Q: My doctor tested my iron level in the office, and it came up a little on the low side, but still normal. My thyroid, blood sugar, and all other blood tests turned out normal. Is there anything else I should test that might explain my hair loss?
A: Since your iron tested low–normal, be sure to eat lots of iron–rich protein (coupled with vitamin C, if you’re vegetarian) for the next several weeks. This will help bring your iron levels back into the mid–normal range.
You might also want to go back to your doctor and ask for a more extensive test for iron levels. There are actually three main tests for iron: serum iron, which measures the amount of iron in blood; ferritin, which is a measure of the amount of iron stored in the body; and TIBC — Total Iron Binding Capacity — which is a measure of how much iron could be/should be in the body.
Many doctors will only test serum iron, but unless you have severe anemia, serum iron can appear normal even if ferritin and TIBC are low. The other two tests are more sensitive. Low ferritin means low iron stores, which means that you may need more iron. High TIBC means that your body has a big gap between how much iron the body has at its disposal and how much it needs. Both of these tests can be used to help diagnose iron-deficiency anemia or pre-anemia. Talk with your doctor about these additional tests. Your iron levels may yet be the problem. You may be a candidate for a supplemental dose, but don’t try self-diagnosing this problem — never take iron pills unless a medical professional confirms you need them.