Do you know that at least 25% of people on planet earth is iron deficient??? 

What does iron do? 

Many understand iron to just making red blood cells. But it does SO MUCH MORE. (please refer to my last post “Do I need iron?”)

This is probably a very appropriate time to give Iron the stage, especially during the holiday season and family vacation where we might have over-indulged just a little more than usual. 

When our alcohol consumption increases, our liver works 24/7 to process the alcohol for safe disposal. During this silly season, you might have experienced a headache or two, and you decide to take some ibuprofen or paracetamol (acetaminophen). What do all these three things have in common? They all initially require a group of enzymes called Cytochrome P450 to help metabolise or break down the by-product, so that our body can eventually get rid of it. In fact, a lot of medicines make use of the same process as well.  And why am I even bringing this up? It turns out that iron plays a huge role in these Cytochrome P450 enzymes. 

And guess where else do we have cytochromes apart from the liver? Our mitochondria, which is pretty much in most cells…to do what you may ask? They play a different role in our mitochondria, these cytochromes create energy aka ATP which is our energy currency. 

Other functions of iron

Iron is also important for our immune system; it is required to make carnitine (or fat breakdown); adrenaline (important esp. when you’re under stress); and your melatonin (to help sleep). Your steroid and thyroid hormones are dependant on iron too. 

Surely it’s ok to take iron supplement long term?

Now, before you run out and think it’s a good idea to take an iron supplement. Please, please, please, do yourself a favour and get your healthcare practitioner to check your iron status. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. I get very concern…VERY concern when people come into the pharmacy, self-select their iron supplement of choice and are permanently on them just because they were low in iron a long time ago. Some never bother going back to their practitioner to re-check, and some have low iron long term. But the latter requires more investigations! We need to go upstream and seek out some answers. 

What to test for?

Most practitioners would ask for a full iron studies. This includes:

Serum iron; Transferrin; Transferrin saturation and Ferritin. I also like to check high sensitive C-Reactive protein (hsCRP) at the same time. In my opinion, it gives me a better picture to make a better clinical decision.

When is it a good time to do your blood test? 

Assuming you’re doing the full panel. 

You need to be fasted for at least eight hours, but no more than twelve hours. 

Do not take your iron supplement 24 hours prior to the test.

No high-intensity or strenuous exercise 24 hours prior to the test. 

Avoid eating a high iron-rich meal the night before test. 

When best to take iron supplement?

In the morning or evening. Read my previous post about hepcidin and iron to understand why.