The Truth About High Ferritin: Debunking 3 Myths
Here are three myths about high ferritin and how you can use this information to improve your health. My name is Dr. Tom Rofrano from The Natural Medicine Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. I’ve had the opportunity to see over 100,000 patient visits over the last 37 years.
Myth #1: High Ferritin Means You Have Iron Overload
Many of my new patients have thyroid and gut issues, and ferritin abnormalities—either high or low—and high ferritin is a common thing I see. The number one myth surrounding this is that high ferritin means you have iron overload. While it can mean that, it’s not the most common cause, so when people find out they have high ferritin they automatically want to start donating blood or are told to donate blood. They often will feel worse if it’s not due to high ferritin. How do you find out what to do? You get proper lab testing.
Proper Lab Testing For High Ferritin Causes
The testing you want to get besides ferritin is iron, percent saturation and TIBC. This determines if you have iron overload, along with the CBC and chemistry panel. Other common causes of high ferritin are inflammation, infections, and insulin resistance, so that’s why the CBC, chemistry panel, CRP, GGT, and LDH, lipids, insulin, A1C, uric acid, TSH, free T3, free T4, adrenal hormones, DHEA, cortisol, and other hormones testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, are all important labs to have done. If you do have high ferritin along with high iron saturation over 45%, then you can have hemochromatosis DNA testing done to see if that’s the issue. That’s the minimum testing to find out what is going on. You can also look further at functional testing to determine the root cause.
Patient Case Study
I had a patient in his 30s who was having a lot of symptoms: gas, bloating, diarrhea, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, and insomnia. He’d been to many different doctors and had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, along with another autoimmune condition, and they gave him prednisone, gut anti-inflammatories as well as immunosuppressive drugs that he had to take. He did that for a while. He still felt miserable and was unable to be active or do sports. I dod an evaluation and ran this comprehensive health panel testing that I described and other functional lab testing..
High Ferritin Without Iron Overload
We found out he did have high ferritin but it was not from iron overload. He had above optimal insulin levels and high CRP (inflammatory markers). He had a high white blood count which indicates infections. Infections, inflammation, and insulin resistance- he had all three of those.
I could have stopped there, but I like to check for root causes. I looked at deficiencies, toxins, infections, hormonal imbalance, food reactions, and found out he did have multiple nutrient deficiencies. He had toxins, high mercury levels, environmental, mycotoxins and he also had gut infections, bacterial overgrowth, C. diff, candida overgrowth, and markers for ulcerative colitis showing inflammation in his gut. There you have the underlying high ferritin root causes of infection and inflammation so now we know how to work on that.
Additional Lab Testing for High Ferritin Root Causes
When we look at food reactions, like almost everyone I see with high ferritin, he had gluten sensitivity and celiac genetics, along with leaky gut that causes other food reactions that he had. He also had a hormonal imbalance with low testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol. The adrenal hormones cortisol and DHEA can promote inflammation when low. This patient’s inflammatory markers were very high. What do we do to turn all this around now that we have the root causes? We have to provide the right solutions.
Treating High Ferritin with Diet and Supplements
So the first thing is an anti-inflammatory diet called The FreeDiet®. When I was dealing with Hashimoto’s autoimmune condition, rheumatoid arthritis, gut and skin issues, and fatigue, I had to figure out how to get myself better. I ultimately did and the diet I came up with is called The FreeDiet® because it is free of gluten, grains, sugar, yeast, dairy, eggs, soy, legumes, nightshades, and processed foods. Free of those foods that are commonly responsible for inflammation, digestive and other chronic health issues.
I put patients on the diet as well as the proper nutritional support. The supplements I start patients on are what I call the Functional Five, ActivMulti™, OmegaSorb™3X fish oil, D3 5000 +K2, Magnesium Malate, and start with a strong probiotic in his case PriobioXtreme™. In this case, additional gut support supplements, and nutrients for correcting his deficiencies.
Myth #2: Avoid Vitamin C with High Ferritin
A second myth for high ferritin is you have to avoid vitamin C. This patient was taking 500 mg twice a day and his ferritin still decreased significantly. I also put him on Curcumin for inflammation and immune support. He took Metal Cleanse™ because of the high mercury in his body. I also gave him Liver Support, and Adrenal Support supplements because he had issues there. After a month’s time he was feeling so much better. He had more energy, focus and concentration. His pain is gone now, and he’s able to do his sports activities for the first time.
Improvement in Lab Results
At one month, he was feeling so much better. His ferritin was initially 323 and it went down to the two hundreds and then at six months it was 137. His initial ferritin was high but his iron saturation was low. During this time his ferritin decreased from 323 to 137 and his iron saturation increased to optimal levels.
Myth #3: You Have to Be on a Low Iron Diet
A third myth for high ferritin is you have to avoid iron, be on a low iron diet and can’t eat any beef. You have to eat a plant based diet, no beef whatsoever, all low iron foods. He could have all the beef he wanted because iron was not causing his high ferritin. During this time he had vitamin C and beef on a regular basis and his ferritin went down dramatically at the same time as the iron saturation improved to optimal levels.
His insulin and uric acid decreased to optimal levels. His C-Reactive Protein (CRP) for inflammation decreased from over 4 to less than 1 in three months. We were looking at insulin resistance, inflammation, and infections. He had high WBCs 13,000 which went down to 7800 in three months.
Lab Testing is Important to Discover the Root Causes
He had three root causes of high ferritin: insulin resistance, infections, inflammation. His testosterone, which was low, went up almost 300 points in one month from 452 to 734. Did we give him testosterone? No, it normalized just by finding out the root causes and providing the right solutions. Resolve the root causes and you’ll see secondary benefits like optimizing your hormone function. When you take medication for things like this, the drugs may temporarily help you feel better but it’s important to get to the root cause to help you actually get better.
The number one takeaway is that you have to get the right testing to find out what’s causing your high ferritin. Once you’re provided the right testing, then you can be provided the right solutions. If you do that, I believe almost anyone can get better.