How to Identify Iron Deficiency: Important Blood Tests to Identify Low Iron Deficiency & Anemia

Did you know that routine blood work does not include the tests necessary to identify iron deficiency.  What?!

I know that sounds crazy, but stick around and we’ll dive into HOW that is possible and I’ll give you a list of the IMPORTANT tests you need to request (that your doctor won’t order if you don’t ask) to get the best answers for your heath!

If you’ve struggled with the many symptoms of low iron, but your blood work has always been ‘normal’

Doctors often simply run a CBC, or Complete Blood Count, to analyze your blood health.  While a CBC can identify low hemoglobin (iron deficiency anemia)…but that is only part of the story! The CBC is missing the test you need to identify the first (and potentially severe) stages of iron deficiency! (To learn more about the causes, risk factors, & stages of low iron click here to download the Iron Repair Manual)

Many women experience significant symptoms of iron deficiency despite their CBC indicating a ‘normal’ hemoglobin level.   

Our understanding of the importance of iron has come a loooong way over the past 10-15 years. Science used to tell us that iron was really only important for the formation of hemoglobin (the iron containing protein that carriers oxygen through the blood). As a result, doctors were trained to look at hemoglobin as the only marker for establishing healthy iron levels.

If hemoglobin was ‘normal’ then low iron wasn’t considered a possible cause for their patients’ symptoms – like exhaustion, headaches, brain fog, hair loss, etc.

However, recent studies have revealed that iron is actually involved in nearly all the cellular functions & metabolic processes our bodies complete every day

We now know that the iron stored throughout our bodies, in the form of ferritin, is a very strong indicator of our true iron status. When ferritin is low, cells throughout our bodies are starving for iron!

There are several stages of low iron and the first stage is ‘iron deficiency’. Iron deficiency occurs when your hemoglobin is still considered within the ‘normal’ range, but ferritin is low.

Many people experience significant symptoms at this stage – but because routine lab work does not test for ferritin – their low iron isn’t discovered and they continue to struggle.

It is very important to note that the reference ranges considered ‘normal’ for several of these tests are extremely broad, and do not reflect the numbers needed to experience optimal health. 

Sadly, many doctors are not aware of the current research confirming that the ‘normal’ reference ranges are terribly outdated and do not reflect optimal health for their patients.

For example, the ‘normal’ reference range for ferritin is 13-200.  If your blood test reveals a serum ferritin level of 15, your doctor may consider this a ‘normal’ result.  When in actuality, a ferritin level of 15 indicates severe iron deficiency.

Rest assured – you are not overreacting or imagining things despite your doctor’s indifference.  Iron deficiency can and does cause significant symptoms!

In addition to iron, there are several other critical tests that identify nutrient deficiencies that frequently accompany iron deficiency; B-12, folic acid, and Vitamin D.  Many doctors are not accustomed to ordering these tests, so it is important that you are prepared to request them.  

Understanding these test results is a big step in discovering possible deficiencies that are affecting your health. Once you have worked with your doctor to identify low iron levels, iron supplementation may be necessary. (Click Here to learn about the iron supplement I use & recommend)

In the reference chart below, I have included both traditional lab reference ranges, and updated optimal ranges based on current research. You can print this page & take it with you to your doctor’s appointment.

(If your doctor won’t order the tests, you can order them yourself!! Click Here to order your own blood work.


Noemia LM, Carmen VL (2018) Ferritin: Could be a Health Indicator. J Fam Med Dis Prev 4:078.


Esa Soppi (2019) Iron Deficiency Without Anemia – Common, Important, Neglected. Clin Case Rep Rev 5: DOI: 10.15761/CCRR.1000456

Dig Liver Dis. 2013 Oct;45(10):803-9. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2013.02.019. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

*Disclaimer: This content is strictly the opinion of Krystal Moore or Three Arrows Nutra, LLC  and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Krystal Moore, Three Arrows Nutra, LLC  nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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