I was recently working with someone who has an iron deficiency.  She eats salads and the greens have iron in them.  She has made improvements in her diet to eat more whole foods so what could be happening as I know many people have this same issue. 

Iron deficiency causes anemia.  Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which is a red, iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s muscles and organs.  These cells also remove carbon dioxide from cells and carry it to the lungs to be exhaled.  Anemia occurs when the body does not have enough red blood cells.  Individuals who are anemic may experience fatigue because the heart has to work harder to deliver oxygen to the muscles and organs.  Anemia is a common blood disorder, affecting an estimated 3.4 million people in the US.  Other symptoms may include pale skin, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, cognitive problems, headache and numb or cold sensations in the extremities.

Things that can cause an iron deficiency are:

  • Not getting enough iron in your diet.
  • Eating an acidic foods.
  • Not getting enough sunlight.

What plant based foods are high in iron?

  1. legumes (lentils, dried peas and beans);
  2. green vegetables such as broccoli or Asian greens;
  3. nuts, especially cashews;
  4. dried such as apricots;
  5. etc, the list goes on…

What might you be eating that is acidic therefore hindering iron absorption?

Any acidic drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, dairy can reduce iron absorption by 50-90% because iron is an alkaline mineral.  When the blood ph gets too acidic then the body dissolves alkaline minerals to keep the ph at approximately a 7.  Alkaline minerals in a human body are calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, magnesium, manganese.  When these minerals are dissolved in the blood stream then the kidneys and liver have to clean the blood.  Often times the reformulation of these minerals cause kidney stones.  Other areas in the body that these minerals deposit is in the joints and tops of feet.  Dairy is acidic and it’s best to avoid it before and after you consume iron rich foods.  Better yet, eliminate them.  They cause more havoc than not.  Another thing to consider is to avoid oxalates.  Spinach is high in iron but it is also high in oxalic acid which can hinder iron absorption.  I recommend eating other tender baby greens and the wide variety of other lettuces available.  

On the contrary, consuming iron-rich foods with a source of Vitamin C helps iron absorption.  This includes citrus.  You may think citrus acid would block the absorption of iron because it is acidic but it does not.  Fruits including citrus are high in alkaline minerals therefore having an alkaline affect on the body.  Vitamin C also decreases the ability of phytic acid to block iron absorption.  

Why does sunlight help iron absorption?  

Iron and Vitamin D are synergistic increasing one often increases the other.  Low levels of one associated with low levels of the other.  Yes you can take iron supplements and the iron will get into your blood stream but the sunlight affects all your hormones such as hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pineal body, ovaries, testes.  Sunlight increases your vitamin D naturally therefore balancing your hormones and increasing your mineral absorption.  I recommend getting out in the sun during non-harmful hours of the day, either morning or late afternoon for 15 minutes at minimum.

Another thing to consider is that the body can only absorb organic minerals.  The chemical structure of the molecule is different.  An example is that there is a lot of iron in rock dust which is used to feed plants.  Plants get the iron from the rock dust and change the molecular structure .  Humans can then get iron from the plants because the plants worked their magic on the iron to make it readily available to humans.  But eating rock dust would be no different than eating a rock ground up and our bodies can’t easily assimilate it. 

Is an iron supplement and organic mineral or an inorganic mineral?  I don’t know for sure but I’m skeptical and if it was me I would skip the supplement and simply eat plant based iron rich foods, reduce acidic foods and get in the sun.

If someone is iron-deficient right now, I’d suggest to juice a variety of greens and drink it up. That way you know you are getting plenty of nutrients across the board, including iron. Make the juicing of greens a daily or every-other-day habit. Drink it first thing in the morning, before any other food, for max absorption and assimilation.  Eventually your iron will catch up and you can switch to a fruit smoothie with some greens.  

One thing to play around with is buying pH strips that you can pee on or spit.  This will give you an idea of where your blood ph is at during any moment in time.  Your blood ph changes with everything you eat so keep in mind that it is only a snapshot at that point in time.  When your ph is closer to a 7 then your body will be able to absorb your alkaline minerals such as iron.

I hope this blog post helps people with an iron deficiency.  This is advice based on my knowledge and experience.  I encourage you to continue to learn about how to take excellent care of your body and become your own best doctor.  You all are very capable to improve your health significantly and no-one is going to care about your health more than you.  If you have any specific questions about other health related issues then email me at [email protected] and I’ll do my best to help answer them.  I am constantly learning so feel free to comment.