6 Ways to Maximize Iron Absorption

6 Ways to Maximize Iron Absorption

Shown are three things in my iron-promoting toolkit (my iron supplement, liver pills, and nettles for tea)

Iron deficiency is a surprisingly common problem. It certainly is a huge issue worldwide, but can also be seen in developed countries where deficiencies aren’t quite as common. Women especially need to take care that their iron levels are in the healthy range during their childbearing years. Loss of blood through monthly cycles, and/or through loss of blood through childbirth, can be problematic to many women. Children are also at risk for not meeting their iron needs when their bodies are growing so rapidly.

That’s what I learned when I found out that I had very low iron stores. Which is why, in my post on whether we should take supplements or not, I shared that I am currently on a good iron supplement. Today, I wanted to share some of the information I’ve found out about iron deficiency and iron absorption, so that if you felt you also could be low in iron, you could talk to your health care provider about your options.

Symptoms of iron deficiency

For me, being low in iron meant that I was “bone tired” – the type of fatigue you can no longer work through. My hair started falling out in unhealthy rates, my thyroid started slowing down because of the lack of iron, and I started to wonder if I was dying (No joke, it felt that bad). However, not everyone feels that badly, as symptoms can be mild. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can be:

• “Extreme fatigue
• Pale skin
• Weakness
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Frequent infections
• Headache
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Cold hands and feet
• Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
• Brittle nails
• Fast heartbeat
• Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
• Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia
• An uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in your legs (restless legs syndrome)”

If you experience some of these symptoms I’d definitely recommend getting your iron levels checked out by your doctor. I had just a few of these symptoms during my pregnancies, and my doctor (or in other pregnancies, midwife) would check and recheck my iron. But they always came back normal. Turns out they were doing the typical red blood cell count test, but my body was able to maintain normal hemoglobin counts despite my low iron stores. It was only when I went to a new doctor convinced that something was really, really wrong with me, that he ordered a test for my ferritin levels. When this is low, it generally indicates you have low amounts of iron stored in your body. And mine were desperately low. (You can read about the different testing available to doctors here)

Possible causes of low iron

What’s hard about being iron deficient is that there can be very different reasons why. Worldwide, worms or parasites can be the root cause, though that doesn’t seem to be as common in the U.S. Lymes disease is considered to be a cause of low iron. Some believe that when your thyroid is off, your iron levels will get low as well. Any type of internal or external bleeding can make your iron levels get too low.

Eating a diet too low in iron is an obvious cause, but what some don’t know is that some can eat plenty of iron rich food, but not be absorbing it well. Once again it seems like there are many possible reasons for absorption issues. One is celiac disease (my doctor feels that food intolerances can also cause absorption issues), stomach acid levels not being normal, and bacteria overgrowths in the digestion tract are other possible causes. Not only that, but being low in other vitamins, such as vitamin A, can help promote low iron.

And as I mentioned above, women are considered more vulnerable to being low in iron because of their monthly cycles. Working with a qualified and open-minded doctor in discovering the root cause of your iron deficiency is a blessing.

So as I have been working with my doctor to normalize this issue, I came across some really helpful information that I wanted to pass along to you, in the hopes that some of you would find it helpful as well.

The difference between heme and nonheme iron

Really quickly, it’s important to share that there is a difference between heme and nonheme iron. Heme is animal based iron, nonheme is plant based.

1. Consider heme iron sources

One of the first things I learned is that nonheme (plant based iron) is harder to absorb. For those who discover that they do have an iron deficiency, or who want to keep levels up with food, it’s important to note that heme (animal based) iron is going to be easier to absorb. According to a chart provided by the National Institute of Health, Chicken livers top the chart for iron, and beef liver is also high (read my post about the benefits of liver here). Oysters, beef,  and dark meat from turkey, are also good sources. Nonheme iron sources include legumes, spinach, molasses, and grains (teff is a iron rich gluten-free grain). For just general health and iron status, I try to include liver in our weekly menu, as well as most of the foods in the above lists.

2. Watch out for tea and coffee

Tea and coffee have both been show to block the absorption of iron when drunk close to a meal. Drinking tea or coffee away from meals is a good idea when working to correct a low iron status. One study found that drinking it one hour before a meal is fine, but not one hour after. I also don’t take my (nonheme) iron supplement close to when I have had a cup of coffee or tea for this reason.

3. Dairy and iron absorption

Unfortunately, milk can also prevent the absorption of iron. Once again, when working to get iron levels up, drinking your milk away from meals, and when taking your iron supplements (if you are advised to take them) is a good idea.

4. Phytates and iron absorption

As long time readers know, I personally use the “soak, sprout, or sourdough” method to baking whole grains for lower phytate levels. Phytates can block absorption of many minerals, and are present in whole grains. This is a key reason why nonheme iron is often not as absorbable. It’s one good reason to work at reducing phytates in grains and legumes.

5. Cooking in cast iron

I always wondered if the advice to cook in cast iron really did help with iron levels. The work of one man showed that placing a small piece of cast iron in the pots used to cook the daily food in villages with low iron statuses, did indeed normalize iron levels in the village! (You can read more about that here). I love my cast iron pans for many reasons, but this is another reason they can be helpful.

6. A well balanced diet can help your iron levels as well

Just because you eat lots of iron-rich foods, does not necessarily mean you have high iron levels. An interesting study was done with the Inuit, who eat a high iron diet, yet suffer from low iron levels. Possible reasons for this could be that they are deficient in other needed vitamins for iron absorption and utilization of iron in the body, such as vitamin A, C, foliate, or riboflavin. (Parasites or helicobacter pylori infections could also be a factor.). All to say, eating a diet rich in a variety of nutrient dense foods could also help make sure that you are being able to absorb, and then use the iron from your food. Vitamin C is well known to help the absorption of iron, so eating vitamin C rich foods alongside your iron-rich foods could be helpful as well.

Too much iron isn’t good either

It’s also vital to mention that too much iron can not only be bad for you, it can be deadly. Children’s getting into iron supplements is a common cause of death (so if you have them in the house, make sure that children can’t get to them). Men and postmenopausal women can have the opposite problem of having too high of iron levels, and there are controversies over whether iron supplements or a good idea or not. You can read through a good overview of many of these issues here. All to say, if you don’t have an iron deficiency, you shouldn’t have to worry as much about drinking milk, tea, or coffee with a meal. In fact, if you eat a lot of iron-rich foods, some believe that it’s good that you don’t absorb all of the iron you consume.

If your doctor recommends you taking an iron supplement, you might want to ask them about Floradix, as it is more absorbable and non-constipating, unlike many other brands. It was the brand recommended to me. I buy mine through my affiliate, Vitacost for a big savings (here is a direct link to the one I buy – allergy-friendly and yeast-free formula). I also have been enjoying the mineral and iron rich nettle tea for a simple boost of nutrients.

I’d love for you to add your thoughts and research on this important topic in the comment section! 

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you so much for this helpful article, Kimi! I so appreciate that you mention Celiac as being a cause of low iron. This can also be the case with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. So for those who have had chronic anemia with little response to dietary changes, it’s important to check into this with your physician. For years, I had chronic unexplainable anemia only to finally discover after exploring other symptoms that I have Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Since going gluten-free, my iron levels have stabilized and are now in the normal range. Praise be to God. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this. I just have such a passion for helping people with gluten issues. There are so many living with undiagnosed celiac and gluten sensitivity. And I personally know how hard it can be to figure out what is wrong when you don’t have the typical GI symptoms associated with these diseases. Thanks again, Kimi! I just love what you do here! God bless you!! xo

    • says

      Kelly,

      Thanks so much for sharing your important story! Food issues – like gluten intolerances – can really wreck havoc on the digestion, and then your absorption of nutrients. I also had to take gluten out. It’s an important thing to check out if you have unexplained iron issues. Thanks!

    • Teralle WATKINS says

      Kim how did you find out? did Dr. do test? I’ve been anemic since I was a teen. I’m 37 now. iRon level was 7.5 last I checked. I just want to have normal levels.

  2. says

    Thank you for writing about this! I’m especially glad you pointed out the difference between hemoglobin and ferritin blood tests. With my history of fatigue, I want to review my records and be sure I’ve been getting the ferritin one, as I’m always told my levels are good.

    I’ve been getting NAET treatments with fantastic results for my fatigue, and one thing my practitioner mentioned is that sometimes a nutrient deficiency can be caused by the person having an “allergy” to that nutrient. (I put it in quotes because obviously we’re not talking IgE-mediated allergic reactions with something like iron or B vitamins.) Interesting. And then I remember reading in the GAPS book that Campbell-McBride thinks iron-loving gut bacteria can cause intractable iron deficiency when the microbiota are out of balance. Like you say, a complex issue!

    I sure hope you are able to resolve this and feel better!

    • says

      Alison,

      Getting my serum ferritin levels was incredibly helpful in my own story in discovering what the issues were for me. My midwife/doctors were always puzzled as it *seemed* like I had iron issues, but my hemoglobin test was always normal. Sadly, I should have been on a supplement for iron during my pregnancy, but it was never recommended because they felt I was doing well in that area.

      I do remember Natasha mentioning that in the GAPS book. It rather terrified me of taking iron supplements for a while, as she says that taking iron will just feed the bad bacteria! Thankfully, working with a doctor who often addresses iron issues, it looks like that’s not the most likely cause of low iron, and his approach is different in treating it. I will be going in for another blood draw in a little while, and I highly suspect that my iron is higher now, as my energy is waaaaaaaay up. 🙂 I’m hopeful it was a fairly easy fix for me.

      How interesting about the NAET treatments! I’d love to read more about them. Have you posted about them on your blog?

      • says

        I forgot she said iron supplements feed the bacteria. That would scare me too. So glad you found a good practitioner with other options for you.

        I wrote about NAET once a few months ago and would love to do another post. It’s been a fantastic therapy for me and now my mother and mother-in-law, all of us with sleep and fatigue issues. I really can’t say enough good things about it, so long as the practitioner is top notch. That part’s important. Also, it took about 13 treatments before I was *sure* it was helping, so it can be a big up-front investment before the results start to hit. I don’t think NAET is the whole story, because it’s mostly about removing obstacles. Obviously, a body still needs active support from great nutrition and often targeted supplementation. I’m still a huge fan of homeopathy too. But in any case, it’s been the single biggest improvement in my health in over 5 years. I’m a happy girl. Here’s my post: http://www.alisonslist.com/healing-for-life-day-1-why-im-wild-about-naet/

  3. Joelle says

    I had anemia back in Aug/Sept. I had one doctor tell me I was bleeding on the inside somewhere and that I need a colonoscopy. I didn’t do it. I went to another doctor. She checked my blood, it hadn’t dropped anymore, from the last test. She told me if it went any lower than it did, I would end up with an IV. I went on an iron supplement. Four months later I was feeling awful AGAIN, and I thought oh crap, they are going to admit me. I got the blood test done, two hours after the test, the doctor called me and said, “I was really worried what I was going to find, but you are doing great, but don’t take anymore iron, you are over what you need to be.” I quit taking it, I finally started feeling better, but will go in and get it checked again soon to see where I am at. Feeling TONS better! =)

    • says

      Joelle,

      I’m so glad you are feeling better! I actually ended up with an IV iron transfusion myself (it was optional, but really got me feeling better faster). Iron issues are so hard to deal with, so I’m thankful that yours seemed an easy fix!

      • Aisha says

        My doctor is recommending an iv iron for me as well. At what point (based on ferritin levels) should one decide to get the iv iron?

        thanks for this post.

  4. Erin says

    Hey Kimi,

    You mentioned that “tea” prevents iron absorption. Since there is a wide variety of teas out there – are there certain teas in particular (black, green, jasmine, mate, etc… ) or just specific ones that impact the iron absorption?

    • says

      Erin,

      That’s a good question. I believe that all true teas would fall into that category. I don’t know of any problems with herbal teas, or rooibos and honeybush.

      • Jennifer says

        Roobis is a problem actually. During one pregnancy I had a terible time getting my iron readings up. I was avoiding tannin ( tea) and milk with my supplement only to discover Roobis tea is a good source of calcium! and therefore interfering with my absorbion.
        BTW my personal research tells me its not milk, but calcium that interferes.
        Thanks for all you do.

        • says

          Jennifer,

          Thanks for sharing! If so, then it would also be good for people to take their iron (or iron rich meals) away from calcium supplements, multi-vitamins, (or even herbal multi-vitamins that are high in calcium)!

          • Kathleen says

            This is old, but in case anyone comes back to read: yes, iron and calcium DO interfere with each other’s absorption. So don’t take them together! Take your iron and vitamin C [and iron-rich foods] together, and your calcium [or dairy or calcium-rich foods] at another time, if at all possible and practical.

  5. Dawna says

    What a helpful post! I recently found out I am severely iron deficient, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I was aware of most of these, but not #2 – tea and coffee. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to that, as I frequently allow myself one cup of coffee with breakfast in the morning. In addition to all of the other changes I’ve implemented, I will have to re-think the timing of my cup of joy 🙂

    • says

      Dawna,

      I had before been taking my iron supplement with my breakfast and cup of tea or coffee. I was shocked to find out that they could prevent the absorption of so much iron, so I space them out now too. 🙂

  6. LaurenLL says

    Blood Type As have more of a tendency for anemia than other blood types because they naturally have lower levels of stomach acid and also lack intrinsic factor which is involved in metabolizing the iron from meat. Dr. D’Adamo recommends As taking Floradix as well for them. This article arrived just when I was thinking about my own tendency for anemia-my mom, since passed, and a sister also passed on were both Blood Type As as I am also). I am always pale and also have hypothyroidism, so I am going to take your experience and recommendations into consideration into changing my own blood iron stores. I didn’t know that low iron could be a factor in restless leg syndrome either. Thank you for sharing.

  7. LC says

    Would the effect of lactoferrin found in raw milk counteract the inhibiting effect of calcium on iron absorption? Thank you.

  8. says

    I’m just now sitting down and reading this in its entirety (with a cup of coffee one hour after eating, OOOPS!)

    Just wanted to let you know that this is SO helpful! And I love the story of the iron fish!

  9. SD says

    Wow! I’ve always wondered why my legs get tingly and numb when I bleed in my cycle. I checked about 75% of those symptoms! Thanks for the information!

  10. says

    hi great article my son is very anemic he is 19 months old and has underwent 5 surgeries one being open heart were he need to be put on bi pass and 4 others for a bowel condition his last surgery he needed a blood transfusion, his iron riht now is 80 and his ferritin is very low. I am trying everything to get it up as he is very weak. i just ordered the iron fish!! and we cook mainly out of cast iron so i was very pleased to see that the pan’s do work. im having a terrible hard time giving him his iron separate from fortified organic oatmeal cereal as he loves the taste and texture so it makes it simple to get all his supplements in that way also he is taking it twice a day and its hard to time it perfectly apart from his goat’s milk as he also wont drink really much of anything else. any idea’s?

    much luv susette

    • says

      Poor guy! So sorry that he has had to go through so many surgeries! I can’t give any medical advice, but if you were just trying to figure out out to give things separate, I wonder if the type of iron you use would help? You could ask your doctor about switching to a brand that your son likes better, so he is more willing to take it at other times, perhaps? My girls love the liquid one their doctor has them on!

  11. Abby says

    May I ask what your levels were? I seem to be having the same issue, only I am 29 weeks pregnant. My hemoglobin is 12.3 gm/dL but my ferritin is 11.1 ng/mL.

    I am having symptoms of anemia or iron deficiency–extreme fatigue, trouble sleeping, extreme dizziness and shortness of breath, weakness, headaches, rapid heartbeat, etc. I’ve felt so sick, and some days spend most of the day in bed. I can hardly change positions in bed without getting very dizzy. I’m waiting to hear what my doctor will say about these levels, but technically my ferritin is just above the “normal” range (lab says 11-308 is normal. I’ve been frightened at times from feeling so sick, and am really trying to figure out what is going on!

    • says

      Abby,

      My hemoglobin was in the normal range. My ferritin was at a 6. The lab is giving a range of what is normally seen – most doctors that I know of (both MD and ND) don’t think that those necessarily mean healthy levels. My MD told me he wanted my ferritin levels above 70, and it was only when they got above that, that I felt any better. So hopefully your doctor can help you feel better soon too!

      • Abby says

        Thank you so much! I am very hopeful that this could be the problem, and hopefully it won’t take too long to get my levels back up…

      • says

        My haemoglobin levels were low within the normal range, but I felt so tired.
        No other symptoms, just very tired. For a long time I assumed it was the three young kiddies, having had hardly any sleep with my third baby for a whole year (breastfeeding every two hours, day and night) and being 27 weeks pregnant with our fourth child. Of course I was tired! Out of curiosity, I took an iron supplement from a sample pack, and felt so much better straight away. So at my 28 week check-up I asked to get my ferritin levels checked as well, they came back non existent!!! Needless to say I’ve been on iron supplements ever since, the slow absorbing kind. My levels are back up to normal, so is my energy, After the last test, I’ve stopped taking supplements. Every now and then I take one when I feel like it. Being worried that not only my iron might be low, I’ve been taking some good multivitamins & minerals (no iron) as well. Having my iron levels back means I have the energy to cook all those nourishing meals again.

  12. MimiLee says

    After taking iron supplements, my ferritin was at 40, (recommended 70?!), but my serum iron was high at 90. To get my serum iron down, I stopped taking supplements and cooking in cast iron as recommended by my chiropractor. About a year and a half later, I began to have to symptoms of low iron again (I do not have my initial low result with me at the moment — I believe my ferritin was between 15-20, above what severe anemia looks like but not optimum). My stymptoms were fatigue, memory problems, hair loss, pressure and pain in my chest (I do not have heart disease), heart palpitations, pain under my right shoulder blade, mild depression. My thyroid runs on the low side also. I decided to take an iron pill the other night after googling these symptoms, and voila, I immediately had more energy, my mood improved, the pain in my chest subsided (I have not washed my hair yet to check for shedding). It’s amazing what low iron can do! I had been drinking tea or coffee with my meals, and I think that must have depleted my stores over time. I do not plan on supplementing with iron daily, but would like to get my levels tested again.

    • stephanie says

      Great article. I’ve been dealing with chronic anemia with Ferritin levels in the low teens to 20s – within “normal range”. I would take iron supplements on my own since it wasn’t thought of as a problem by my doctor. I found iron supplements made me feel less tired. My hair started falling out over the years and got to be pretty bad the last 2. (I’m in my late 40s). Supposedly hair loss is common and accepted at this age? It wasn’t until I pushed my doctor into talking to a female hair loss specialist that we both learned that hair starts to fall out when Ferritin is at 50 and doesn’t grow back until 70, and this specialist wouldn’t see me until my iron levels were at least 70! So I do not understand why below 70 could be considered normal by medical standards. I was put on Multigen (very harsh on the body), and got my levels up in 3 months to 155 and started regrowing hair. Then I learned about the benefits of grass fed beef (I wasn’t a red meat eater). I am now (for 3 months) on over the counter iron (Floridex has gluten and not an option for me, but Blood Builder is the next best thing and easier on the body – but a decrease in daily iron from Multigen by 90 mg) and eating grass fed beef 3-4x a week (different molecular make up and better health benefits as compared to industrial beef – you don’t have the cholesterol issues) and drinking bone broth, and I’m now up to 130! A big part for me has been avoiding tea, dairy, and chocolate when I have my iron rich foods or supplement. I’m now trying to figure out how to work those in – chocolate specifically! This article was helpful. 🙂

  13. Ran says

    How long should you take Floradix before your iron ferritin level go back to normal? I was also diagonosed with low ferritin level, around the lower level limit range. I have been taking Floradix for a month. Thank you for sharing the experience. A lot of us do have to rely on ourselves to take care of our bodies. I went to a doctor, I gave him my symptom, and he said was stressed/overworked and give me antidepressants medication. I didn’t take the pill and went to a different doctor. She tested me. I was low on vitamin Bs, folic acid, ferritin, vitamin D, all these energy driving elements. Even though I didn’t have celiac disease, she think I might be gluten intorlent. So if you are tired, have no energy and can’t focus, you might want to have your doctor to test all these vitamins and mineral level. I don’t know if these conditions have any effect on blood pressure. I was on high blood pressure meds for 10 years. Now I don’t even have high blood pressure anymore. Doctor told me I could stop taking the meds. I thouht I was going to be on high pressure meds for life. I don’t know if stress has something to do with my deficiency. But since I have quit my stressful job to focus on health. I feel better everyday. We all run our body hard in our 30s with career and family, try to be a super woman. We won’t feel the diffidence until in our 40s when everything depletes. I am grateful that I recognized the madness before it’s too late. Nobody knows your body better than you. And you are your best doctor! Again, thanks for the post.

  14. RK says

    I’m so glad I found this site. I guess you have to be diagnosed with iron deficiency/anemia to land here. I’ve always had anemia on and off due to iron absorption issues or too much bleeding (monthly menstruation) and hematuria which is bleeding from the bladder but only detected under the microscope. I have interstitial cystitis so this is most likely cause by my IC and because it is ongoing, it adds up over time to deplete your body of iron from blood loss. It wasn’t until I had enormous amounts of hair loss that I had a thorough blood workup done by my doctor. My PC doctor first told me to take one iron tablet (65 mg) daily on empty stomach. Aster some time, my hair stopped falling out and I felt fairly good. This year, my hair was falling out in clumps again so this time had my dermatologist look into this. She did a blood workup and again my results came back to show low iron/anemia despite my taking 65 mg of iron (Feosol brand, which is ferrous sulfate). She suggested I speak to my Primary Care doc on getting the levels up and he advised I take 3 iron pills a day. Yikes, that is 65mg each!! I said I’ll start with two a day (take one in morning and one in afternoon with vit C drink) and see how I feel. If no improvement then will go up to 3. But I’m thinking even 2 pills might be too much as I feel dizzy and I do think it’s too much iron. Anyone have similar experience? I should say that the dizziness goes away after I eat a hearty meal. So maybe it’s happening due to taking it on empty stomach with just a fruit smoothie. This didn’t happen when I took just one pill last year so I think it’s from adding the additional dose just recently. I feel great in other ways, more energy, less chills etc. But don’t like the dizziness feeling. Hope to get some input from my anemic sisters here.

  15. jackie says

    Out of curiosity I have been diagnosed with low ferritin (13) been on ferrus sulfate for 3 weeks any of you have advice to how long it takes before you started feeling better. I get anxious knowing I don’t feel well but feel like I should be getting better any day ?

    • Bev says

      I found out this week that my ferritin is 13. My dr said it is debilitatingly low. I’m taking liquid iron. She said it will take a few weeks to feel better.

  16. shely says

    hi, I just diagnosed with low HB 8 one month back, doctor gave me oene iron pill a day and asked me to take good diet
    but even after taking pills and good diet , my HB after one month is still the same
    pls suggest

  17. Ian_SAfc says

    After three hair tests that showed very low iron, I tried Ionic Iron supplement.
    All this did was to push my Potassium way up with alarmed my doctor.
    I think I have some bacteria in the gut that like iron as its not getting through.
    I might have a look at an Iron IV. That appears to be my only solution.
    I don’t know of a good iron supp that will make it past my gut bacteria….?

    Any comments?

  18. says

    I am an anemic and ferritin is low! I have RA and take a low dose of Methotraxate! My iron has been low for years! My RA specialist always mentioned it but never in the way of maybe we should do something about this! I now see a new RA specialist in Sacramento! I have gone to my MD and she immediately sent me to a cancer dr and I was put in hospital for an iron infusion, that was exactly 3 months ago! So, this week I had labs drawn and my level is now a 5 ! Kinda of scaring me, if it were a type of blood cancer wouldn’t my dr tell me, she is requesting another infusion! I’ve had both endo and colonoscopy, stool sample no lose of blood! I have done the depropravera for 20 years due to a hormone em balance so no cycle for me! Any ideas, I know you can’t speak as a dr but can you give me some ideas as to what might be causing the anemia! My hemoglobin is low also! Forgot to mention that above! Just happened to run across this website at a perfect time! Of course, I found it by trying to self diagnose my illness and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die! No hopeful I can be fixed! Thanks again!

    • Katie says

      Hi Susan, I know this is 8 months on but I wondered how you were doing? I wanted to suggest taking a probiotic each day, I recommend this one;

      http://www.functionalnutritionsupplements.co.uk/probiota-rhamnosus-60-capsules-20-billion-cfus#.V9fgB2dRH5o

      I also think you would benefit from taking a ferrous fumerate supplement each day, always with a glass of orange or pineapple juice. Give up any tea or coffee (herbal teas are fine) and keep cheese, eggs and calcium rich foods a couple hours away from the iron supplement.

      Eat chicken liver once a week (providing you don’t mind!) and make yourself bone broth (always use organic grass fed beef bones, you can buy them online from various farm food suppliers).

      I hope you are feeling better!

      Katie

      • Katie says

        Susan, I forgot to mention that giving up gluten (if you haven’t already) will be very helpful for you autoimmune RA! Gluten leads to a ‘leaky gut’. A leaky gut inhibits all those important nutrients getting to our cells and to where we need them most! It will be hard to cut it out but it is so worth it!

  19. sujith says

    i am having thinning of hair for 3 years . im now 23 only. my doctor advised me for cbc,urine tests, blood sugar,t3,t4,tsh. everything was fine except rbc,hgb which are little alevated than normal. doctor prescribed me vitamin c ,iron , calcium,vitamin b complex tablets and vitamin b12 injection. i have been taking this for 1 year no improvement. what is the problem with my body any one help me

  20. Rca says

    Iron doesn’t easily leave the body, so being too high is also a problem. More for men, and menopausal women. It can cause many serious problems. Its called hemochromatosis.

  21. My little Nat says

    Hello everybody, I am having a hard time dealing with anemia. The rbc, hemoglobin are in normal range, but my ferritin is low and the iron saturation is 9??? Any of you have experienced that? I had my first iv treatment, it help me for 2 days, but I am feeling bad again :(.. Has anyone tried healthy smoothies to help with iron deficiency? If so please share.

  22. Katie says

    Thank you so much for sharing this aspect of your life. I’ve been struggling for a decade and a half to keep my iron levels up, and the only thing that ever has helped is lots of red meat (which isn’t the healthiest option.)

    I have also had a lot of stomach issues in the last 10 years, including learning I couldn’t tolerate gluten well, and about a year ago suddenly developing a dairy intolerance that goes beyond lactose. I bought the Floradix iron a couple months ago, but had no idea that my daily green tea habit could be contributing to my absorbtion ability. I also have pretty bad GERD, so taking iron can make reflux a lot worse. I wish I had found the kind of doctor you did, are they anywhere near Florida? Please email me if they are, I could use the help.

    I am so glad to have found your blog, because you’ve already helped me tremendously. Maybe my hair will even stop falling out and I will have some energy again soon!

  23. says

    One thing you should keep in mind is that never ever take iron supplements without medical advice. Iron overload could pose more serious threats than iron deficiency. Moreover, some symptoms of iron deficiency and overload are similar. So always consult the doctor before taking iron or any supplements for that matter.

  24. thelma crooks says

    Thank you for this article. It is very useful. I have been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis so I suffer from breathlessness. My blood count is low so I have been on iron tablets for the last 3 weeks. However they are harsh on the tummy. I feel bloated most times. I always have a hot drink of tea or coffee with meals. So I will cut this out. I am also on vit D and calcium tablets. This might be hindering my iron intake.

  25. RoseMarie says

    I have read several of the letters from people suffering from low iron and anemia. I just got diagnosed with low iron. I contribute it to the fact that I have had h-pylori at different stages over the last 20 years or so. I can’t stress enough for people who are have GERD and anemia to get a simple blood test to see if they have the h-pylori. It needs to be taken care of because it is causing all the problems you state, plus if not treated leads to an ulcer and or cancer. Please get it checked, a simple blood test, then anti biotics for a week. You will see the results, but you have to be diligent, it will come back, it must be monitored your entire life.

  26. KATRINA says

    I was just wondering if your hair growth improved (and stopped falling out) when you started getting more iron and how long it took?

  27. Laurel says

    Great article! Just one thing I want to strongly advise. Low ferritin levels are strictly related to the Gastrointestinal track. My Hemotologist and Gastrointestinal docs told me that. Other types of iron deficencies are caused from different things. I went through colonoscopies endoscopies and even swallowed a camera. They could find nothing! I too am gluten free take all my vitamins including Probiotics. After 5 years they finally nailed it down to the advil I take daily for chronic pain. It can cause stomach bleeding. Also my body will not absorb many nutrients. So I have to take iron infusions every 3-4 months.

    • says

      Laurel – since you already know your body is not absorbing nutrients do you know why ? If you are having chronic pain then your body is most likely in a state of constant inflammation from something ? Have you been able to determine the cause ?

  28. Kat B says

    Hello, the supplement you mention will not increase iron stores, only maintain (as I was told by a very well versed employee at a supplement health food store). This is evident also by looking at the iron content in the supplement. Great article overall regarding possible reasons for iron deficiency.

  29. Candy says

    It is a genetic blood disorder that pulls zinc and b-6 in high levels out of your body and makes you deficient in these nutrients which causes a cascade of other problems. It runs in families. Search Trudy Scott for more information about pyroluria questionaire to see if you have it.

    It can easily be remedied by learning how to increase mainly these zinc and B-6 nutrients and a few more for tweaking the protocol.
    I know about this from true experience.

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  31. Lisa Morris says

    What a great article and fab internet that three years later we can still find it and be helpful.
    I too had low Ferritin level of 11 and felt shocking. Fortunately I go to a practice with several gp’s as one was very dismissive but another told me I needed to take iron supplements for at least 12 months, I know in a three month period my levels have increased to 34, so 12 months is about right.
    What I’ve also discovered is that my Vit D was extremely low too and am now on a high dose of that for 10 weeks, on week 3 and I think my body is just starting to adjust.
    I came to your article as looking for a link between caffeine and absorption as my Dr had told me to leave 2 hrs either side of my tablets and last night I only left just over an hour but it looks like he was being over precautious thankfully.

    I too felt like I had something seriously wrong with me and was dying, thank you.

  32. Mimi Jurado says

    Thank you for all the useful information! Alot of times if you suspect low iron levels the tests ran are for HBs and not ferritin levels which I don’t really understand. You might have good iron levels but low ferritins and this last one can push you to start having anemia problems. Same with gyneclogist. Why on earth don’t they check ferritin levels.???It is extremely dangerous for a woman to go into labor having them low and checking iron the standard way does not work effectively IMHO. Take my personal experience: While pregnant during my first visits to OB, I expressed concern over my iron levels. They ran THE standard lab work, checking hormones (OK) but not iron saying that is checked later (after 12 weeks or so) I also asked for extra folic acid, since last pregnancy it was recommended but they said the prenatal is enough. Now, I had 1 miscarriage previously and thankfully had a healthy baby after that…which, close pregnancies puts us at higher risk for anemia. Now mind you, this OB has delivered all my three babies, and I feel comfortable going here, but I also know they don’t know everything nor hold all answers. My health is more important to me than anybody else. I am in charge of my pregnancy and will do what it takes to have a healthy outcome. Although during pregnancy almost all women will usually experience a bit of anemia, especially towards the end I do not want to sit back and wait for it. And by all means I will do all that is in my power to prevent it. So I went to see a hematologist. He checked my blood iron levels extensivley and discovered low ferritin. Which explains the daily drag feeling being experienced. He placed me on triple iron & the added folic acid saying there is time to get levels up and will recheck in two months. If no improvement happens he will prescribe an infusion and monitor. Last pregnancy I was given a ferritin boost during a last trimester and felt great with no complications. Though not sure now about this early on but will to do what I need to get those suckers raised! This baby will be OK & have a healthy mom 🙂

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