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I'm looking for help. I've recently had trouble with anemia and I need to get my iron levels up. I've been like 95% vegan for the past 6 months and in the beginning I felt amazing, but over the past month or so I've just hit a wall. I've got no energy and can't even exercise lightly. My head is feeling all messed up as well. I developed anemia it seems (bloodwork pending).   I want to keep training hard but keep up a vegan diet because, besides this past month, I've never felt better. I've been reading up on Iron and absorption and it seems that the most absorbable forms come from animal sources. I do take 1.5 scoops of vega every morning (2 scoops are supposed to have 100% RDI of iron right?) and the last few days I started taking 10mls of FloraVit liquid iron twice a day as well. I'm really confused because a lot of the plant based sources of iron can actually inhibit it's absorption (like spinach). I'm willing to go off veganism for a bit to get my iron levels back on track, but I would love a LONG TERM plan for once I get better so I can go back to veganism. I would appreciate any info or experience anyone has in this area.

 

thanks

 

Shawn

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Thanks for the response. I'm of the mindset that one shouldn't need supplements for the rest of their life. I want to stay vegan but if I need to take liquid iron for the rest of my life to feel good, I don't think I'm willing. Maybe when I get back to normal with the supplements I can just focus on iron rich plant foods, but I'm still worried about absorption.  We'll see I guess...

I hadn't heard that spinach can inhibit iron absorption. I typically eat a whole lot of spinach, too. I don't generally have trouble with my iron level, so I can't provide advice in that regard. But I do have a suggestion for a good way to monitor your iron. More frequent testing is a great way to find out how well your strategy may be working.

If you go in to give blood (at least in the US or CA, and I assume in most other places), they will test your blood iron level right there-and-then before allowing you to donate. If your iron levels are sufficient, you can donate every two months, which can give you a good sense of how your levels are fluctuating over time... with immediate results and completely for free (well, at the cost of a pint of blood). If you test too anemic, they won't take your blood, but you'll be able to try again without waiting two months. After a donation, they screen the blood for a variety of other blood-communicable diseases as well, and it gives me a sense of confidence to know that they would call and let me know if they ever find anything.

Blood donation isn't for everyone, and a lot of people are not eligible to donate, but I thought I'd put the idea out there.
I find there is absolutely no need for supplements of any kind whatsoever. One simply has to consume ample servings of "alive foods" and find food sources (superfoods) that provide additional nutrients that may be desired for athletic performance. For iron deficiency, blackstrap molasses comes to mind as an excellent source. Not only is it rich in iron, it contains other minerals that promote absorption. And in my experience, it is nearly impossible to have B12 deficiency if there is enough fresh fruits and vegetables in one's diet. B12 deficiency is as big of a myth as the protein deficiency myth. However, it is quite possible and common to be vegetarian/vegan and be extremely unhealthy (eat tofu, foe meats and your average SAD diet with little to no greens/fruits) and therefore deficient in both B12 and protein.
Ok my blood work came back and they say it's normal, but they want to talk about my thyroid. I read somewhere that even if your bloodwork looks normal you can still be iron deficient. I'm going to ask my doc about that when I see him.
In many cases, they classify the "normal" range for test results as any level that doesn't have to be classified as an actual pathology. Levels that might be warning signs aren't always flagged as abnormal. It's a good idea to get your own copy of the report, and research yourself any values that are near the edges of the printed normal ranges. They may or may not be items of concern.

Hi there,

 

I just completed my masters thesis on raw foodism and this issue came up a lot. The thing with vegan diets is that

a) meals are not balanced (ie. nutrients are not balanced)

b) bioavailability is not considered

c) gut absorption is compromised which leads to nutritional deficiencies

d) symptoms of nutritional deficiencies can show up as late as two years after levels are too low

 

When people go on restricted diets (such as the vegan diet) they tend to eat the same foods over again because it's easier than planning out new foods all the time. The thing with eating the same meals all the time is that you are susceptable to food intolerances...which can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.

 

Deficiencies are a tricky subject and there are never easy answers. Working with a professional (such a certified Naturopath) is your sure-fire way to assess your situation and get an answer that is unique to your needs and your body.

 

Sarah



Sarah Hauch said:

Hi there,

 

I just completed my masters thesis on raw foodism and this issue came up a lot. The thing with vegan diets is that

a) meals are not balanced (ie. nutrients are not balanced)

b) bioavailability is not considered

c) gut absorption is compromised which leads to nutritional deficiencies

d) symptoms of nutritional deficiencies can show up as late as two years after levels are too low

 

When people go on restricted diets (such as the vegan diet) they tend to eat the same foods over again because it's easier than planning out new foods all the time. The thing with eating the same meals all the time is that you are susceptable to food intolerances...which can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.

 

Deficiencies are a tricky subject and there are never easy answers. Working with a professional (such a certified Naturopath) is your sure-fire way to assess your situation and get an answer that is unique to your needs and your body.

 

Sarah

 

Is your thesis published by any chance?

Hi Sarah, 

 

Firstly, congrats on choosing such a great topic for your thesis. Very cool.

 

That said, I'm not quite sure I understand your arguments and findings. In the nearly 33 years I've been vegetarian/vegan/raw vegan, I have experimented with my own health, have met/talked to numerous of other people following an veg diet, both healthy and unhealthy, and have educated myself to a significant degree about nutrition and health. In wholesale, the issues you point out have everything to do with eating an unhealthy diet (vegan or not) and little to do with eating a vegan diet IMO.

 

You absolutely certainly can have balanced vegan meals. Bioavailability is certainly considered by those seeking peak health and athletic performance, gut absorption is far, far, far more efficient under a vegan diet (especially a raw one) and item D applies to vegans and meat eaters alike. The fact that some vegans stop eating meat for ethical reasons, don't bother to learn about nutrition and end up consuming tofu burgers every day has nothing to do with being vegan and everything to do with eating mindlessly.

 

You would have done yourself a great service (and mayabe you have) in studying why professional athletes are flocking to vegan diets to improve performance. These NFL players, UFC fighters, Ultra marathoners, competitive cyclists, Olympians etc, etc, etc. have significant resources behind them to ensure whatever changes they make to their diets are going to provide measurable results. I can't fathom any of them undertaking such diets if they, and their trainers, had reached the same conclusions you have about the potential implications to their health.

 

In brief, maybe it's easier being a meat eater provided you are also willing to contemplate a more acidic, toxic and cholesterol-laden diet that often leads to greater instances of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and pretty much every other mayor disease that plagues western, meat dominated diets. And yes, there are many, many vegans who stop eating animal products for ethical reasons and think they can just eat mac and cheese and be okay. That's why some meat eaters form an opinion that vegans are by and large unhealthy IMO. However, you can most certainly achieve peak health (and in my personal experience and belief, far greater than under a meat diet) with a vegan diet...provided people take the time to educate themselves about what and how to eat. This simple principle applies to everyone, not just vegans so it seems your arguments are more suitable for a debate about healthy vs. unhealthy diets as opposed to meat vs. vegan diets.

 

Again, great topic to study. Especially since it's specific to raw and not just veganism.

 

Sarah Hauch said:

Hi there,

 

I just completed my masters thesis on raw foodism and this issue came up a lot. The thing with vegan diets is that

a) meals are not balanced (ie. nutrients are not balanced)

b) bioavailability is not considered

c) gut absorption is compromised which leads to nutritional deficiencies

d) symptoms of nutritional deficiencies can show up as late as two years after levels are too low

 

When people go on restricted diets (such as the vegan diet) they tend to eat the same foods over again because it's easier than planning out new foods all the time. The thing with eating the same meals all the time is that you are susceptable to food intolerances...which can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.

 

Deficiencies are a tricky subject and there are never easy answers. Working with a professional (such a certified Naturopath) is your sure-fire way to assess your situation and get an answer that is unique to your needs and your body.

 

Sarah

eat your spinach with some lime juice in a salad dressing to help aid in absorption of the iron in the spinach. Although I have read this will reduce you're ability to absorb the calcium that exist in the spinach (for that meal). You have to choose between absorbing the Iron or the Calcium. and eat foods that compliment the absorption of the nutrient you are after.

 

Good luck!

For the record, I ate some good clean meat this weekend and I feel better. Placebo maybe?
Hello Shawn
I’ve also had problems with iron in the past. I tried all kinds of supplements with no significant benefit. It was recommended to me by my naturopath to try Nettle and Alfalfa tea, 3 cups of each a day. In a matter of two weeks I was back to normal (not just blood test normal but feeling well and not getting head rushes, hair not falling out as much and what not). I soak my tea overnight (nettle, alfalfa, and peppermint…it off sets the dirt taste of the nettle) to get the most out of it. It’s something worth looking in to in, my opinion.
Hope you feel better soon.
Oh and I wouldn’t even think about giving blood if I were you. At least not till you’re feeling better for a few months. That was what I did- I was good to go, gave blood and it was about 3 months before I got my iron back up to even close to “normal” and they still wouldn’t let me give blood because they didn’t want me to end up depleted again.

P-Lee
Hey P-Lee,

It sounds like the nettle and alfalfa were super-effective for you. I wonder if alfalfa sprouts would also be effective.

That's probably good advice about blood donations. I tend to think that if your blood iron tests healthy then you're clearly fine and should have no problem giving blood, but if you feel that you have a harder time replacing the iron than most people, it may be a good idea to hang back. I assume that when you say they still wouldn't let you give blood after three months, you mean that three months after your donation, your iron level still wasn't at the minimum donation level which indicates that you have iron to spare. (It looks really bad for them if people faint right there or run off the road on the way home, so their minimum level is a bit higher than what your GP will look for.) That being the case, I wonder if you would have found out that you still weren't absorbing iron well enough if not for the first donation. (Not that the discovery made it worthwhile, but if it were me and I were back at normal iron levels, I would be tempted to try donating annually to monitor recovery time afterward... at least until I had suffered enough bad reactions for the lesson to sink in.)

-Frances

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