Your blood test.
Is it really normal and no action required? You’ve gone for a blood test because you don’t feel too good or because your GP recognises that there is something going on that a blood test may define. The blood test comes back normal no action required.
Anyone who reads this website will know I have recovered from CFS/ME. Most of my ‘cure’ involves avoiding certain foods (stretches and re-alignments being the next essential aspect). If I do consume foods or additives I can’t tolerate, one of the symptoms is inflammation in the body.
One of the issues I spoke briefly about in my book was why my blood test was considered normal when some of the results were not slap bang in the middle of the laboratory ranges. The results were too close to the lower or higher ends of the laboratory range, or in the case of my ferritin result, out of the range and very high.
Last year I noticed some symptoms, nothing to do with CFS/ME as such because I was and am still able to sustain my energy levels and do a normal day’s work. The worst of the new symptoms was tingling in my fingers when trying to get to sleep which increased to the whole arms and up into my head, then down one side of my body. Then I noticed numb patches on my torso. I was cold to my bones and my lips were blue most of the time. Looking back, I realised that these symptoms had been creeping up for some months.
Quite honestly I ignored it all because I was able to go about my day normally. But when the tingling was in my mouth with swellings on my tongue, as well as tingling down my left side, and I didn’t recover very quickly from an infection kindly shared by one of my toddler grandsons – I began to consider supplementing B12, folate and iron. So I asked for a full blood count.
When I rang up for the results I was told: Your blood test is normal – no action required. I asked for the lab report and studied it, checking on words I didn’t understand and then spent some considerable time researching it as fully as I knew how.
My blood test showed extremely high ferritin levels and the GP checking my results did not question this. It is known that high ferritin levels are the result of inflammation.
However it prompted me to ask for the laboratory report and to go through it as thoroughly as I knew how.
Here is my journalistic research
Iron – The Science
Transferrin a protein absorbs iron from digestion in the intestines and takes it to the haemoglobin protein in red blood cells. Transferrin also takes iron to a protein – ferritin for storage.
Hepcidin is a hormone which balances the amount of iron being taken from the intestines. In the condition hemochromotosis it is thought this hormone is ineffcient, signaling excessive iron absorption from the diet eventually depositing iron in the tissues which can be the cause of organ damage and failure.
Oxygen combines with the iron in the haemoglobin protein in the capillaries of the alveoli in the lungs and forms oxyhemoglobin. Myoglobin is the protein in muscle tissue that contains iron and oxygen.
The iron and oxygen rich red blood cells then leave the lungs to go to the tissues. Tissues is a name given to a group of cells of similar construction – muscle tissue, glandular tissue, organ tissue etc.
Red blood cell production is controlled by erythropoietin, a hormone produced by the kidneys.
Bone marrow contains two types of stem cells hemopoietic which produce red blood cells and stromal which produce fat, cartilage and bone. Red blood cells start as cells not matured in the bone marrow and after about a week of maturing are released into the bloodstream.
While red blood cell production is controlled by erythropoietin and the red blood cells are made in the marrow, B12 and Folate have an essential role to play in relation to erythropoietin, and a deficiency in B12 and Folate cause erythropoietin to be inefficient.
B12 is required for proper red blood cell production, neurological health and DNA synthesis, B12 is involved with production of the myelin sheath – the covering around nerve fibres and is thought to be sometimes missed in a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s ie sometimes the symptoms of these diseases are a B12 deficiency. It is also thought that those suffering with depression may be B12 deficient. Folate helps make DNA, cell division and other genetic material.
Ferritin a protein stores the usable iron but if ferritin gets overloaded it deposits iron in the tissues of the organs which can not be changed back to usable iron. This can be toxic as it accumulates in the brain, liver and lungs causing disease and death.
Transferrin delivers iron from the ferritin stores to the red blood cell, but transferrin doesn’t work alone it needs copper. Copper is not very abundant in the soil, so we do not get a lot of it from our fruit and veg. However we in the UK have copper pipes for our water supply so it is considered we get enough copper when we drink the tap water. I don’t drink the tap water, I drink bottled water (from bottles I can recycle). That water does not have copper listed in its analysis.
Copper is extremely important and in the brain it connects thousands of neurons. A deficiency can lead to anemia, heart, bone, lung, thyroid, pancreas and kidney problems as well as immune and nervous system complications. Copper like most metals ie silver and gold is anti-microbial. Copper also helps the formation of melanin and elastin which gives the skin colour and flexibility and is also involved in connective tissue.
The Iron Withholding Defense System
Dr Eugene Weinberg first defined the Iron Withholding Defense System in the early 1980’s. When a pathogen invades the body, white blood cells rush to kill it. This causes inflammation and this inflammation initates the Iron Withholding Defense System, which reduces the amount of iron in the red blood cell by transferrin not releasing iron from ferritin, causing oxygen to be denied to the pathogen.
Inflammation is also caused in the body when the immune system reacts to a food it doesn’t recognise and white blood cells are sent to kill the presumed ‘pathogen’. The inflammation from this reaction also triggers the Iron Withholding Defense System.
Therefore those with food intolerances may suffer with iron deficiency symptoms but in this case supplementing iron would be dangerous, a blood test is required to check if ferritin is high before issuing an iron supplement.
“Dr. Eugene Weinberg, Professor of Microbiology Indiana University and Iron Disorders Institute Medical & Scientific Advisory Board Member, is an expert in anemia of chronic disease. Since the mid 1950s Weinberg has been aware of the body’s alteration of iron metabolism during disease. He first defined the Iron Withholding Defense System in the early 1980’s where he described how the human body recognizes iron as a potential hazard to health. Iron is one metal that cannot be excreted by the body effeciently; so, extra precautions are taken by humans to avoid absorbing too much iron. When a harmful germ invades the body, the immune system team of white blood cells charge to the site to destroy the pathogen before it has time to multiply. Inflammation results as a part of this natural immune response. Inflammation triggers the release of chemicals that signal the iron regulation mechanism to adopt a defense mode.
What physicians see when the iron withholding defense system is activated is a mild drop in hemoglobin. However, what many physicians miss is that less iron is being absorbed and extra free iron is being collected by macrophages and stored in liver cells (hepatocytes). As a result serum ferritin rises. Anemia of chronic disease is not progressive. Hemoglobin values may remain in a slightly low range, but the levels can drop to as low as 7.0 g/dL depending on the severity of the inflammation and the length of time present. Other tests such as serum ferritin or C-reactive protein (CRP) can be performed to help differentiate between iron-deficiency anemia, where oral iron can be beneficial and anemia of chronic disease, where oral iron should not be given.”
However with me the inflammation in my body that set this defense mechanism in place was not caused by a bacteria, virus or yeast but by a reaction to a food not fully broken down by certain enzymes, because my body didn’t have those enzymes for example lactase to break down lactose in milk.
[The effect of Louis Pasteur pasteurising milk caused the bacteria that makes lactase, the enzyme that digests the lactose in milk in the gut, to be destroyed, hence the re-birth of raw milk, milk that has not been pasteurised]
If I continue to consume the foods I can’t tolerate I continue to have inflammation. Continuous inflammation in the body causes the Iron Defence mechanism to store iron. If iron is stored for a long time, it becomes a rust like substance that accumulates in the tissues of the brain, heart, lungs and/or liver. As recent as June 2017 a paper was written to demonstrate how pulmonary fibrosis is the result of iron being lodged in the lung tissues.
My conclusion is that chronic inflammation causes the body to trigger the Iron Withholding Defense system, which then causes a high ferritin stores which can then be the cause of serious chronic disease.
The chronic inflammation is reduced when food intolerance is considered and those foods avoided.
Chronic inflammation is also reduced when a more nutrient efficient diet is adopted. For example good quality fish oils, cold pressed seed oils and good quality animal fats these oils help make prostoglandins that make hormones including hepcidin.
The body is highly affected by over-processed foods that then cause the precursors prostoglandins that make hormones to malfunction. The foods that can cause this are refined fats ie margarine and low fat spreads which could be why hepcidin acts poorly at times.
The gut is upset by food intolerance causing poor nutrient absorption making it doubly essential food intolerance is considered when ferritin levels are high.
Lack of copper is one reason why iron cannot leave ferritin, wearing a copper bracelet may reverse this.
Due to food intolerance I need to supplement the nutrients I cannot get from my diet which are calcium and magnesium minerals and fish oils.
In the past month I have been wearing a copper bracelet (without a magnet) which appears to be reversing the recent symptoms.
To reduce inflammation from inadevertantly consuming foods I can’t tolerate I take an organic turmeric and black pepper capsule.
I am planning another blood test in the next few weeks and will then copy the before and after tests here.
Therefore the one result of my blood test, the ferritin levels, that has always been ignored because it is the result of inflammation – should never have been ignored. Continuous blood tests should have been recorded to watch the ferritin levels. Methods should have been put in place to reduce the ferritin levels.
Many diseases could be prevented if only GP’s, Consultants and Hospital Doctors would forensically consider all the results of the blood test and why they are not slap bang in the middle of the lab ‘normal’ ranges. However those Medics would also need to consider food intolerance, the consumption of nutrient rich foods and avoiding over-processed foods.