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Natural Strategies for Anemia

March 24, 2012

A reader asks:  I would like to know what could I do for low iron levels.  My iron is very low and I do not want to have a blood or iron transfusion.  I was wondering was there a healthy alternative along with believing God for his healing.

This is actually something I have personally battled for years.  My hemoglobin (that is the iron-containing portion of the red blood cells) is normally on the low side compared to the average.  When I’m pregnant it gets much  worse!  This has been true since my first pregnancy.  I always try to do my best and take those horse pills prenatals.  And yet it’s still a struggle to keep my hemoglobin in the “safe” range.  The toughest battleground was my last pregnancy.  At its lowest tested point my hemoglobin was 6.8.  This was a great concern to many and some concerned friends suggested I get a blood transfusion.  To me that wasn’t an option.  I would take a different route.  By a week before my baby was born my hemoglobin tested at 13.  This is even higher than it is when I’m not pregnant.  And this without a trip to the doctor and without any blood or iron transfusions!

UNDERSTANDING ANEMIA

Signs of Anemia:

Fatigue and loss of energy ~ pale fingernail beds ~ rapid heart beat even when not exercising ~ breathlessness, even when not exerting oneself ~  dizziness ~ leg and other muscle cramps ~ bleeding gums ~ Pica, which is a craving for odd things like dirt, clay, laundry starch ~ desire to chew ice (another form of pica)

Anemia is a condition in which the blood does not contain enough red blood cells.  Your red blood cells are responsible for oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange.

Contrary to popular belief, anemia is not necessarily caused by lack of iron, which may be why even with iron supplements you don’t see your hemoglobin increase.   There can be several different causes, including: Folic Acid deficiency or B12 deficiency.

A NATURAL APPROACH

I am blessed in that I am surrounded by people who have faith–faith in the way our bodies are designed to heal themselves and faith in the God who created the body.  Therefore, no one was too worried when I started trying to increase my hemoglobin by various natural means, food, herbs and prayer.  Here are some of the things that–all put together–worked for me.

Prayer.  “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”  James 5:14-15  I’m one of those crazy people who believe in the power of prayer and the power of claiming Scripture for today.  When my hemoglobin got dangerously low I asked prayer warriors to pray for me.

Exercise.  Try to be active.  Exercise helps deliver more oxygen to the body, which is crucial in reversing anemia.  So, try to get in a little exercise every day or at the very least several times a week.  Go for brisk walks, ride a bike, do a pilates or yoga video–just get moving!  You will feel so much better!

Eat Whole Foods.  It’s absolutely crucial that if your body is compromised in any way that you avoid the trap of junk foods.  Yes, your body may be craving chewing ice, chips, soda, etc.  This is only a sign that your body is missing something important.  Start eating nutrient dense foods.  As you meet all your body’s nutritional needs the cravings for unwholesome things will diminish.

Among the whole foods you should include are fermented foods and bone broth.  The daily fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, sourdough, etc.) will start to heal any imbalance in your gut allowing your body to absorb nutrients better.  The broth (not from a can at the store, but made from simmering bones until they are brittle) will add lots of minerals–iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals to your diet in a form that is easily digestible.  These two foods should be included daily and liberally.

Because the root of your anemia may be iron, B12 or folic acid deficiency, be sure to eat a balanced diet and avoid “fads”.  Make sure you eat dark leafy green things everyday–which are rich in all three nutrients.

Another helpful thing is to try to avoid taking your meat and your milk in the same meal.  The calcium quality of the milk and the iron quality of the meat make it difficult for either to be absorbed well.

Iron Rich Foods.  Here are some lovely things to include: dried fruit, black cherries, leafy greens, seaweed, blackstrap molasses, nuts and seeds, beets, beans and lentils, eggs, and organ meats. [Check out our recipe for Chicken Liver Pâté!  You’ll never buy pâté again!]

Herbs and supplements.  Some of the herbs that are helpful in healing anemia are Nettle and Red Raspberry.  These can be taken a variety of ways.  One easy way is an infusion.  Take an ounce of each and steep in two quarts of boiled water for several hours.  You can drink 1/2 to 1 cup a day straight or mix it with more water to make tea or ice and water to make iced tea.  If tea is not your thing, you can take capsules.

I’ve also found alfalfa to be helpful.  It’s a great support to your liver and will help your body to process toxins better.  I take this often in tablets or powders.  Other powders that are great are kelp and spirulina.  Add this to a daily smoothie or stir into juice.

We highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs as a source for lose herbs, tinctures and essential oils.  They are all organic and sustainably grown and harvested.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com 

For a quick way to boost your blood, drink liquid chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is a wonderful thing.  It’s almost identical in composition to hemoglobin, except for the center atom!  In the absence of adequate hemoglobin, chlorophyll can help do the job that hemoglobin does!  In fact, when anyone in my family is feeling rather sluggish or that a cold might be coming on, I give them some chlorophyll stirred into juice or water.  Dark green and earthy, it imparts strength!

Make sure you are getting enough vitamin C–through food or supplements.  Vitamin C is essential to nutrient absorption.  Ideally, of course, your vitamin C source should be food and not a pill.  When we think vitamin C, we think oranges because years ago the Florida Citrus Council did such a good job in advertising!  But, there are actually other sources and some even better.  Papaya, red peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and pineapple all have more vitamin C than oranges!

All this is fairly easy and can be worked into your everyday life without much fuss or expense.  But, when it doesn’t seem to be working, should you start on an iron supplement and which one?  Well, I am certainly no doctor.  I can only share my experience, which is that iron supplementation is really tricky.  Trickier than you’d think.  First of all, iron supplements can cause constipation.  Not too fun to swap one problem for another.  Secondly, many–especially if of a synthetic source–are not very easily absorbed.  Therefore, essentially, all you are doing is creating expensive bowel movements.  And thirdly, they work very slowly.  Even with supplementing with iron it takes about a month to raise your hemoglobin one point.

However, there are two supplements, both herbal and whole food based, that I really like when the lifestyle and nutritional changes aren’t enough.  The first is Floradix or Floravital.   These can be purchased at any health food store and some grocery stores.  It’s kosher, liquid and very easy to take.  It makes me feel GREAT!  (If you have an allergy to chamomile–which is essentially a ragweed allergy, you may not want to take this, as one primary ingredient is chamomile.)   The other is Hema-Plex by Nature’s Plus.  It’s a daily tablet that works to boost hemoglobin that (for me, at least, did not cause constipation or upset stomach).

I know all too well how poorly one can feel when their hemoglobin is low.  I also know how wonderful one can feel when they are fully nourished and the body is in balance!  May you know that feeling, too!

Disclaimer – The herbal information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. It is not the intention of the writers to advise on health care. Please see a medical professional about any health concerns you have.  Disclaimer – These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.  The information on this web site is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

(linked to Little Farm in the Big City and Wildcrafting Wednesday.)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2012 7:01 pm

    About 18 months ago I was hospitalized with low hemoglobin and was given 5 units of blood over about 8 days. It literally saved my life! However, I was just released from the hospital today with, you guessed it, low hemoglobin. And anemia.

    No transfusions yet…..

    I have yogurt here. And prayer, of course. However, I’d have to drive an hour to a city to try and find any of the other things, and I just don’t have the energy for that. I’m stuck in an endless cycle. :-/

    • Daja permalink*
      March 24, 2012 8:18 pm

      Our prayers are with you, Dana! May the Lord lift you up and impart His strength to you!

      Do not get overwhelmed. Remember our motto here: Baby Steps! Just start to slowly implement the necessary changes and you’ll see a difference. If you try to do it all tomorrow you’ll certainly be overwhelmed. {{{HUGS}}}

      Keep in mind that Mountain Rose and many other companies deliver to you. It’s not like a co-op where you have to pick up. So perhaps the remedy you’d like to try can come to you rather than you fetching it! And many of the food remedies (such as broth) can easily be made in your kitchen. Kristina and I each keep a crock-pot with bones constantly simmering on the counter. It’s a remedy that is almost always available to us. We just keep adding more bones and vegetables as needed and serving it up as needed.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for commenting and letting us know how we can pray for you!

  2. justinecaraway permalink
    March 28, 2012 7:13 pm

    Stopping by from the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop! http://queenofsavings.com

  3. April 8, 2012 8:50 pm

    These are some great tips!

  4. April 3, 2013 7:07 am

    Great info! I donate blood and sometimes my iron levels are too low. Thanks for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Hope to see you again today!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/04/wildcrafting-wednesday-14.html

    If you have time, I’d love to have you join me on The HomeAcre Hop on Thursday too…we’ll be announcing a new giveaway you’re sure to appreciate!

Trackbacks

  1. Chicken Liver Pâté « The Provision Room
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