How To Restore Low Iron Levels With Your Diet

by Natalie on September 25, 2014

iron2Welcome back to part 2 of my iron series!

In part 1, you learned:

  • Who’s at risk of iron deficiency
  • Why iron is important
  • Physical signs of iron deficiency
  • Why you should get ferritin checked

I also told you that I got my iron status checked last fall, and found that I had a mild iron deficiency.

My basic tests all showed up as normal, but my ferritin (iron storage) levels were around 30, which is considered a bit low.

That’s why I think it’s important that women get their ferritin levels checked – especially if you’re around childbearing years.

How Much Iron Is Needed On A Daily Basis?

According to the RDA ~

Pregnant women = 27 mg daily
Women age 19-50 = 18 mg daily
Women age 51+ = 8 mg daily

Why You May Not Be Absorbing the Iron You Eat

Several factors influence how your body uses iron.

  • Heme vs. Non-Heme iron

Heme iron is found in animal sources and non-heme iron is found in plants.

Heme iron is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron. It’s the reason why vegetarians and vegans are at an increased risk of iron deficiency.

According to the Linus Pauling institute, the amount of available iron from a vegetarian diet is 10% vs. 18% from an omnivorous diet.

Phytates in grains, beans, and lentils bind up the iron, making it more difficult for your body to absorb.

  • Calcium and Tannins

Calcium supplements and calcium present in medications like antacids will reduce iron absorption.

Tannins are found in tea and coffee and will also decrease the amount of iron you absorb.

  • Low Stomach Acid

Iron is better absorbed in an acidic environment. Some health conditions reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. This can lead to an iron deficiency.

How To Maximize Iron Absorption From Your Food

  • Soak grains, beans, and lentils overnight to reduce the action of phytates. Especially important if you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
  • Combine vitamin C rich foods with your iron-rich meals or take a low dose vitamin C supplement. Vitamin C makes it easier for your body to get the iron from your food.
  • Take calcium supplements and coffee/tea separately from iron-rich meals.

Do You Need An Iron Supplement?

First things first, iron is not something to mess around with. Taking too much can have huge consequences.

Iron supplements should be used with caution, as most cause stomach issues, and they are the leading cause of iron overdose in children and adults.

You always want to work with a qualified health professional when taking large doses of iron.

In many cases, iron stores can be restored by eating grass-fed beef or lamb 2 times per week, along with a low dose vitamin C supplement (100 mg).

Pregnant women, or those trying to get pregnant, should look for a pre-natal vitamin with 25-30 mg iron.

If it’s determined by your healthcare provider that you need additional iron, I suggest looking into Floradix Iron + Herbs. It’s a liquid iron supplement that’s more gentle on your system, and includes other ingredients to help you absorb the iron.

Did anything in this article surprise you? Please share by leaving a comment below.

If you found this article helpful, please “like it” and share with your friends! Thank you!

References

  1. Wentz, I. (2013). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: Lifestyle interventions for finding and treating the root cause. Izabella Wentz, PharmD.
  2. Linus Pauling Institute: Iron. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/iron/. Accessed August 20, 2014.
  3. Position Paper: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 114(7):1099-1103.

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