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Iron, Anemia, and Absorption

I hope you found this short video helpful in advising your anemic clients and patients how to maximize their iron absorption.  Here are some additional information sources which might be helpful:

This is a write-up from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition about how calcium impairs iron absorption  and also the fact that coffee impairs absorptionas does black tea (these types of links are also perhaps good persuasive fodder for your patients and clients in convincing them to make changes).

Make sure your patients and clients know that Vitamin C actually enhances iron absorption substantially.  Thus taking iron supplements (or eating iron-rich foods) with foods such as sauteed onions or a fresh orange or a squeezed half lemon can be particularly helpful for boosting iron.

Generally, iron from animal food sources (e.g. heme iron) is much more readily absorbed than that from plant sources (non-heme).  To avoid iron-triggered constipation, I specifically most often recommend iron-bisgyclinate or succinate forms (tablets) or iron ammonium citrate (liquid).

More advanced clinical tips:

  • The best way to measure iron stores is via a labwork (blood)  marker called ferritin.
  • Realize that not all anemia is iron-deficient anemia, and not everyone who has anemia symptoms needs iron.  Sometimes nutrients like Vitamin B12 and B9 (folate) are the culprits in poor circulation (we address this type of distinction and how standard labwork can tell you the difference in the Semester program).
  • Sufficient iron is also necessary for many other bodily functions including thyroid hormone creation (which controls metabolism).  This is why mild iron-deficiency anemia is often seen in women who have trouble losing weight and who might also have particularly heavy menstrual periods.
  • Any woman with heavy periods and just slightly low iron may find herself struggling with intermittent symptoms of anemia due to the blood loss and the body’s relatively slow ability to replace the red blood cells (and the iron they require).   You may learn more about improving your clients PMS and menstrual symptoms in our Hormones Demystified course.
  • Iron absorption is often one of the first nutrients to suffer when there is impaired nutrient absorption in the intestines due to microbial imbalance, food sensitivities, or high intake of intestine-inflaming medications (e.g. OTC painkillers such as Advil and Aleve, birth control pills, and SSRI antidepressants).  Healing from these issues is covered in detail in the Disease in the Gut courses (101 and 202).


P.S. If you know that healthcare must be transformed to be sustainable and effective, and you believe strongly that Functional Medicine is key to making that happen, we urge you to learn about our semester program.

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