Health Foodie: Iron Deficiency Myths

Health Foodie: Iron Deficiency Myths

About a year ago I finally dragged myself to the doctor.  I was blacking out, having heart palpitations, concerning exhaustion, and muscle cramps like you wouldn’t believe.  After a few vials drawn and a few days later, I got a call everything was normal, just my iron was low.  Let me tell you, there was nothing normal about what I was experiencing.  I was given a three month prescription of iron and miralax.  Then I was sent on my way.  Since I absolutely cannot stand miralax and it’s dangerous chemicals,  I dove into various studies, organizations, and more for more options.  I found a supplement to match the dosage.  Then I became violently ill from that. Scratch that.   I also don’t eat very much meat, which was the best dietary option given to boost iron.  That’s a problem.  

There had to be other options.  I was horrified at what I found as I kept digging.  I wasn’t going to be monitored as I should, unless I forced the issue myself with the doctor but I didn’t know at the time.  It takes months to level out our iron levels, as somewhere around six months mark.  That is if supplements and diet work. It doesn’t for everyone.   For some, this is all you need.  This sudden arrival of winter and constant need of all things fleece, I am reminded of this personal wellness issue.  When you aren’t well,  it infiltrates you more than body, your mental state and soul take a hit too.   It’s important when you aren’t well  investigate (with caution) and get answers. In all of it, follow your instinct, inner voice, gut.  

I am not a doctor and information shared is intended for informative purposes only. 

JRiley

Myth One: It’s a Simple Disease

No.  Iron deficiency/ Anemia ranges from headaches and fatigue to fainting, black outs, constantly cold, muscle spasms, nerve damage, difficulty breathing, severe fatigue, and more.  Testing may be simple but dealing with it is anything but.  Testing is important as the symptoms over lap with many other diseases and conditions.  If you suspect, before treatments or supplements, seek professional diagnosis. 

Myth Two: One solution works for everyone

My deficiency is different than yours.  There are so many reasons as to why your iron or red blood cells (anemia) are low.  It fluctuates.  Stress, sickness, menstruation, cancer, pregnancy, digestion issues are among many reasons it happens. Changing diet, reducing stress levels, or taking supplements may be all your need. It may not.  Find out where you are in your levels.   More testing, specialist, and treatments may be needed. The changes I made in my lifestyle and diet were based on the levels I had and maintained over time with success in those changes.  Some adjustments, like more rest and increasing certain foods may temporarily be needed.  However, without that success, I would be pursuing different professionals for more answers.  

Myth Three: Eat More Chicken. Beef. Liver. 

 If you are a vegan or vegetarian- you aren’t screwed.  This is where I get warm fuzzies as I personally love food as medicine and food chemistry.   You can change your food relationship to help with iron without ever eating chicken, beef, liver, or any meat.  These are the top iron rich Vegetarian/Vegan friendly foods: 

  • chard
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • lentils and beans
  • Pumpkin seeds, pepita seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
  • Almonds
  • Figs
  • Dried apricots
  • Brussel Sprouts

But then iron isn’t the only part to this equation….

Myth Four: When Changing Diet- iron, iron, iron, iron

Nope.  And yes.  Yes you need to add in iron but some parts of your food relationship may be blocking iron and others may boost absorption.  Beets, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries, and spinach release oxalates, which can reduce iron absorption. Calcium rich foods inhibit your bodies ability to take in iron.  Black teas and coffee release tannins which may block iron absorption as well.  Walnuts, apples, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries release tannins.  So does cocoa, chocolate.  As a matter of fact cocoa/chocolate releases three different chemicals that can impair iron absorption.  All of these foods are needed and great for you, especially some dark chocolate.  The lesson is: love your iron and chocolate separately.  About two hours apart from iron rich/iron boosting foods and those known to inhibit.   You may be able to eat some of not so iron absorbing friendly foods in small doses in a meal when you are eating for iron and red cell boost if your levels are in the normal range.  

Iron with vitamin c is a great food connection.  It increases your absoprtion significantly. Iron also needs beta carotene (Vitamin A) and magnesium.  There is two for one deal often in the iron/magnesium/Vitamin A food list: swiss chard, kale, avocado, figs, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and bananas.  Beta Carotene (vitamin A) can be found in iron rich foods too: dried apricots, peas, dark leafy greens, and broccoli.   Its important to understand how your food relationship pairings work.  Everyone plays a role.

The Final Myth: All Supplements are Safe

Oh hell no.  Especially Iron and Vitamin A.  If you are aiming for Vitamin A.  Just eat it.  I meant it, don’t supplement.  Eat it.  Vitamin A is stored in your liver and doesn’t dissolve easily.  This makes it easy to over dose and make it a toxin. A.K.A. poison.  Iron in too small doses is detrimental; doses too high are toxic .  This is why getting testing for iron levels is crucial.  Make sure your levels are known and monitored if you have anemia or difficulty maintaining iron levels.  What I started with my supplements to get my levels up to speed is much higher than what I need now. 

I love experiencing how food can heal.  However, it isn’t the end-all-be-all.  Bodymind health tampers with everything.  Stress, prolonged or frequent,  messes with your body chemicals and blood flow ability.  The best investment we can make is mental health practices: prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, rest, and mindfulness.  Check out last weeks post “Hit. The. Breaks” for more ideas.  Stay warm.  Be kind to your body.  Care for your mind.  

Namaste and Keep Your Warm Fuzzies

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