Iron deficiency is a common health problem these days, but it is also one of the most misunderstood.
Iron is a critical component of haemoglobin, a substance in the red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs throughout your body.
Haemoglobin makes up about two thirds of your body's iron. And if you don't get enough, your body can't produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
When this occurs, you suffer from a condition known as anaemia - a common blood disorder that affects millions of people around the world, many of whom don’t even realise they have it.
Common signs you have Anaemia include:
- Regularly short of breath
- Constant fatigue
- Physical weakness
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Sugar and Processed Food Cravings
- Headaches and Dizziness
All of these symptoms can stop you from living your healthiest life, so it pays to know how to prevent and remedy Anaemia by building and maintaining your iron stores.
Here, we reveal the main causes of iron deficiency or anaemia and we share with you the most potent plant foods to help keep your iron levels in check.
What Causes Anaemia?
Anaemia literally means to have a lack of blood, but more specifically it’s a lack of red blood cells and/or haemoglobin. This results in a reduced ability of the blood to transfer oxygen to the tissues.
Haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells, has to be present to ensure adequate oxygenation of all body tissues and organs.
Anaemia can develop from a variety of underlying causes, and can develop from genetic factors or nutritional deficiencies. Anaemia is classified according to the size of the red blood cell: decreased (microcytic), normal (normocytic) or enlarged (macrocytic or megaloblastic).
Each of these three types can have different causes, from iron deficiency to low b12, blood loss, chronic disease and more.
Anaemia can also be caused by bleeding from menstruation, haemorrhoids or from excess use of pain killer such as aspirin. It may also be that your bone marrow simply isn’t making the right kind of blood.
Symptoms of Anaemia
The symptoms of anaemia can be quite vague, which means it can be hard to detect.
In fact, millions of women who are iron deficient are not even aware of it.
This is why knowing the main signs of anaemia can help you to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle in order to prevent ongoing iron deficiencies.
The most common sign of anaemia is a feeling of weakness, fatigue or a shortness of breath. This can cause headaches, stomach issues, a loss of sex drive and it can make you appear pale and feel constantly weak and drowsy.
Very severe anaemia prompts a compensatory response where cardiac output is markedly increased. This leads to palpitations and sweating and can even lead to heart failure in elderly people.
Tips & Plant Foods To Help Boost Iron Naturally
1. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a very important nutrient that can actually help prevent anaemia.
It improves circulation, is necessary for tissue repair and is useful in treating a number of disorders. It promotes normal blood clotting and healing, reduces blood pressure, and more.
When there is vitamin E deficiency it may result in damage to red blood cells. The signs of vitamin E deficiency include infertility in both men and women, menstrual problems, shortened red blood cell life span, miscarriage, uterine degeneration, and of course, anaemia.
You can get plenty of vitamin E from whole food sources like:
- Healthy vegetable oils e.g. Rice bran, Wheat germ, Grape seed & Safflower
- Dark leafy greens e.g. Spinach, Kale & Chard
- Legumes and Beans
- Nuts & Seeds - Almonds, Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds etc.
- Sweet potatoes and;
2. Dietary Fibre
One of the best things you can do for your health and to ensure you live a long life is to eat more fibre.
Fibre helps improve transit time, meaning the time it takes for food to be digested and passed.
Fibre helps move food through your digestive system, reducing “internal sludge” that can build up and lead to disorders and diseases, including anaemia.
With better transit time, your food will be absorbed better and then expelled in a timely manner so that toxins don’t have a chance to breed and build up.
Be sure to eat plenty of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables and you'll ensure that you're getting enough whole fibre in your diet.
If you're carrying excess weight, constantly fatigued, suffer from skin disorders and/or poor digestive function, consider doing a colon cleanse to clear your digestive system of accumulated waste. This will allow your body to reset and able to absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Our hand crafted Cleanse Me colon cleanse product is an ideal protocol to follow periodically to help cleanse your digestive tract - which is prepared from Australian Food-Grade Bentonite Clay, Ground Psyllium Husk, Ground Flax, Dried Apple, Cinnamon and Ginger.
3. Iron Rich Foods
It's a common misconception that you need to eat meat in order to get sufficient iron.
Plant food sources of iron are among the most bioavailable and easy to digest. Some of the best iron rich foods include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Black cherries
- Dried fruits
- Whole wheat
- White onions
- Rye bran
- Beet juice
Another wonderful iron rich plant food is Parsley: a half cup fresh or one tablespoon dried has about ten percent of your iron daily requirements.
Plus, parsley has the vitamin C your body needs to absorb that iron.
Interestingly, Apricots have a good amount of copper in the fruit making iron available to the body, producing haemoglobin could be increased in the body by liberally using apricots.
Also high in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of haemoglobin in the blood. Quinoa is loaded with iron: it has four milligrams of iron per serving helping to keep anaemia at bay and give you a burst of energy from the high protein.
Iron deficiency affects even those without anaemia, so it’s important to eat iron-rich foods whether or not you have anaemia. If you’re not eating enough of the foods listed for you here, it is very likely that your stamina level could drop and you will likely have less energy for simple routine daily tasks.
Chlorophyll is the essence of plants, just like blood is the essence of humans.
The structure of chlorophyll is similar to hemin, a component of the haemoglobin in blood that carries oxygen. This means that anaemic people are able to build iron-rich blood simply by increasing their intake of chlorophyll.
Alfalfa and all of the grasses top the list with incredible amounts of chlorophyll, which is essentially 'liquid sunshine' distilled into food through photosynthesis.
These are also our best sources of vitamin B12, also important for preventing anaemia.
To get more chlorophyll into your diet, be sure to eat plenty of greens, add them to fresh juices and smoothies and add alfalfa, parsley and water cress to your salads.
Chlorophyll Rich Juice Recipe
Juice the following ingredients through a cold pressed juicer at home for a refreshing iron rich beverage:
- 2 Green Apples
- Small handful Fresh Parsley
- 1 bunch Kale
- 1 handful Alfalfa sprouts
- 1 bunch Spinach
- 1 handful Wheatgrass (optional)
- 2 Green Apples
It doesn’t get any greener than this! This drink contains the highest dietary sources of chlorophyll, arguably the most effective nutrient for treating anaemia.
5. Foods to Avoid
While it’s important to get enough foods that increase iron naturally and prevent anaemia, it’s also important to know what to avoid.
The following foods have been found to interfere with iron absorption in the gastrointestinal tract and should be greatly minimised in the diet, or better still, avoided wherever possible:
- Commercial Grade Coffee & Chocolate
- Refined Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners
- Processed packaged foods with chemical additives and preservatives
- Packaged breakfast cereals (usually made from GMO grains)
- Refined Flour
- White Pasta, White Rice
- Soft drinks
- Candy and Lollies laced with food colouring
- Hard Alcohol such as Cocktails and Spirits. Instead, choose naturally fermented and brewed, preservative-free beers and wines.
The Main Takeaway
Avoiding iron deficiency is simple if you are making the right dietary and lifestyle choices.
Rather than look for a quick fix in the form of a pill or capsule that may have side-effects, it is far better to focus on changes to your diet in the form of nourishing whole foods for healthy long term benefit.
Embrace some of the foods and suggestions offered here and you'll go a long way to making iron deficiency a non-problem or a problem of the past.
Tolman Self Care.