2020 Update: I've learned to increase iron levels naturally, without an iron infusion, thankfully, because my insurance with United Health Care will no longer cover the treatment.
As I explained in my first post about Iron Deficiency Anemia, my Ferritin level was seven, well below the “healthy” range which is:
- Normal range = Males 20-300, Females 15-120 ng/ml
- Iron overload = Above 400 ng/ml
After having three iron infusions, my health care provider retested my blood. I'm happy to report that my iron level was up to sixty-nine. I felt much better; the chest pains that had initially alerted me to an existing problem ceased. Still, we needed to get to the bottom of the cause for my low ferritin levels.
Why is my iron so hard to keep in a healthy range? Based on my diet, my iron levels should be much higher.
Some of the reasons ferritin levels might be low include:
- certain prescription medications
- heavy menstruation
- excessive blood donation
- uterine fibroids
- blood loss
- digestive tract issues
- bleeding stomach ulcers
- peptic ulcer
- hiatal hernia
- colorectal cancer
- bacterial infections such as H.Pylori
- SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
- Lyme Disease
- Mold Exposure
In my case many of these could easily be ruled out. I'd already tested negative for bacterial infections, etc. However, Lyme Disease and Mold Exposure were two about which we were uncertain. So more bloodwork and labs were drawn.
While we waited for lab tests to come back, which we hoped would help start to explain why my iron was low, I worked on keeping my iron levels up. To be honest I really don't want to continue having iron infusions because of the time it takes and the 24 hour side effects.
Update – Injectafer Iron Infusions do not take as long and do not have horrible side effects. I've had several of these iron infusions over the years since I've had low iron and ferritin. If you can't get your iron levels up naturally or if they are dangerously low, your doctor may send you for an injectafer infusion.
Since I eat an incredibly healthy diet and have for decades, it didn't make sense that I wasn't getting the right foods to provide iron to my body. However, I obviously had a nutrient deficiency. Because past tests had previously shown that I produce too little stomach acid, we determined it was best for me to take digestive support each time I ate a meal.
The supplement I use is called Panplex 2-Phase all in one tablet. Phase 1 includes Betain HCl, Pepsin, L-Glutamic Acid HCl. Phase 2 contains Pancreatin, Amylase, Protease, Lipase and Ox Bile.
Also, I took one Panplex tablet when I took my daily supplements, including Iron Extra. This particular iron formula includes the following:
- Vit.C (calcium ascorbate, buffered) 500 mg
- Folate (folic acid) 400 mcg
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) 500 mcg
- Iron (aspartate, ferrous succinate, ferrous fumarate) 25 mg
- Yellow dock root 25 mg
- Dandelion root 25 mg
- Alfalfa leaf 15 mg
- Nettles tops (freeze-dried) 15 mg
Eating iron friendly meals:
Dietary iron comes in two forms. The first is heme iron which is easily absorbed and comes from lean meat such as beef, venison, or lamb. The other type of iron is nonheme iron which is found in grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables and is not easily absorbed.
Eating iron-rich meals can help improve iron levels. An example of an iron-rich meal would be a spinach salad (nonheme iron) topped with grilled steak (heme iron) and red bell pepper (vitamin C) and then topped with a vinaigrette made from apple cider vinegar (digestive support) and olive oil (healthy fats).
Techniques to improve iron:
Read more about how I improved my iron naturally here. To improve my iron, I avoided taking my iron supplements or eating my iron-rich meals with tea, coffee, or calcium supplements, all of which can block the absorption of iron.
I continued using my iron skillets for cooking, doing so increases iron levels in foods cooked on iron. If you've read my posts about my cookware, you'll know that I already used iron skillets instead of non-stick cookware.
Increased the amount of apple cider vinegar I consumed before and during meals. Apple cider vinegar helps to improve digestion and is a very healthy addition to any diet plan.
Continued to follow an anti-inflammatory diet void of grains and sugar (I gave up sugar decades ago. Oatmeal and other “healthy” grains were cut out of my diet completely.)
I made certain to eat fermented foods daily. Fermented foods improve digestion and increase the vitamin content of food and the absorption rate of those nutrients. They are also full of enzymes that help to restore a healthy level of bacteria in the digestive system.
Foods that I consumed for iron content included grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pistachios, almonds, egg yolks, lamb meat, and spinach.
As with all health conditions, reducing stress is beneficial, so I avoid overloading my schedule or “staying busy” and I guard my downtime.
One essential element for good health is getting quality sleep every night. That is another area that I make sure I don't skimp on! Good sleep hygiene makes up for a lot, so I always follow my own advice when it comes to getting the best sleep possible.
When my test results came back, the markers indicated mold illness, and more tests were ordered. I'll share the results of those tests and the protocol I'll be following in an upcoming post. Read the next post in this series on Iron Deficiency Anemia in relation to mold illness and Lyme Disease.
Meanwhile, if you would like encouragement while coping with a health challenge, join the Healthologist Community.
*Update 2021 – Some women have heavier periods as they near menopause causing enough blood loss to create severe iron deficiency. I'm one of those women. Unfortunately, the body can only keep up with so much production when it is losing iron/blood rapidly. Thankfully, I was able to get my bleeding under control with bioidentical progesterone and my iron levels back up with an injectafer transfusion. My hope is once I hit full-blown menopause my iron/ferritin issue will cease to exist.