Anemia is more common in women than men so knowing how to pump up your iron stores is important for many women. It is estimated that 37% percent of women worldwide are iron deficient. (1) Time to pump some iron levels up! There are ways to boost iron.
Why are women more deficient? It can happen because of excessive bleeding during the menstrual cycle which you would want to get to the bottom of. Happens a lot when you are pregnant because babies get everything from the body that it needs first, before the mom does. It can happen if you don’t eat enough iron-rich foods, or if your body is having difficulty absorbing iron because of Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, fibroids, gut infections, or even STRESS. It could be other surprising reasons such as frequent blood donations.
The tests commonly used to diagnose anemia are hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, & iron binding capacity and ferritin. Looking at ferritin values gives us an idea of how much iron is stored as a back-up. Get tested! Ideally, you want your ferritin levels to be between 80-100. These stores are used when your body is under stress- and we all know women are NEVER under stress, right?
Symptoms of low ferritin and/or iron are:
- Low energy
- Brain fog
- Dizziness- especially when standing up fast
- Leg cramps
- Restless leg syndrome
- Lowered immunity
- Shortness of breath doing simple tasks
- Craving to chew ice
If you are concerned about symptoms like these, you want to find out the cause by getting tested. It’s always a good idea to eat iron-rich foods like spinach, organ meats, red meats, brussels sprouts, cabbage and beans but we have some tricks up our sleeve to boost iron even more! Check out these tips. We are going to pump you up!
9 Pump Up the Iron Tips to Boost Your Iron
(You can find many good quality products in grocery stores, natural health food stores and at our office. We added links to some of our favorite options to help you find them)
1- Know Your Vitamins
Vitamin C is going to help your body absorb that Iron. So, you want to eat lots of citrus fruits because that is going to help a lot. Putting citrus fruits in your water is an easy way to get some vitamin c in throughout the day. Camu Camu is also a great source of Vitamin C to add to your shakes and build your immune system. Calcium pills on the other hand can prevent your body from absorbing iron so its important to consider what you are taking and what your body needs.
2- Spirulina Has as Much Iron as Steak
Spirulina is a tiny seaweed that packs a big iron punch with more iron than a steak. You can get this in a powder form you can add to smoothies or in a crunchy form you can add to salad to boost iron. To learn more about this superfood and ways to use it, check out our article on spirulina and the recipe for the shamrock smoothie.
3- Eat Goji Berries to Boost Iron
These little berries have more iron than spinach. Native to China, a goji berry travels a long way to be the perfect snack to add to your diet so it can be hard to find fresh. No worries- you can easily find them in the dried form. The raisin like treat tastes like a mix of dried cherries and cranberries and can easily be added to a trail mix. To find out the other benefits check out our article on goji berries. Find a good goji berry to add to your diet like this one.
4- He Shou Wu is a Builder
He Shou Wu increases testosterone and sperm so why am I taking it? It is also a great blood builder. It’s going to provide components to help your blood build and improve blood circulation. That will help with some of those symptoms you have been experiencing. It’s also has a lot of other great benefits and is an adaptogen that helps your body deal with stress.
5- Chlorophyll is Tricky
On a molecular level, chlorophyll looks exactly like hemoglobin in the blood. The only difference is hemoglobin is built around iron, while chlorophyll is built around magnesium. Chlorophyll looks the same but doesn’t bind to iron. So, when a person takes chlorophyll, it tricks the body into thinking there is all this hemoglobin in your blood floating around looking for iron. This naturally boosts your iron stores. I take a tablespoon a day. Here’s a good example.
6- Desiccated Liver is Full of Iron
Organ meats are great for iron but I’m sorry I’m not eating those. So, I take desiccated liver pill instead that comes from a grass-fed cow. You can find this pill is a good quality option. So much easier than stomaching a plate of liver. Ugh, how did our grandparents do it?
7- Little Seeds with Lots of Iron
Chia seeds are surprising little seeds that are hiding lots of iron. Not only are they high in iron but they also carry a lot of protein! They are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients. They also slow sugar absorption and boost energy. Chia seeds are a great little seed to throw in a morning smoothie like this happy hormone smoothie.
8- Active B12 Folate
Another way to help is to take Active B12 Folate. You want a methylated form of a folate not folic acid. Folate and B12 both are needed to boost and make your own red blood cells. So, if you are lacking in red blood cells you want to take Active B12 Folate.
9- Cook in Cast Iron Pans
Cooking in cast iron pans can be an easy way to boost iron. Make sure you season your cast iron pan before using so it doesn’t stick and cooks well. Make these sloppy joes in your cast iron skillet.
Pump That Iron
You need iron to get that blood flowing and make sure you are ready for times when that iron dips. This can happen from stress, blood loss, ulcers and pregnancy. It really stinks that women have to worry about this more but there are some things we can do about it. Do you have any more ideas for boosting iron? Let me know in the comments. I love to hear them because the struggle for iron is real!
Written by Nicole Saleske, RN, Hormone and Fertility Expert