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Iron deficiency: why simply being a woman can impact quality of life

"Menopause" is often blamed for fatigue/exhaustion, depressed feelings, brain fog and hair loss...when in reality, low iron is the culprit.

List of common symptoms of iron deficiency
Common signs of low ferritin (iron stores in our blood)

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in women, causing things like fatigue, brain fog, feeling cold all the time, hair loss, and sometimes, not having enough energy to even climb a flight of stairs. Simply having a period and/or eating primarily a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle can lead to low ferritin.

Tips from leading pharmacist and iron expert, Ying Wang:

“Women are so used to leading hectic lives and feeling tired,” says pharmacist, Ying Wang. “They often dismiss their fatigue as menopause or ‘just part of life.’”

“It’s almost as if someone told an entire generation of women to expect to feel weak, irritable and unable to focus,” adds Wang.

Wang says some women find it challenging to get adequate iron from diet alone, but that heavy bleeding during perimenopause is also a common cause of iron deficiency.

Wang wants women to watch for common symptoms, to have their ferritin levels tested, and to know there are easy supplement solutions.

While iron is one of the most common tests doctors order, the normal reference range for ferritin is quite broad, and varies region to region. In B.C., “normal” for women 18+ can be anywhere from 5-247 ug/L. This means a woman can have all the symptoms of being anemic, but if her level is 30, for example, her doctor may not be alerted, and miss the opportunity to treat and restore her quality of life.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the case for Phyllis Reid, 53, of Wiarton, Ontario. She noticed becoming winded while climbing a set stairs, and asked her doctor about iron.

“My ferritin was 2!” says Reid. “Fortunately, my doctor was on it immediately, I now supplement and I have to say, I didn’t even realize how exhausted I was until I started to feel better!”

Women have a high tolerance for coping with discomfort. And it’s easy to assume symptoms are part of the perimenopause-to-menopause transition.

Wang, who manages a pharmacy in Vancouver, says the situation is improving, pointing to more quality information, access to online health records, and the availability of high-quality supplements.

She offers these recommendations through the Ferapro website:

  • Know the common signs of iron deficiency: fatigue, exercise-intolerance, cold-intolerance, hair loss, dizziness, irritability, brain fog and even restless legs & heart palpitations.

  • Test ferritin levels (on a regular basis), and also discuss low thyroid with your doctor, as many symptoms overlap. Plus, your thyroid requires adequate iron levels to function optimally.

  • Know your ferritin level. Ask the lab, your doctor or access your test results online. This will allow you to have an informed conversation with your pharmacist.

Choose a high-quality supplement that will be optimally absorbed (iron absorption requires vitamin C) and one that won’t cause stomach upset, nausea or constipation, like Ferapro.

Chart showing symptoms of iron deficiency
Many symptoms of iron deficiency occur before a diagnosis of anemia
  1. Have your ferritin (iron) level checked

  2. Know that most women with a period and/or who eat primarily vegetarian, should supplement with Ferapro 30

  3. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of iron deficiency, order Ferapro 75 or 100 NOTE: As of 2024, this level of iron is no longer regulated; meaning you do not need to speak with a pharmacist before dispensing. However if you have questions, you can refer to the Ferapro website here. This will help ensure you are getting the protocol that is RIGHT for YOU!


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