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Do I need iron if I am anemic?

Posted Feb 09 2011 4:15am

Don’t you need iron supplements if you are anemic?
In general, no!

•    Many doctors think of anemia as necessarily indicating an iron deficiency, but that isn’t correct. 100 years ago, it was customary to prescribe arsenic for anemia, and it worked to stimulate the formation of more red blood cells. The fact that arsenic, or iron, or other toxic material stimulates the formation of red blood cells doesn’t indicate a “deficiency” of the toxin, but simply indicates that the body responds to a variety of harmful factors by speeding its production of blood cells. Even radiation can have this kind of stimulating effect, because growth is a natural reaction to injury. Between 1920 and 1950, it was common to think of “nutritional growth factors” as being the same as vitamins, but since then it has become common to use known toxins to stimulate the growth of farm animals, and as a result, it has been more difficult to define the essential nutrients. The optimal nutritional intake is now more often considered in terms of resistance to disease, longevity or rate of aging, and even mental ability.

•    An excess of iron, by destroying vitamin E and oxidizing the unsaturated fats in red blood cells, can contribute to hemolytic anemia, in which red cells are so fragile that they break down too fast. In aging, red cells break down faster, and are usually produced more slowly, increasing the tendency to become anemic, but additional iron tends to be more dangerous for older people.

•    Anemia in women is caused most often by a thyroid deficiency (as discussed in the chapter on thyroid), or by various nutritional deficiencies. Estrogen (even in animals that don’t menstruate) causes dilution of the blood, so that it is normal for females to have lower hemoglobin than males. Q. What should I do if my doctor tells me I’m anemic? Is there any situation in which a person needs to take iron supplements?

•    Iron deficiency anemia does exist, in laboratory situations and in some cases of chronic bleeding, but I believe it should be the last-suspected cause of anemia, instead of the first. It should be considered as a possible cause of anemia only when very specific blood tests show an abnormally low degree of iron saturation of certain proteins. Usually, physicians consider the amount of hemoglobin or of red cells in the blood as the primary indicator of a need for iron, but that just isn’t biologically reasonable.

•    If a large amount of blood is lost in surgery, a temporary anemia might be produced, but even then it would be best to know whether the iron stores are really depleted before deciding whether an iron supplement would be reasonable. Liver (or even a water extract of wheat germ) can supply as much iron as would be given as a pill, and is safer.

We find that most people that come into see us and say they are anemic, are really not anemic. Having iron deficiency anemia is very rare and it is more common for people to have Pernicious Anemia or B12 Anemia. Pernicious anemia is actually being deficient in intrinsic factor in the stomach and B12 anemia is…well begin deficient in B12. Commonly this is due to:

1. Lack of protein intake or lack of the right types of protein intake

2. Diet too  high in protein which contains high amounts of iron and inflammatory markers such as tryptophan that we have trouble breaking down and store too much of

3. A diet that is completely void of protein such as Veganism

4. Pathogens in the stomach such as a parasite or bacterial infection that disrupts the acidic pH of the stomach

5. HCL deficiency in the stomach from stress, overtaking supplements, diet deficient in protein, excess inflammation, H.Pylori , etc. HCL keeps the stomach pH very acidic which sets the stage for the rest of the GI system, but also initiates protein breakdown and absorption of B12

6. Large intestine: pH issues from hepatobiliary stasis or deficiency, inflammation, low n-butyrate, swelling in the colonocytes, low bifidobater

7. Over consumption of probiotics which can create systemic acidosis

8. Over consumption of Antacids (Tums), being on H2 blockers (Zantac or Pepcid) or being on a Proton Pump Inhibitor (Prilosec)

There are many more reasons, but when it comes down to it…it is all about figuring out why YOU are anemic and what kind! We have helped many people get over this battle with simple nutrition and lifestyle modifications!


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