FOOD AS MEDICINE
Have you lost your zip, your mojo, your sharpness, your sparkle?
Could it be iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency anaemia effects around one quarter of the worlds population
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY IRON IS LOW?
Here are some signs & Symptoms of iron depletion
Feeling tired and sluggish
Sore cracks in the corners of your mouth
Shortness of breath
Heart palpitations when exercising
Feeling more sensitive to the cold
Poor growth (kids & teens)
WHY DO WE NEED THIS METAL IN OUR BODIES?
Here are some of iron’s functions
Needed to make haemoglobin & myoglobin to
Transport oxygen to every cell & into every muscle
Needed to maintain strong bones & beautiful skin & nails
Keeps brain chemicals in balance
WHY IS MY IRON LOW?
There are a number of reasons why it might become low including life stages and digestive function
Diet choices- we need iron from our food on a daily basis to maintain health. Agricultural practices, soil depletion, food processing and diet restrictions can all lead to losses.
People on vegan & vegetarian diets ((including ovo- & lacto- vegetarians) are prone to depletion of iron stores as plant sources are not as easily absorbed or utilised as heme iron from muscle meats. (Organic, pastured & ethical only).
A balanced meal which includes both plant and meat sources of iron achieves the greatest levels of iron storage in the body.
Even when iron from meat sources makes up 1/3 of the iron intake it contributes 2/3 to the body stores.
Ageing- as we age our digestion weakens & stomach acid production is commonly low.
Anyone with low stomach acid can become depleted including those on long term stomach acid-blocking medications.
Being a woman in your reproductive years. Women lose iron via blood loss. Pregnancy also increases demand.
Growing kids need iron to reach their full potential. Insufficient intake impairs physical and mental development.
Parasitic infections may lead to losses due to digestive inflammation and damage.
Taking too much supplementary calcium, drinking too much milk and physic acid from plant foods block uptake of iron.
Coffee & tea also blocks absorption.
HOW CAN I BE SURE LOW IRON IS THE ISSUE?
A good practitioner can check your diet, your symptoms and physical signs.
Blood testing can help to confirm your levels and chart your improvements with treatment.
HOW CAN I FEEL BETTER
Most doctors will offer an intravenous iron infusion if you’re feeling really lousy and your stores are low.
I like to work with the diet- having studied traditional and ancestral dietary practices and particularly the ‘sacred’ foods used by traditional groups for important life stages. We can rely upon this wisdom to restore us to optimal health safely.
THE BEST FOOD SOURCES
Organic pastured liver pate, oysters, parsley, pine nuts, clams, avocado, seeds, poultry, kidney, apricots.
Avoiding highly processed and commercial packaged foods, sugar, refined grains and oxidised vegetable oils will make room for truly nourishing whole foods.
Soaking, souring, sprouting will help to reduce iron blocking chemicals in grains seeds and nuts
Boiling your dark leafy greens will reduce oxalic acid
Adding vitamin C rich foods to meals will aid in assimilation.
Avoid tea and coffee together with your iron-rich meals.
Support digestive function and include weak acids such as lemon or vinegar dressings & fermented foods with meals.
Supplementation can cause constipation and may not work as synergistically or efficiently as the diet.
I'm also cautious when it comes to clients with elevated mercury- the body appears to waste iron in this case as a protective mechanism. Boosting iron levels before addressing mercury may not be helpful in this instance.
IRON CAN ALSO BE TOO HIGH
Elevated iron can be quite damaging in the body.
Elevated iron levels are becoming a more common problem.
It's generally related to a hereditary disorder or inflammatory conditions.
Avoid taking supplementary iron without first establishing that you need it..
Jillaine is a natural medicine nutritionist,
GAPS practitioner, Weston A Price leader,
mother of three and grandmother of two beautiful girls.
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