My story of Iron Deficiency
In my third year of varsity I became sick. I was weak, tired and felt quite nauseous. But being a fighter I just continued my daily life as if nothing was wrong. Needless to say, things got much worse and eventually someone took me to the doctor. The verdict…severe iron deficiency. If you’re wondering why I didn’t go to the doctor myself…well times were hard and the pennies were few so I tried to save some money by avoiding doctors. The irony is that I got sick by trying to save money. I bought the cheapest food I could get my hands on which was usually oats for breakfast, baked beans and mash for lunch and a slice of bread for supper. I ate this for a quite a long time. Needless to say, with so little variety in my diet of course I would get an iron deficiency.
So that experience has taught me the importance of a balanced diet. When I became vegan I learned some tips on how to manage my iron levels better. And that is what I want to share with you today. First let’s look at a definition of iron deficiency.
Definition of Iron Deficiency
According to the Mayo Clinic iron deficiency is the result of blood that contains too little healthy red blood cells. The National Institute of Health (NIH) further states that iron deficiency can also occur if red blood cells don’t have enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Tips for Preventing Iron Deficiency (as a Vegan)
- Try to eat as much as possible unrefined foods. A mere wheat kernel (unrefined) alone contains iron and many more elements that are good for you. When you eat refined foods most of these vital elements are removed as stated by Neville Mandy. You can check out the diagram of an unrefined wheat kernel (to see all the vital elements it contains) in Mandy’s online book called No More Illness.
- Daisy Whitbread BSc (Hons) MSc DipION is a fully qualified nutritionist and she states that the following foods provide a good source of iron: mushrooms, dried apricots, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and peas etc. For a full list you can visit her website called Healthaliciousness.com. Two other websites that provide information on iron rich foods are Bembu.com and VRG.org (Vegetarian Resource Group).
- The next tip is to dissolve a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in some warm water. You can drink it once a day if you feel low on iron. For the best results try to accompany this by taking in vitamin C as well. “Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from plant sources of iron such as blackstrap molasses,” says Amy Liddell in her article Iron Deficiency and Blackstrap Molasses. Just be careful: some molasses has been sweetened. Make sure you don’t buy the sweetened version.
- Here are two over the counter medicines I buy at Dis-Chem to help with low iron levels: Foodstate Nutritional Intelligence Iron Complex and Lifestyle Nutrition Liquid Iron+ with Vitamin B, C and Rosehip (they don’t always have stock). Please note that it would be best to see a doctor before you purchase these since even over the counter medicine can be harmful.
Lastly but not the least remember that consistency is the key when it comes to your diet. For example, it’s not going to help to eat unrefined foods for a week and the next week you’re eating refined foods again. You’ll have to make it a lifestyle change. Well, that’s the tips I have. I truly hope it helps.