An astounding amount of women suffer from Anemia, and subsequently, suffer from low energy. Most people don't understand what's causing their anemia, nor what natural tools they can apply to bring their body back into balance – beyond taking iron supplements or doctor-prescribed meds (which is just a “band-aid” that might not address the root cause, and often has negative side effects).
While you can guess my number one recommendation would be to eat more iron-rich foods, there are many other influencing factors to consider. There are MANY things that may be inhibiting your ability to absorb iron and other nutrients you need to sustain healthy iron-levels and blood flow. Plus, sometimes it’s hard to really ensure that - on a daily basis - you’re getting the sufficient amount of iron (and that’s one area where a health coach can come in handy!).
Let’s start with – What is Anemia and what may be causing it?
Anemia is a condition where your body is low on red blood cells, usually as a result of low iron. Without enough iron in the body, your body will not be able to produce hemoglobin for the red blood cells.
As a result, the cells in your body may not get enough oxygen to function properly, which means you’ll likely feel tired most of the time, your muscles may feel weak and you may experience brain fog. In pregnant women, iron-deficiency anemia can cause serious complications while in children it can affect their language and motor skills.
What causes Anemia? (some of these are not commonly known and may surprise you!)
When taking a holistic approach, our first step is figuring out the likely cause(s), which may include:
- Lack of iron-rich foods in your daily diet (lentils, beans & peas, kale & spinach (and other leafy greens incl celery and broccoli), seeds/nuts, whole grains, red meat, liver, seafood) possibly combined with malabsorption of these foods
- Heavy periods
- Low levels of B-vitamins especially Folate/Folic Acid and B12
- Not enough Vitamin C, needed for better iron absorption
- Low stomach acid and Gut issues including: leaky gut, Candida, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease (which can inhibit your ability to fully absorb B-vitamins and Iron)
- Eating lots of “empty calories” — like processed and junk foods, refined grains, synthetic ingredients, sodas and anything with excess sugar — can contribute to deficiencies in essential nutrients, fatigue, weight gain, weakness and also inflammatory bowel disease or candida.
- Supplements/Foods that interfere with iron absorption:
- Dairy and other calcium-rich foods or calcium supplements
- Zinc & Manganese supplements
- Tannins (found in wine, tea, coffee & chocolate)
- Soy (and supplements with soy)
- Overuse of anti-acids
12 Tips for treating your Anemia holistically:
- Enhance your Vit C – especially together with iron rich foods (or with your iron-supplement) to better absorb the iron
- Eat fermented foods like sauerkraut which also help absorb iron
- Avoid calcium-rich foods when eating your iron-rich foods (and if supplementing, don’t combine iron with vitamin C supplements)
- Drink fresh beet juice, which acts as great blood builders and also blood purifier. Beetroots are rich in folic acid & you can team them up with apples or carrot for a delicious juice to support healthy blood flow, iron (and energy) levels
- Eat raisins, prunes, goji berries and/or dates; These dried fruits offer a great combination of iron and Vitamin C.
- Eat black sesame seeds and chia seeds - ideally soaked – for a great source of easily-digestible plant-based iron
- Use Cast-iron pans for cooking. I love LeCreuset and Lodge for a basic, less expensive (albeit heavy) option.
- Fill up on green veggies – ideally 5+ servings in a day! The high amounts of chlorophyll contained in green vegetables like spinach, kale, celery, mustard greens, beet greens and broccoli is an excellent source of iron. Note: it's best to have cooked spinach as the raw leaves contain oxalic acid which in excess may prevent the absorption of iron in the body
- Eat organic organ meats, such as grass-fed beef or organic chicken liver. Try making a liver soup and having that once a week. Bone broth is also great for both the gut and your blood.
- Nourish your spleen! In Chinese medicine, this is the main go-to treatment, as the spleen is an organ that is responsible for red blood cell production. The primary way to nourish your spleen is by eating lots of orange and yellow veggies, such as: pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash. Aim for 1-2 servings of these veggies per day. Green leafy veggies (mentioned above) and bitter foods (ex. Arugula) also help nourish your spleen.
- Heal and nourish your gut by taking probiotics. Gut health is crucial for absorption of nutrients.
- Reduce and Manage your Stress. Particularly menial/emotional stress can deplete your spleen and cause harm to your gut, which will affect your ability to absorb the nutrients you need to avoid anemia. I always suggest meditation, finding time to relax and do things you love, as well as apoptogenic herbs such as Ashwaganda.
Even if you don't suffer from anemia, these are PREVENTATIVE measures that everyone (especially women) should take to ensure they avoid anemia. Reread the list above and TAKE SOME ACTION - commit to including at least 3 tips in your daily routine asap. Also, please share with anyone you know who may be suffering from anemia or somewhat low iron levels.
Always consult with your doctor, but these are generally great steps to follow which many do the trick without need of iron supplements or medication (which may have side-effects). Consider working with a health coach for support, and make sure you’re getting your recommended daily intake of iron through foods (about 8-10mg for men and 18-20mg for women ages 19-50, and up to 27mg for pregnant women, a bit lower around 9-10mg for lactating women*) and following my tips above to ensure your absorption is optimal!
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Love and Blood-Building tips,