and Weakness: Low energy, fatigue, and weakness are hallmark symptoms as your body struggles to produce enough hemoglobin for energy. [1]

  • Headaches and Dizziness: Reduced oxygen flow to the brain can lead to frequent headaches or feelings of light-headedness. [1]

  • Shortness of Breath: Even mild exertion can become challenging as your muscles and organs receive less oxygen. [1]

  • Pale Skin: Hemoglobin gives blood its red color, so lower levels can make your skin look less rosy and more pale or yellowish. [1]

  • Cold Hands and Feet: Insufficient oxygen flow can make you feel colder, especially in your extremities.

  • Brittle Nails: Iron deficiency can lead to brittle or spoon-shaped nails, a condition known as koilonychia.

  • Hair Loss: Without an adequate amount of iron, hair growth can be affected, leading to noticeable hair loss. [1]

What Are Some Risk Factors for Iron Deficiency?

Blog detail image

  • Intense Exercise: If you're an athlete, especially in endurance sports, you might lose more iron than average through sweat, the gastrointestinal tract, and the breakdown of red blood cells.
  • Your Diet: If your diet is low in iron-rich foods like meats, beans, lentils, and fortified cereals, you might be at a higher risk for iron deficiency. If you're vegetarian or vegan, it's crucial to include plenty of iron-rich plant-based foods to meet your needs. [1]
  • Blood Loss: Experiencing significant or chronic blood loss, such as from heavy menstrual periods or internal conditions like ulcers or polyps, can quickly deplete your body's iron stores. [1]
  • During Pregnancy: Your need for iron increases during pregnancy to support your growing baby and the expansion of your blood volume. This makes it especially important for you to monitor your iron intake. [1]
  • Gastrointestinal Conditions: If you have conditions that affect how your body absorbs iron, like celiac disease or Crohn's disease, or if you've had surgeries on your stomach or intestines, this could lead to iron deficiency. [1]
  • Chronic Diseases: Living with chronic conditions such as heart failure, cancer, or renal failure can affect your body's ability to manage iron, potentially leading to deficiency.
  • Frequent Blood Donation: If you regularly donate blood, you're giving away vital iron with each donation. It's important to monitor your levels and perhaps adjust the frequency of your donations. [1]

If a blood test at CARE shows that you have low ferritin levels, your Health Coach will help you find out why and how you can increase your levels.

How to Increase Ferritin Levels?

Blog detail image

Do you ask yourself how to get ferritin levels up? It's perfectly normal to feel concerned or overwhelmed if you've discovered your ferritin levels are low, but there are straightforward dietary strategies you can adopt.

Let's explore how certain foods and dietary changes can naturally elevate your ferritin and how this works biologically to benefit you [4]:

  • Iron-rich foods: Consuming foods high in iron is the most direct way to increase your ferritin levels. There are two types of iron in foods: heme iron, found in animal products like red meat, poultry, and fish, and non-heme iron, found in plant-based foods like lentils, beans, spinach, and fortified cereals. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by your body, directly contributing to increasing your ferritin levels. [4]

  • Vitamin C-Enriched Diet: Vitamin C significantly enhances the absorption of non-heme iron. By including foods rich in vitamin C (such as oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli) in your meals, especially when consuming plant-based sources of iron, you enhance your body's ability to absorb this iron. [4]

  • Cooking in Cast Iron Cookware: Cooking acidic foods (like tomato sauce) in cast iron cookware can increase the iron content of your meals, subtly boosting your iron intake and, thus, your ferritin levels over time.

  • Limiting Iron Blockers: Certain substances can inhibit iron absorption and lead to low iron, such as phytates found in some grains and legumes, calcium in dairy products, and tannins in tea and coffee. While you don’t need to cut these out completely, consuming them separately from your iron-rich meals is wise.

  • Be Aware of Certain Medications: Regular use of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin can lead to iron depletion due to their tendency to irritate the stomach lining, resulting in minor, gradual bleeding. If these medications are part of your daily routine, it might be wise to monitor your ferritin levels. [4]

  • Supplementation: In some cases, dietary changes alone may not be enough to correct low ferritin levels. Iron supplements can be an effective way to increase your iron stores quickly. We will take a closer look at this in the following chapter.

Should You Take Iron Supplements?

Increasing your ferritin through dietary iron should be your plan A since your body absorbs this form of iron better. It's time to consider taking iron supplements when your dietary and lifestyle changes fail to raise your ferritin levels adequately or if you have been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia. [5]

The absorption of iron can also be decreased if you primarily consume non-heme iron. Heme iron (from animal sources) is more easily absorbed than plant-based non-heme iron. Vegetarians and vegans should be up-to-date with their iron status and ferritin levels and choose rich and good sources of non-heme iron, ideally in combination with vitamin C. [4]

Additionally, if you experience symptoms of iron deficiency that significantly impact your daily life despite consuming an iron-rich diet, a healthcare provider may recommend supplements to quickly and effectively address the deficiency. CARE can even put together an individualized supplement for you.

How Long Does It Take to Get Ferritin Levels Up?

The time it takes for you to raise your ferritin or iron levels can vary significantly, depending on the severity of your deficiency. You may need 14 days up to three months of consistent iron supplementation or dietary adjustments to see a noticeable improvement in your ferritin levels. Remember, ferritin stores your iron, and it will take a little longer to get your ferritin levels up than your serum iron. [6]

It's important for you to have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as necessary.

Stay Up-to-Date About Your Health With CARE

CARE gives you access to top-notch medical equipment, experts, and healthcare professionals in medicine, diet, fitness, and wellness.

Your CARE membership included regular health assessments, blood analysis, and personal consultations with our healthcare providers to detect changes in your body early on or adequately address potential health gaps. How healthy you live today is a main determinant of how healthy you will be as you grow older.

Your health is your greatest asset and should not be a variable in your future. With us, you have the option to optimize your health and wellness to live your best life.

Unlock your health potential with CARE!


Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!