Having iron levels run low seems to be a common symptom with endometriosis. In many cases this is put down to having heavy periods which will of course cause high blood loss. Recently I have also found some more interesting connections with iron loss and endometriosis in some research studies which seem to correlate to the inflammatory response with endometriosis. Read the role of iron in the pathogenesis of endometriosis study here.
How do you tell if your iron is running low?
The first thing to know is that iron is crucial blood production. So, when there is not enough iron, there is less blood being produced and blood is how we get oxygen to our muscles, brain etc.
When you think of this way, you will work out the symptoms fairly easily:
- Feeling tired and particularly with lots of exercise or heavy lifting and muscle building type of exercise.
- Your heart may experience palpitations and shortness of breath.
- You can have cold hands and feet as there is simply not enough circulation get to these outer extremities. This also displays with pale skin and brittle nails.
- Lack of oxygen and blood to the brain and head:
- Will affects ability to concentrate
- You may feel dizzy
- You may have more headaches than usual
- Hair loss is common as there is simply not enough circulation to reach the roots of your hair
- The tongue can become inflamed and swollen
What can we do about low iron levels?
The first and obvious thing to look at is if there is something inhibiting absorption of iron.
Gluten and eating a high grain diet are common culprits. Other not so obvious ones include drinking tea with a meal and particularly black tea as it blocks absorption and yes that includes herbal teas. Some spices have also been known to block iron absorption – read this interesting study on comparing turmeric and chilli absorption.
Assess if your stomach acid is too low. We need sufficient stomach acid to allow for iron absorption. Stomach acid can easily get low when eating under stress, eating on the go or not being fully focused on your food. There are of course many reasons for low stomach acid but these are easy ones you can fix right now.
Adding salt to your food is actually important. I know we have all been put off using salt but salt is vital for helping with stomach acid production.
Ensure you are eating enough iron rich foods and combining that with plenty of Vitamin C rich foods – yes raw fruits and vegetables. Iron rich foods are organic organ meats, red meats (in moderation), seaweeds, shellfish and combine that with beetroot for the best absorption. Think of beetroot as your favourite friend with iron – it looks like blood to give us a clue!
Also have cooked spinach – not raw, avoid overeating seeds & nuts, chocolate and yes sadly too many blueberries can also inhibit absorption.
Don’t deplete the iron stores with heavy exercising – anything where you sweat a lot. Consider the whole picture with weight loss including thyroid and stress factors.
Can you take too much iron or could it be harmful?
I have found some very interesting studies on endometriosis and iron and one study in particular illustrating that taking too much iron could in fact be contributing to endometriosis development.
There seems to be a strange occurrence where there is a high concentration of iron in the abdominal cavity, proliferating the endometriosis lesions but there is low iron levels in the blood. Some links with high inflammation and high iron stores seem to be a link but it always becomes a question of which came first? High iron causing inflammation and lesions or due to the high inflammation there is an accumulation of high iron in the area.
We shall explore more on this in upcoming blogs, videos and in the Endo Empowered Academy.
The key thing is to use natural sources as much as possible to avoid overload and toxicity. There is also an interesting connection with parasites in the gut so that needs to be addressed too.
My personal experience
I went for a really big walk yesterday and then spent most of the day in the garden, plus I have been doing a heap of muscle building exercises. Today, I struggled to walk up the hill by our house and literally felt dizzy and developed a pounding headache. The headache was quite unusual in that it only pounds when I lift something off the floor or move very rapidly. This was a big clue to me. I have been feeling quite tired but of course it is easy to blame this on other things 😉
Why would my iron stores be low?
I’ll admit it… I started drinking coffee about 6months ago with study and working this business along with my husbands business and honestly just pushing myself too hard. I also started working with a personal trainer and pushing my body cos I suddenly feel like I can’t shake the extra weight so easily.
However, I think today was actually a hidden clue for my own iron perhaps running a little low and how this has affected my weight struggles. I shall get a test once we come out of lockdown to make sure.
So I am off to eat some seaweeds, beetroot and organ meats in the meantime 😉
Don’t worry I will be sharing more about these insights here, in the Endo Empowered Academy and on YouTube.
I do cover parasites and how to treat them in the program.
Feel free to share any questions below…