Saturday, October 27, 2012

Iron tips

A old friend of mine was a naturopath, and one of her hobbies was educating women on the right iron supplement and taking it at the right time during the day. 

Here are her tips where I'd like to share:


  • Avoid anything that is a sulphated form of iron (e.g Ferrous gradumet, FeFol etc). - These are very poorly assimilated and poorly absorbed in the gut. It 'dumps' a huge dose of this type of iron and the gut suffers all this grief (nausea/constipation) for not much iron intake in the end. Most of these iron supplements are cheap and nasty in my humble opinion.
  • My favourites are Metagenics 'Haemagenics Intensive Care' (a patented form of amino acid chelated iron that doesn't dissociate in the gut and is a lot more stable than others) but it’s is a 'practitioner dispensing only' product so may have to see a naturopath to get it or the retail version is Ethical Nutrients 'Iron Plus' (identical product made by same company). For a Hb that low I'd suggest 1 tab 3 x day separately and ideally in-between meals. Best to check the ferritin levels too. (This friend is based in Melbourne, Australia so these may not be available but just look out for the general iron level specifications).
  • Liquid irons work better for some women - I find the liquid irons work better with some women than others; Floradix 'Floravital' is good - take 20mls 3xday for Hb that low too. It does get expensive though and bottles are either 250ml or 500ml. Sometimes I suggest a course of liquid iron, then tablet iron, etc.
  • Beware of taking iron with other minerals (such as calcium) - It's also important to take iron away from other mineral rich meals eg. calcium (dairy or fortified non-dairys usually a biggie as breakfast), as the two minerals will naturally compete for absorption and you won’t be making the most out of your supplements. If you are having an iron-rich meal then you can take your iron with it too boost the meal up.
  • Don’t take iron with tea/ coffee – Don’t take iron foods or supplements with tannin-rich drinks (tea, coffee, some herbal teas).
  • Red meat is a good source of iron - Red meat is a very good source of haeme-iron (the redder the meat, the more iron in it) and eating this alongside vitamin C rich foods is even better - steak with mixed salads etc.This is generally pork, beef, lamb, etc. 
  • Non-haeme (non-meat) sources - The non-haeme iron sources are the 'vegetarian' types of iron; green leafies : herbs, chorella, spirulina, legumes, pulses, beans etc. These are good 'sources' but the absorption is affected by other naturally occuring compounds in the foods e.g. phytates and oxalates etc, these will often bind to the iron and form insoluable salts/compounds which are not absorbed via gut wall and end up in bowel for passing.
  • Overall suggestion - I suggest a balance of everything both non-haeme; haeme iron sources, a liquid and or a quality iron supplement.

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