Tracking ferritin after blood donations

My last two blood tests flagged ferritin as low, and total iron as high. I don’t have anemia, and related markers like hemoglobin are all fine.

This is likely due to regular blood donations (after having done none for several years). Everything I had read indicated that 4-6 weeks should be plenty to recover, and while this may be true for red blood cell counts and hemoglobin, maybe not for ferritin.

Low ferritin in itself doesn’t appear to be harmful, but rather than risk developing anemia, I’ll reduce the donation frequency from 3 to 6 months, and retest iron-related biomarkers prior to the next donation.


Vertical lines mark blood donations (500ml whole blood). The grayish areas are the “reference” ranges.


Source code here.

Looks like “total” iron has come back down to earth, and ferritin is slowly creeping up again. Serum iron levels are known to vary a lot, so I don’t know if I can blame the blood donations for upsetting the total iron values, or maybe I just ate more red meat in the days prior to the last test…

I’ll hold off a couple more months before doing another donation, and then stick with one donation every 6 months.


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Although ferritin is an acute phase reactant (meaning it rises during acute illness or inflammation), when not ill, it is a better measure of total body iron stores.

If you want to donate more, pick up over the counter ferrous sulfate 324 mg (65 mg iron) and take one pill 3 times per week. The two side effects are darker stools and constipation which is why I recommend 3 times per week. When people are iron deficient due to chronic blood loss, we recommend taking it daily with a stool softener. However, for your purposes, three times per week should do. You can titrate the dose according to your donation schedule.


I’m just going to adjust my donation schedule according to my natural recovery rate, not vice versa :grinning:

I do still wonder why my “total iron” levels were elevated about two months post-donation…

Looks like my ferritin levels are back in the normal range. Planning to donate blood later this week, and will stick with twice-a-year (rather than quarterly) donations from here on.