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Low iron levels... should i take tablets?

(18 Posts)
nannyL Mon 03-Aug-09 17:27:20

I have always (for unknown reasons) suffered on and off with low iron.

Sometimes its perfect, nice and high, other times its low.
I have read how long term use of iron tablets can lead to stomach cancers and with this in mind at about 21 years of age (im now 28) i decidied to stop taking them all together and have not taken any since.
I eat very very well, i mean pretty much your text book perfect diet, and i eat meat (was veggy but gave that up 7 years ago, and i thought it might help my iron) and i eat loads of green leafy veg. Have been growing lots in the garden at work so recently i have been picking it, cooking it immediatly and eating, so as freshly picked as possible.

I went to give blood a few months ago and it was quite low again (10.9).... and i had to go back to my Dr (again) and have more blood tests.
Anyway that was last friday, and i was supposed to call for results this friday but i forgot and got them today. I also went to my dads (where the Drs think i still live) and they had written to me saying pick up prescription and start taking asap.

It turns out this time my iron level is 8shock (should be between 12 / 16)
I am wondering if this is really very very low?

I have a prescription for iron tablets here but i dont intend to take them. I would LOVE to chat to my GP (as this has been on going for over 10 years o think it would take forever to re-explain to another GP) but she is away for 2 weeks, then im away for 2 weeks, so no chance of an appt before September.

Do you think i should take them?
I really dont want to
Also i feel fine and if i wasnt a regular blood donar i would have no reason to suspect there was anything wrong. I am full of energy, not tired and feel 'well' and 'healthy'

I am a person who likes to eat well, and sustain my body by being healthy, not a person who likes to ingest anything thats rubbish. As a rule i avoid taking tablets.

Also previously my iron levels have gone from low to normal without iron tablets, and they have gone from low to lower while taking them so they dnt work for me anyway... Dr has already established that my body does not absorb iron properly, so i cant see the point of taking them!

Is 8 very very low? would a doctor actually be concerned?

nellie12 Mon 03-Aug-09 17:36:32

8 is very low and used to be the threshold for transfusion in hospitals. not sure what the policy is now. Yes at this low you need to take them. If your hb drops lower and isn't corrected you will need a transfusion and you are putting yourself at risk of heart failure with a very low hb. I doubt you would give yourself cancer in 4 weeks by taking the iron tablets so you could always take them whilst waiting for an appointment.

ScummyMummy Mon 03-Aug-09 17:37:54

I haven't got the medical knowledge to answer your questions but wanted to recommend Floradix if you do decide to supplement. It's as effective as iron tablets but is all natural and doesn't bung you up, according to a v nice midwife I was chatting to after losing lots of blood when my twins were born. I would take it as a compromise in your situation and talk to your GP when she is back.

nannyL Mon 03-Aug-09 17:40:23


is it really that low? i was sort of hoping it was lowish rather than very low.

Ok maybe i better go and spend another £8 on another NHS prescription. will try and remember tomorrow.

I just dont understand why i feel so well and full of energy? If i wasnt a blood donor i wouldnt even know there was a problem.

DjangoTheDjinn Mon 03-Aug-09 17:41:49

4 weeks of iron tablets won't make a difference anyway as you need about 6 weeks for levels to start to rise.

Have they looked at everything to find out why you're anaemic? Thyroid? Vitamin B12? Mineral/vitamin deficiencies?

Some people have low iron counts anyway. Mine's never higher than 10 or very occasionally 11. My Mum is the same. Both very healthy, active, eat well. Also have low bp generally. GP never been concerned tbh.

8 is quite low. Mine was 8 after an em cs and quite a lot of blood loss. Started with iron tablets but they made me so constipated after a week that I gave up, used spatone and ate lots of iron rich food with every meal and lots of vitamin C at the same time to aid absorption. Iron levels back to 10/11 within a few months.

8 is low and if you felt ill then your GP may even consider a blood transfusion with ti being that low. The good news tough is that you don't have symptoms of iron deficiency.

Have you had your Vit B12 levels measured? Have you had your folate levels measured?

nannyL Mon 03-Aug-09 17:42:48

Oh thanks scrummy mummy.

thats much more my type of stuff smile
any idea where i can buy it? will Tesco extra sell it, or their pharmacy? or is it in health food shops?

nellie12 Mon 03-Aug-09 17:43:54

if its chronic anaemia you get used to it. dm has same problem and she was walking round with hb of 4 - she did admit to feeling a bit tired with that.

I'm sure you can get iron tablets over the counter which would be cheaper than a prescription. Just make sure that you take the same dosage.

DjangoTheDjinn Mon 03-Aug-09 17:44:20

I felt okay with a level of 8 btw. Had a newborn and had had an em cs so was a bit tired obviously but once that had subsided I didn't feel notably 'anaemic' which I have done at times.

DjangoTheDjinn Mon 03-Aug-09 17:45:59

Spatone sachets (same as floradix) available in most pharmacies/boots etc. Expensive though. They will prescribe them if you pester.

My dm had iron levels of 7/8 for months while waiting for a hysterectomy and she was perfectly fine, no symptoms at all.

ScummyMummy Mon 03-Aug-09 17:47:09

You can get it in health food shops and I think some chemists/supermarkets might stock it too.

nannyL Mon 03-Aug-09 17:50:13

I have been investgated quite thoroughly.

In the past (about 5 years ago) i was tested for all sorts, chrones / ceolieacs and loads of other stuff.... no answers so GP referred me to consultant at the hospital. im sure (stripeyknickers) i had those tests then with my GP

Basically i never actually saw the consultant as he (or she) said as i was well with no symptoms of poor health at all it was a waste of time me going. They (according to my gp) were going to be doing some nasty / invasive painful tests and i jumped at the chance of not having them.

Just realised that cold hands / feet are a symptom, and my hands and feet are always extreamly cold, even in the summer i wear ski socks at night, and it also says more infections, in the past 3 years i have had 3 tiny "nothingy" cuts get seriously infected, all of which had nearly (but not quite) had me in hospital on IV AB's shock
last one was just 3 weeks ago!

mosschops30 Mon 03-Aug-09 17:51:17

Django - thats simply not true. You can increase your iron levels in a week by a gram at the most, it does not take 6 weeks.

To the OP - I have low iron levels, always at about 10. Can never give blood when I go.
I normally take spatone, which you can get from Boots, you can take it with OJ to help absorb the iron and it normally keeps mine up to about 11 when not pg.

Am currently pg and even with spa tone I went down to 9.1. I had to take tablets but alone they did nothing I had to change my diet too which has now bought it up to 10.8 in two weeks.

Yes 8 is low, and in a critical situation you would probably be transfused at that level. However you are not critically ill or having surgery, and as you say its not bothering you so the best you can do is work on your diet and take spatone and see how it improves.

Ways to improve iron absorbption include, taking anything high in iron along with vitamin c (e.g. eating eggs and tomatoes at breakfast with fruit juice).
Dont drink tea within an hour of anything high in iron or taking spa tone or tablets as it reduces the absorbption of the iron.
Eat plenty of green leafy veg (again with fruit juice where poss)
Red meat or black pudding

HTH smile

nannyL Mon 03-Aug-09 17:53:10

stripeyknickers i think most over the counter iron tablets dont contain nearly as much iron as the ones the Dr prescribes!

Have had that conversation with GP lots lol! smile

these ones have about 100 X RDA!

nannyL Mon 03-Aug-09 17:56:04

thanks mosschops

I always have a pretty perfect iron rich diet and am careful about combining iron rich foods with Vit C and NOT mixing them with caffeine!

I really do eat VERY well, including lots of green leafy veg DIRECT from the garden!

DjangoTheDjinn Mon 03-Aug-09 17:56:14

Interesting mosschops, the GP told me a matter of days ago that it would take 6 weeks to start making a difference. Will file it away in my 'GP talks nonsense' book forthwith. grin

mosschops30 Mon 03-Aug-09 18:04:55

grin django, maybe we have the same GP!!!

I must admit I was suprised that in a week it went from 9.1 to 9.9 then up to 10.8 the following week

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