Total Iron Binding Capacity Explained and All About the TIBC Test

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It can be very difficult to determine what is causing fatigue or pain in the body, and some medical tests are more effective than others in solving these mysteries. One test that’s worth learning more about is the total iron binding capacity (TIBC) test that determines levels of iron in a person’s bloodstream.

Therefore, this article will discuss what a TIBC test is, what the test involves, and its risks and benefits. It will also define the TIBC normal range and what it means if a person has a low or high iron binding capacity. This information should help individuals decide whether undergoing a TIBC test is the right decision to make.


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What Is TIBC?

Total iron binding capacity is a measurement of how well the body is retaining iron in the bloodstream and how well the protein of transferrin is carrying iron through the blood. This is a useful test for many people because it can determine whether someone needs to consume more iron through food or add iron supplements to the diet. The test is often conducted after a doctor suspects that a medical condition is causing iron levels to be higher or lower than normal or if the symptoms of iron deficiency are present.

Testing for TIBC 

TIBC testing requires a simple blood test, with blood typically drawn from the hand or inside the elbow. Once removing a blood sample, medical professionals will send the sample to a lab to be analyzed.

Risks of the TIBC Test

TIBC testing is generally safe and a routine procedure that most people should not be worried about. But just as with any type of blood test, certain risks are possible. For example, an individual may feel light-headed or faint after having blood drawn. It is also possible for a person to lose more blood than expected during a blood test or develop an infection where the needle was placed.

TIBC Normal Range

The standard TIBC normal range for test results is between 240 and 450 micrograms per deciliter. A high iron binding capacity means that the body’s iron supplies are low, such as in a person with iron deficiency. A TIBC test result that is lower than normal may indicate malnutrition, inflammation, hypoproteinemia, or liver disease. Discuss TIBC test results in details with a doctor to determine what the next steps and treatment recommendations should be based upon iron levels that are causing symptoms.

How to Prepare for a TIBC Test

If a doctor recommends a TIBC test, there are a few things that should be done to prepare for the test in advance. It is best for a person to fast for at least eight hours before the test is performed to yield the most accurate results. Since certain medications can affect TIBC test results, such as birth control pills and the adrenocorticotropic hormone, patients should advise their doctors of all medications taken when discussing possible TIBC testing.

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Possible Side Effects of Iron Supplements and How to Minimize Them

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Practically every prescription medication, over-the-counter treatment, and nutritional supplement comes with a risk of side effects. Unfortunately, iron supplements are no exception, and some people experience adverse reactions while fueling their bodies with the iron they need.

The side effects of taking iron are rare and typically very minor, but it is important to be aware of them in case unexplained symptoms arise while taking a new supplement or altering its dosage.

Here is some information about the possible side effects of iron supplements, such as gastrointestinal issues, a metallic taste, skin conditions, and pain in various parts of the body.

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More Common Side Effects of Taking Iron

Many people never experience any side effects of iron supplement at all, but individuals with sensitive stomachs may notice an increase in constipation, bloating, gas, and abdominal cramping. Meanwhile, other individuals may experience dizziness, headaches, chills, or a metallic taste in their mouths while taking a new iron supplement. It is also possible to experience skin rashes, have trouble breathing, or have back or muscle pain while on an iron supplement regimen.

Rare Side Effects of Taking Iron

In much rarer cases, a person may feel weak, experience double vision, or notice chest or throat pain while swallowing after taking iron supplements. Individuals who have overdosed on iron may have diarrhea, fevers, nausea, and vomiting. The late-stage symptoms of an iron overdose include blue-colored lips and nails, pale and clammy skin, shallow or rapid breathing, and unusual weakness. Consult a doctor if any of these symptoms arise.

Ferrous Sulfate Side Effects vs. Ferrous Gluconate

Iron supplements come in different forms, such as ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate. Furthermore, certain ingredients in common iron supplements can trigger more of these unwanted side effects than others. Many common iron supplements contain ferrous sulfate, but side effects may be more common with this form. This is especially true with stomach irritation, and it has a higher toxicity level than ferrous gluconate. However, ferrous gluconate, which is contained in Fergon, is more soluble in the body, especially when individuals pay close attention to what the iron pills are consumed with. Other forms of iron include ferrous fumarate, ferrous succinate, ferritin, and carbonyl.

How to Minimize the Side Effects of Taking Iron

Fortunately, there are many things a person can do to minimize the risk of iron-related side effects while taking supplements. For example, while iron is typically best absorbed in the body on an empty stomach, it may help to take supplements with small amounts of food to reduce gastrointestinal discomfort. However, milk, calcium, caffeine, antibiotics, and antacids should be avoided for at least two hours when taking iron supplements. It may help to take a vitamin C supplement or drink a glass of orange juice with an iron supplement. For symptoms of constipation, consider taking a stool softener while using iron supplements. If side effects become worse, always consult a doctor to determine whether a different form of iron or dosage is recommended to minimize discomfort.

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Iron Absorption: Why It’s Important and Diseases That Hinder It

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While people who have been diagnosed with iron deficiency may be consuming an adequate amount of iron in their diets, they still may suffer serious deficiency symptoms.

It may come as a surprise to learn that absorbing iron is just as important as consuming iron and that some diseases actually prevent the body from absorbing iron properly.

This means that excess iron that a person takes in may not be benefiting the body if other factors aren’t addressed first.

This article addresses how iron is absorbed in the body and strategic ways to ensure that one’s body is absorbing the iron being consumed through diet and supplementation.

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How Iron Is Absorbed in the Body

To begin, iron absorption depends on the form that enters the digestive tract. Heme iron is found in red meats and is the most easily absorbed form. Non-heme iron can come from plants and is typically less easily absorbed in the body. Absorption is also dependent upon inorganic iron ions that change state during the process of absorption.

The absorption of iron is controlled by a dietary regulator and a stores regulator, both of which are largely affected by diet composition. Once ingested, iron passes through cell membranes that line the intestines and are transferred into the plasma. Transferrin, a protein, attaches to this iron to transport it throughout the body. Iron is also transferred to bone marrow to create hemoglobin and red blood cells.

Why Iron Absorption is Important

Iron must be properly absorbed into the body so that it can be stored for both current and future use. Through meals and iron supplements like Fergon, the body uses some absorbed iron for immediate purposes and stores the remainder as ferritin. Ferritin is a protein used for storage in the body’s cells that supplies iron when the body needs it later on. Once these stores are depleted, an iron deficiency occurs. Common symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, tongue swelling, and odd food cravings.

Diseases That Affect Iron Absorption

Unfortunately, there are certain medical conditions that negatively impact the body’s ability to absorb iron. Individuals who have inadequate stomach acid or a lack of intrinsic factor, which is a hormone required to absorb vitamin B12, may not be able to absorb iron well. Additionally, people who have celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or another hormone imbalance or autoimmune condition may struggle with this as well.

Studies show that approximately one-third of inflammatory bowel disease patients also suffer from recurrent iron deficiency. This is especially troubling because chronic fatigue is a common symptom of both conditions and can dramatically affect the quality of life of people who have these concurrent conditions.

Ways to Increase Iron Absorption

One of the most well-known and most effective ways to boost iron absorption is to consume vitamin C with iron-rich meals. Eating animal protein found in meat can increase one’s overall iron intake, as well as iron absorption. But for vegetarians and vegans, combining plant-based iron sources with vitamin C rich foods, like citrus fruits and dark leafy vegetables, can help tremendously. It’s important to avoid drinking tea and coffee while consuming iron-rich foods to increase one’s absorption. It has also been advised to avoid dairy products and soybean products in iron-rich meals to help the mineral absorb more effectively into the body. Proper meal planning is the key to helping one’s body absorb the iron it needs and store the remainder for a later time.

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10 Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

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The most common nutritional deficiency in the world is an iron deficiency; however, this condition often goes untreated because the symptoms are not fully understood. Although some people are at a higher risk of developing an iron deficiency than others, everyone’s body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, an important protein that enables red blood cells to distribute oxygen throughout the body.

Determining whether there is an iron deficiency is as simple as talking with a doctor and requesting a blood test to check iron levels. When left untreated, this nutrient deficiency can really impact daily life. An iron deficiency supplement, like Fergon, can help alleviate the symptoms of this nutrient deficiency and bring iron stores back to a healthy level.These are some of the most common types of symptoms associated with iron deficiencies:

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1. Fatigue

The most common symptom of an iron deficiency is fatigue, which is a condition of extreme tiredness that occurs when there are not enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to organs, muscles, and tissues. Consult a doctor for a blood test if you are getting enough sleep but still feeling lethargic or tired.

2. Shortness of Breath

This is another common symptom among adults that are iron deficient, and is especially problematic among active adults and athletes who work out regularly. Shortness of breath can get in the way of doing the things you love every day.

3. Dizziness

Many people who lack iron in their diets become dizzy very easily, which can be quite dangerous and unsettling. People who are dizzy are more prone to slips and falls, which can result in broken bones and sprained muscles.

4. Difficulty Maintaining Body Temperature

People who are iron deficient can have difficulty maintaining their body temperature and often complain of feeling cold. The coldest parts of the body are often the extremities, such as the hands, feet, fingers, and toes.

5. Headaches

Headaches are common among people who are iron deficient as well and really stand in the way of normal activities throughout the day. Not getting enough iron in your diet means that you may not be getting enough oxygen to your brain, causing the pressure and pain of a headache.

6. Pale Skin

The condition of pale skin among people with iron deficiencies goes beyond simply staying out of the sun to avoid burns. Hemoglobin helps give skin its natural color, so your skin color may become lighter when you aren’t getting enough iron to produce hemoglobin.

7. Brittle Hair and Nails

If left untreated for a significant amount of time, an iron deficiency can result in brittle hair and nails, as well as hair loss over time. Hair and nail follicles need oxygen too, and when they aren’t getting it, they may become fragile and break.

8. Poor Appetite

Poor appetite is a symptom of iron deficiency that is especially common among children. If children are not eating well at meals, it could mean more than just being a picky eater. Talk to your pediatrician about the possibility of an iron deficiency if this occurs.

9. Slowed Growth and Development

Children that have a prolonged and untreated iron deficiency may also not grow and develop as quickly as they normally should. Stunted growth can have a profound impact upon children who aren’t getting proper nutrition while developing.

10. Sore Mouth and Tongue

There are many reasons that you may experience a sore mouth and tongue, but one of those reasons is an iron deficiency. When you don’t have enough iron in your body, oxygen can’t get to your muscles, and the tongue is the most visible muscle we have. Cracks on the side of your mouth could also be a sign of an iron deficiency.

If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms then you might be suffering from an iron deficiency. Schedule an appointment with your doctor for a simple blood test and ask how a Fergon Iron Deficiency Supplement may help your problems.

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Medical Options for Iron Deficiencies

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There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for an iron deficiency, as the best remedy depends upon the severity of condition and type of lifestyle.

When a doctor treats an iron deficiency, he or she focuses on increasing the iron the body stores to reach normal levels.

Since there are many different symptoms associated with this nutrient deficiency, doctors may also have to treat the symptoms caused by the deficiency in the body.

If you have an iron deficiency, these are some treatment options to consider and discuss with your doctor.

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Natural Treatments with Iron-Rich Foods

One natural and easy way to treat an iron deficiency is to eat more foods that contain high amounts of iron. Some foods have more iron than others, because iron is naturally found in some foods and can also be added to other fortified food products.

Red meat is the best source of iron; however, some people do not eat red meat because of other health conditions, religious beliefs, or environmental concerns. Other meats that are rich in iron include chicken, turkey, fish, and shellfish. Vegans or vegetarians can try incorporating these iron-rich, non-meat foods into your meals.

  • Peas
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Dried prunes, apricots, and raisins
  • Spinach and kale
  • Prune juice

Iron Supplements

Sometimes iron-rich foods alone aren’t enough to get iron up to a healthy level. Supplements, such as Fergon, come in the form of pills to swallow, but other varieties can also be purchased as drops for children.

It’s important to only take the recommended dosage of iron supplements, because iron overdose is possible and dangerous. Many doctors will recommend taking iron tablets with vitamin C to help with the absorption of iron. It’s also often recommended that you avoid taking iron supplements with antacids because these can impair absorption.

Iron supplements interact with the human body to build up iron stores, so you supplements may be needed for several months before iron levels fully return to normal. However, most people start to feel their symptoms ease within just a few days of starting a supplement treatment.

Blood Transfusions

In severe cases of iron deficiency, some doctors recommend blood transfusions to get more red blood cells in the body. Although the blood must be matched with the blood of a donor, this is a generally safe and routine procedure that involves delivering new blood through an IV line in a blood vessel.

This treatment typically clears up the symptoms of an iron deficiency right away. However, this is only a short-term treatment and is usually only used for patients whose deficiency puts them at risk for other serious conditions. For example, hospital patients who have coronary heart disease may sometimes benefit from a restricted red blood cell transfusion strategy.

IV Therapy

Another iron deficiency treatment for severe cases is IV therapy, in which a doctor injects iron into a muscle or into a blood vessel through an IV line. This is a rare treatment that is usually only recommended when a patient is unable to take a supplement in pill form. This includes patients such as older adults, pregnant women who have pregnancy-related gastrointestinal symptoms, and anyone else with serious gastrointestinal disorders.

If you are experiencing any or all the symptoms of iron deficiency, ask your doctor about which option is best for you and your health.

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