Why Am I so Tired? Key Points to Boost your Iron Levels

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper

Fatigue is a very common complaint I receive from my patients. There are various reasons why one may be tired and ruling out low iron stores is an important step in helping my patients feel more energized!

Iron is a key player in the body, leading the way for several imperative physiological functions, including carrying oxygen to your red blood cells and producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is vital for cellular energy. Low levels of iron are associated with fatigue, decreased athletic performance, concentration, mood and even increased hair loss.

Before supplementing with iron it is best to have your blood levels checked via blood. This can be done by having your health care provider request a ferritin blood test.

Why Boost Iron Levels?

Aside from fatigue, low iron has other implications in the body:

  1. Depression: A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an association between depression and decreased ferritin levels!


  1. Thyroid: Adequate iron levels are also necessary for proper thyroid production (a major component to your metabolism).


  1. Weight gain: According to recent research low iron levels can also have an impact on your waistline. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at adolescents between 9 and 13 years of age for body fat and visceral fat (otherwise known as fat around the organs in the abdominal area), along with measurements of iron status. The subjects with the highest percentage of body fat and visceral fat mass were over two times more likely to have low iron stores.


  1. Determining your risk factor: Ferritin is considered an iron-storage protein that keeps the iron in a dissolvable and usable state, which also makes the iron non-toxic to cells around it. A blood test for ferritin measures the iron that is readily available for use. Although ferritin levels above 12 are often considered “fine”, optimal levels in women should be close to 70 and 100 for women. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding are more susceptible to low iron levels, which makes it one of the top must-have blood tests.

How to Increase Iron Absorption

Taking iron away from meals (20 minutes before or 2 hours after) can enhance the absorption of iron. Additionally, taking 1000mg of vitamin C at the same time iron is taken, significantly improves the absorption of iron.

If you are taking calcium supplementation, take your iron at lunchtime and your calcium before bed. This schedule works even if you are on thyroid medication and take it in the morning, since both iron and calcium will reduce the effectiveness of your medication if they are taken to close together. It may take months to get your ferritin levels up, so diligence is key.

Did you Know?… There are many other ways to get your iron aside from red meat! Take a look at the chart below for other great sources of iron.


Vegetarian Sources of Iron

Source Serving Size Amount of Iron per serving
Spirulina 1 tsp. 5 mg
Cooked Soybeans ½ cup 4.4 mg
Pumpkin seeds 1 ounce 4.2 mg
Quinoa 4 ounces 4 mg
Cooked Spinach ½ cup 3.2 mg
Lentils 4 ounces 3 mg
White beans ½ cup 3.9 mg
Blackstrap molasses 1 tbsp 4 mg
Swiss Chard 1 cup 4mg
Kidney Beans 1 cup 3.9 mg
Tempeh 1 cup 4.5mg


 Want to know more? Book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor!


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