Ferritin: 11 ng/mL

What does a ferritin level of 11 mean? Are there any symptoms associated with this level?

A ferritin level of 11 ng/mL is considered low. Ferritin is a protein in your blood that stores iron; therefore, low ferritin levels may indicate iron deficiency and can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition where you have too few red blood cells, which can hinder sports performance, cognition, immunity, and more.
Symptoms associated with low ferritin include shortness of breath, irritability, fatigue, dizziness, increased hair shedding, and heart palpitations. If you have iron deficiency anemia related to low ferritin, you may also experience brittle nails, pale skin, chest pain, fast heartbeat, cold hands, or a sore or inflamed tongue.
Learn more about what ferritin is and the recommended range for ferritin levels.

Factors that could contribute to a ferritin level of 11

Numerous factors impact ferritin levels, including [1]: 
  • Diet: Diets low in iron put you at greater risk of having low ferritin levels. People who don't eat meat may have a greater risk of iron deficiency anemia if they don't get enough dietary iron from other sources.
  • Your ability to absorb iron: Intestinal surgeries and disorders, like celiac disease, can reduce your body’s ability to absorb iron from digested food, leading to low ferritin levels and possibly iron-deficiency anemia. 
  • Heavy menstruation: Heavy menstrual bleeding increases your body’s iron needs and can lower ferritin levels.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy increases iron needs which can reduce ferritin levels. 
  • Heavy athletic training: Intense physical training may increase your body’s iron needs, which might lead to a drop in ferritin. 
  • GI conditions and diseases: Certain GI diseases and conditions, including ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, and peptic ulcers, can decrease iron absorption and cause lower ferritin levels.  

What to do if your ferritin level is 11?

You can naturally boost ferritin levels by increasing your intake of iron from foods. Here are some ways you can get more iron from your diet.
  • Eat more lean meat. Research has shown that eating lean meat once per day can increase ferritin levels [2.] If you choose to eat meat, it’s encouraged to eat a variety of lean meats like beef, lamb, pork, liver, chicken, and turkey.  
  • Pair iron with vitamin C. Vitamin C increases the absorption of non-heme (plant-based) iron. Squeeze lemon over dark leafy greens to increase the iron amount you absorb.
  • Soak, sprout, and ferment grains and legumes. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting grains and legumes improve iron availability by lowering the phytates naturally present in these foods that can bind to iron and prevent its absorption [3]. 
  • Cook in a cast-iron pan. Research shows that using cast-iron cookware may increase the iron content in your food by up to 16% [4]. 
  • Consume copper-rich foods. Copper is essential for the absorption of iron in the intestines [5]. You can increase your ferritin levels by consuming more copper-rich foods, like shellfish, liver, fatty fish, oysters, spirulina, shiitake mushrooms, lobster, and dark chocolate.

Medications and supplements used to improve ferritin levels

Medications

If you have severe anemia in addition to low ferritin, your doctor may recommend intravenous iron to quickly increase your iron levels and help replenish iron stores. 

Supplements

If you have low ferritin, oral iron supplements can help improve your levels by increasing your iron stores. Iron dosages, tolerance, and effectiveness can vary from person to person, and too much iron can lead to iron toxicity; thus they should be taken under the supervision of a doctor or dietitian. 
The most common iron supplements include [6]: 
  • Ferrous sulfate
  • Ferrous gluconate
  • Ferric citrate
  • Ferric sulfate
Generally speaking, ferrous iron supplements tend to be better tolerated and more cost-effective than ferric iron [7]. Speak with a healthcare professional to decide which form of iron will best fit your needs and minimize any side effects.

How Elo can help

If you want to increase your ferritin levels but are unsure about what type or how much iron you should take, Elo Health can help. Elo provides curated nutrition recommendations based on your biomarker scores to create personalized supplements that fit your needs. You also get 1:1 dietitian coaching to further help you reach your health goals. Learn more about how we can help you increase your ferritin level and optimize your nutrition here

References

  1. What Is a Ferritin Blood Test? What Do the Results Mean? (2017, February 17). WebMD. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ferritin-blood-test
  2. Herran, O. F., Bermúdez, J. N., & Del Pilar Zea, M. (2020). Red meat and egg intake and serum ferritin concentrations in Colombian children: results of a population survey, ENSIN-2015. Journal of nutritional science, 9, e12. https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2020.5
  3. Gupta, R. K., Gangoliya, S. S., & Singh, N. K. (2015). Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains. Journal of food science and technology, 52(2), 676–684. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-013-0978-y
  4. Kulkarni, S. A., Ekbote, V. H., Sonawane, A., Jeyakumar, A., Chiplonkar, S. A., & Khadilkar, A. V. (2013). Beneficial effect of iron pot cooking on iron status. Indian journal of pediatrics, 80(12), 985–989. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12098-013-1066-z
  5. Reeves, P. G., & DeMars, L. C. (2004). Copper deficiency reduces iron absorption and biological half-life in male rats. The Journal of nutrition, 134(8), 1953–1957. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/134.8.1953
  6. Office of Dietary Supplements - Iron. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron-healthprofessional/
  7. Chen, C. (2019, September 1). Enhancement of Dietary Content of Iron in Brassica oleracia Through Soil Alterations. International Journal of High School Research, 1(2), 30–33. https://doi.org/10.36838/v1i2.7