Testing Iron Biology
As we learned about the complex systems that control iron in your body, there are a number of tests that can help you understand your iron biology:
- Hemoglobin – The red blood cell protein that contains iron atoms and binds the oxygen that is circulated around your body. Low hemoglobin is the diagnostic marker for anemia.
- Ferritin – The storage protein that binds iron while inside your cells. Low ferritin measurements are evidence of iron deficiency.
- Transferrin – The transport protein that binds iron while it moves through your blood stream. A low measurement of how much transferrin is bound to iron, called transferrin saturation, can be evidence of functional iron deficiency.
- Hepcidin – The protein that controls how much and when iron is released from storage into your blood stream. Low hepcidin measurements are evidence of iron deficiency. But there’s more. The level of hepcidin in your blood can help your doctor: determine the type of iron deficiency or anemia (absolute iron deficiency, functional iron deficiency, iron deficiency anemia, or anemia of chronic disease) make the most informed decision on treatment (oral iron or intravenous iron infusion)
If your doctor only orders a ferritin and/or a transferrin test, they may recommend taking iron pills to combat your iron deficiency. But wouldn’t you like to know if they will be effective before the months long treatment plan? Or they may recommend intravenous iron infusions. But wouldn’t you like to know if taking iron pills, a cheaper alternative, will be effective? Hepcidin can give you those answers.