Am I going mad or is it iron/b12 deficiency?

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Background details: 20, F, veggie, non-smoker, asthma and OCD/anxiety

I had a ferritin level of 23 and a low b12 level last November and I'm feeling the exact same way again (persistent fatigue, brain fog, low exercise endurance, all-over aches, restless legs at night, patches of dry skin around eyes, hair loss, occasional dizziness and vertical ridges on nails). I had them checked was in March and they were 37 and 270 respectively, so my gp said to stop taking supplements.

Got some iron supplements and stupidly started taking them before having a blood test and my ferritin level was 45. Everything on the CBC was 'within range' (but some figures were on the low end of normal, namely white blood cells, MCV and MCH) but they didn't check the b12 like I asked them to!

Do I go back as I'm still feeling bleh and it's really affecting my uni work? Or will the iron tablets I took skew the results for a while yet?

I feel like I'm being fobbed off with the 'it's just your anxiety/OCD' explanation as soon as someone sees I'm on citalopram but as far as I'm aware, my OCD does not cause weird dry skin or aching knees, neither does it make me fall asleep during seminars -_- .

I'd be grateful for any help and advice!

Thanks ?

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5 Replies

  • Posted


    you probably want to ask to get your b12 levels checked out if they were previously low, sounds like some symptoms may be due to this, although I'm not sure. I'm more familiar with the iron deficiency symptoms as I'm going through it right now and I'm telling you, pills will take a while to raise your ferritin level. It seems yours isn't too bad but it's still not optimal, so keep taking the supplements and see how you feel. The dizziness, fatigue, brain fog and restless legs I have all experienced and I am iron deficient. 

  • Posted


    What range of Ferritin levels are you using ?  17-300 ?

    A lot of the symptoms you're describing (fatigue, low endurance, fingernail ridges) are going to be caused by a low Haemoglobin level - which you didn't mention, but am assuming you must have ?

    The dry skin around eyes - I'm not so sure that's connected, but could be simply stress levels (exams, or worry over possible anaemia etc. etc.), or related to skin products, or wipes that contain alcohol based ingredients.  Maybe you changed to a new product ?  Alcohol has a drying effect.

    When you requested your initial results back in November, were you at that time feeling fatigued etc.

    And back in November, were you on a reasonable diet that includes some iron based foods - green veg, some red meat, there are plenty of other sources ?

    Your Ferritin levels aren't too high, but ....... they're within the normal ranges, so I'm looking at them from a different perspective.  I'm seeing that they started at 23 in Nov, 37 in March, 45 now - i.e. they're climbing.

    High levels of Ferritin suggest too much iron in the body, and I believe that 'climbing levels of Ferritin' can sometimes indicate likewise.

    Your hair loss, and your all-over aches suggest to me too much iron.

    Iron levels don't usually move that fast, so I would say cut out your supplements, and see if you notice a difference in a week or two.  It doesn't sound as if they're helping you at the moment anyway.

    That might not be the complete answer to what's going on, so speak with your Doctor and decide on the best solution.  But seriously, if you're getting aches, and losing hair, lose IRON !

    • Posted

      I can't quite remember off the top of my head what the ferritin lab range was but I assume it was somewhere in that area....

      The only time my ferritin levels have risen was whilst I was taking supplements, if that makes sense, so I don't know what my current 'supplement-less' figure is. I'm going to take my previous blood test results along to my next appt and then the Dr will decide whether it's worth having another blood test or not. This past month I've had a sudden appearance of psoriasis which he said might be due to low selenium so he gave me some prescription supplements for that.

      Is it possible to get iron overload whilst eating a vegetarian diet?

    • Posted

      Is it possible to get iron overload whilst eating a vegetarian diet?

      Well, not the same level of overload which you might get from an infusion - if your body didn't want the iron in the first place.

      But ..... if your body doesn't need iron, and doesn't want it, then yes, even a vegetarian diet could be giving it unnecessary iron.  There are plenty of vegetarian options that can supply you with iron:

      green vegetables, spinach, kale and broccoli, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, whole wheat, brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruit.

      Cakes and biscuits often have iron added.

      Manufactured chocolate doesn't usually have iron added, but the source cocoa bean has an interesting level of iron !

      I can't answer 100% whether you should be getting extra iron, or not.  But when you tell me you're getting aches, and hair loss - that is very possibly a sign of unwanted iron.

      So, without knowing your specific situation, or your diet, I would say try carefully going one way, and see how you feel - you mentioned still feeling 'bleh'.  Was that while you weren't getting any iron supplements ?  Or was that after you'd started on iron again ?

      If you think you eat quite a few of the food types I listed above (which do contain iron), then maybe you don't need extra iron right now, and maybe the hair loss and aches are your body complaining.  So try without the supplements, and maybe reduce some iron foods if you're loading with too much iron, and see if you feel less 'bleh' !  I think you'd need to monitor it objectively for 7-10 days.  Iron uptake / Haemoglobin levels don't move that fast.

      Or, if you feel you don't eat enough of these food types, and you felt worse without the supplements, then try the supplements for 7-10 days, and compare.

      There may be something else causing this, but I would hope your Doctor would gradually try and analyse / identify from other test results.  But definitely hair loss, and aches can indicate too much iron.  So all I can say is have a think about what I've said above, and test one way or the other (less iron, or more iron), and see if going one way feels better.

      I hope at least some of that helps.


    • Posted

      Thanks so much for replying so quickly and comprehensively! I did definitely feel better on the supplements when I first had them, and also the second time round where I just got some from a health food shop rather than on prescription... Able to fall asleep faster, no restless legs, hair stopped falling out, no body aches and dizziness etc. I do eat a lot of the foods that inhibit iron absorption in order to get enough protein so I may not be getting enough in my diet. Will see what the Dr. says ☺

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