How to Cure Iron Deficiency

Waking up the morning after my son’s birth and major abdominal surgery, I felt like I’d been in a serious car accident. Everything was in pain and every part of me hurt. But maybe worse than that – and something which could take months to sort out – a blood test showed I had a haemoglobin rate of 7.2 due to blood loss, indicating severe anemia. Going to the toilet felt like climbing a mountain, it made me so breathless. And a look in the mirror revealed a pale, rather ill-looking woman. I needed to take super strength iron supplements, the nurse told me, or have a blood transfusion.

Many women are iron deficient, especially those who are menstruating, pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding. Bleeding contributes to iron loss which is why women need more iron than men. Iron is important for the production of red blood cells and required for transporting oxygen to all cells in the body. It’s also used in the conversion of blood sugar to energy and producing new cells, amino acids and neurotransmitters. Without enough iron the immune system cannot function well.

Our bodies can’t produce iron so we have to consume sufficient amounts. Department of Health figures show that as many as 91% of women aged 16-64 don’t get the recommended daily allowance of iron in their diets.  This affects health with symptoms such as tiredness, lack of energy, breathlessness, dizziness and insomnia.

So what’s the cure? Who can bear eating platefuls of spinach at every meal? Is taking a pharmaceutical iron supplement the answer? Not really, because the absorption rate with conventional iron tablets (ferrous sulphate) is around 3-10%. Not to mention the unpleasant side effects such as constipation, heartburn, headaches and diarrhea. And another con is that these supplements can inhibit zinc absorption.

I contacted my naturopath, Dr Johnathon Dao, on this one and he came up with some useful tips: black-strap molasses – at least two spoons a day. This is a really good way to get your haemoglobin levels to shoot up. Take a natural vitamin C supplement to help with iron absorption, as well as daily bioflavonoids. Also add superfoods to your meals and juices such as spirulina, wheat grass, barley grass or chlorella. A plant-based iron supplement such as Floradix can’t do any harm and make sure you eat plenty of the following: alfalfa, almonds, apricots, avocado, beetroot, brewer’s yeast, chickpeas, dates, figs, kidney beans, leafy greens, lentils, parsley, pear, pumpkin, raisins, spinach, sunflower seeds and watercress. If you’re a carnivore eat at bit of organic, red meat and chicken soup. The Chinese swear by chicken soup. You don’t have to eat the actual meat but the juice and stock is what’s good for your blood.

I’m doing all this and strode along the beach today, not a hint of breathlessness in sight. The baby is waking me to feed at night, but luckily I don’t feel too shattered. I’ve yet to get my blood tested although I’m pretty sure the cure is working. The ferrous sulphate tablets have landed in the bin.