For as long as I can remember I have struggled with iron deficiency anemia. As a teenager I was tall and thin, and couldn’t understand why I would get so winded playing basketball or running track. I had my blood tested and sure enough, I was anemic. I was put on the standard protocol, tiny red ferrous sulfate pills.
This became a way of life, especially as I began to have babies. Every time my labs came back, “Did you know you are anemic?”
“Yes, I did.” And was handed another little bottle of iron supplements.
I diligently took my vitamins, ate my spinach, and even feasted on liver, but my iron levels always remained low. During my third pregnancy, the doctors were so concerned that they had me take IV iron treatments. Even these didn’t seem to help much.
Fast forward 12 years—>
I am now pregnant with my 7th baby and had my blood levels checked a few weeks ago (at 27 weeks). My midwife called to let me know that my hemoglobin level was just slightly low and my hematocrit level was in the normal range. This was the first time in at least 20+ years I have heard these words!
Although I was excited, I wasn’t completely surprised. Over the last couple of years, I have been working on building up my iron levels (although I hadn’t had them checked since my last pregnancy 3 years ago). I want to share a few things that have finally worked for me.
Maintain Excellent Digestion
There are two key areas of focus in maintaining excellent digestion and they go hand-in-hand. One is making sure that the gut flora (good bacteria in the gut) is thriving and the other is making sure the bowels are regular. When we have a healthy gut flora and are moving our bowels daily (removing toxins), our body is able to utilize the nutrients we put into it. When the bowels are sluggish and struggling with an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast, even if we are eating the right foods, the nutrients may not be assimilated into the body.
In order to promote a healthy gut ecology, I have been taking probiotics (with a high bacterial count), drinking kefir, eating yogurt, eating sourdough bread, and cutting down on sugar intake. There are many ways to build up the good bacteria in our bodies, but these are just a few that were convenient for me and that I could do consistently.
Yellow Dock Tincture
I have recently began to take a wonderful little herb called yellow dock. Yellow dock is a double doozy because not only does it supply and help the body absorb iron, it also supports the liver (increases the flow of bile) and gently keeps the bowels moving.
Using Herbs to Combat Anemia
There are so many supplements on the market today, but I have found that the best supplements are packaged just like God intended–in the leaves, flowers and roots of a plant. When God created all the plants for our consumption, He did so in ways that work synergistically with our body’s. Many of the plants that are high in iron also contain large amounts of vitamin C (which boost absorption of iron).
Because building up iron stores is something that takes time, I have found that the best method of taking the herbs is a nourishing infusion. Generally, an infusion is made with hot water and left to steep 20-30 minutes. However, a nourishing infusion is a little different.
To make a nourishing infusion, use 1 ounce of herbs to 1 quart of cold water and let it set overnight. Due to the large amount of herbs used, the infusion can be quite strong. I usually dilute my infusion and end up drinking it as an iced tea throughout the day.
Herbs That Build Iron Stores
My list of go-to herbs includes:
- yellow dock
The first three herbs (nettles, alfalfa, and dandelion) are part of a pregnancy tea blend that I drink as often as I can. The three of these make a wonderful nourishing infusion.
As for the yellow dock, I have never tried it as a nourishing infusion just because the taste is so strong. I usually take it as a tincture or decoct it with dandelion and add in molasses. The molasses itself has a decent amount of iron and the yellow dock helps increase absorption.
Ashwagandha is something that I just started taking earlier this year (but stopped taking during pregnancy). It is an herb that is adaptogenic and helps the body deal with stress. It is great at boosting the endocrine system and helping energize a low functioning thyroid. As a bonus, it also helps in raising iron levels.
Other Iron Boosting Remedies
These aren’t herbal remedies, but I did want to include a few other things I have tried (some with limited results).
- cast iron cookware – I have been using cast iron cookware for the last year or so and I actually think this may have helped. Hard to tell exactly what is helping and what is not, but there are so many other benefits to using cast iron so it is what I am sticking with!
- chlorophyll capsules
- foods high in iron (again, you must make sure your digestion is tip-top so that you can absorb the nutrients from these foods) – liver, blackstrap molasses, legumes, quinoa, and greens