What Is Ferritin and What a Ferritin Test Involves

Endurance athletes, such as runners and swimmers, often pay attention to their ferritin levels to determine how iron is being stored in their bodies. This is important because, with that information, they can adjust their diets accordingly and begin taking iron supplements like Fergon, if necessary, to fuel their hard-working bodies. Ferritin is often confused with being the same as iron, but these terms are not synonymous with one another.

So, this article will describe exactly what ferritin is, why it’s important, and what a ferritin test involves. It will also answer common questions, such as where is iron stored in the body, and define the normal ferritin levels for runners, swimmers, and other endurance athletes.

What Is Ferritin?

Ferritin is a type of protein that is responsible for storing iron and then releasing it throughout the body when it needs it. Although some ferritin moves through the blood, the bulk of it is stored in the body’s cells. It is stored here until the body needs to create additional red blood cells to optimize bodily functioning.

Symptoms of High and Low Ferritin Levels

High ferritin levels can be caused by medical conditions, such as hemochromatosis, that make the body absorb an excessive amount of iron. High levels can also be caused by type-2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. If a person has high ferritin levels, he or she may have joint pain, fatigue, and stomach pain.

Meanwhile, low levels of ferritin can be the result of an iron deficiency. This could also be caused by internal bleeding or monthly menstrual bleeding. Symptoms of low ferritin levels also include fatigue, which may be accompanied by shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches.

Understanding the Ferritin Test

A ferritin test is conducted when a doctor suspects that a person has too much or too little ferritin in the body. It is a way to assess overall iron levels in the body and make changes to improve daily functioning and athletic performance. Like other iron-related tests, a ferritin test involves taking a small blood sample, a process that comes with minimal risks.

If a person’s ferritin test yields abnormal results, the doctor may recommend additional tests to get a clearer picture of how the body is processing iron, such as a total iron binding capacity (TIBC) test. In addition to endurance athletes, a doctor may recommend a ferritin test while trying to diagnose a medical condition that involves the red blood cells or to monitor an existing medical condition in order to guide future treatment.

Normal Ferritin Levels for Runners and Other Endurance Athletes

Although the recommended ferritin levels vary from one endurance athlete to another, the normal ferritin levels for runners are approximately 20 to 500 nanograms per milliliter for men and between 20 and 200 nanograms per milliliter for women. Discuss the results of a ferritin test in detail with a doctor to determine what diet, supplement, performance, and lifestyle changes are recommended.