Anemia can be serious. But iron supplements can cause constipation. What’s the answer?
By Daja, Contributing Writer
I have struggled with my hemoglobin levels all my life, even before I started having children. However, being pregnant has certainly brought the problem to light and caused me to face it head-on! In every pregnancy, my hemoglobin (the count of red blood cells) has taken a dip, sometimes more significantly than others. However, when I am eating right, getting enough traditional nutrient-dense foods, the challenge is much easier, and I am able to overcome anemia without getting constipated.
How to Overcome Anemia Without Getting Constipated
Signs of Anemia:
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Pale fingernail beds
- Rapid heartbeat even when not exercising
- Breathlessness, even when not exerting oneself
- 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.
To Supplement or Not To Supplement
When you see your hemoglobin levels start to decline, the typical response is to reach for the iron supplements or prenatal vitamins. This may not be a harmful approach, but it also may not be the best or easiest on your body. The hemoglobin indicator merely shows were a deficiency may exist. What it does not tell you what the underlying cause is. 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 vitamin B12 deficiency.
The advantages of conventional supplementation include the fact that they are very inexpensive, easy to find, and generally understood by doctors. However, there are some downsides. First of all, iron supplements can cause constipation. Not too fun to swap one problem for another, especially when you’re pregnant! Secondly, many — especially if of a synthetic source — are not very easily absorbed. Therefore, essentially, all you are doing is creating expensive and difficult bowel movements. And thirdly, they work very slowly. Even with supplementation, it takes about a month to raise your hemoglobin one point.
Alternatives To Iron Pills
I have tried a myriad of supplements and approaches to addressing my anemia. The best success I have had in being able to overcome anemia without getting constipated is with whole, traditional foods. Here are the powerhouses that have worked the best:
Bone broth is a treasure. It provides iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, chondroitin, glucosamine, gelatin, collagen, protein, hyaluronic acid, and a host of other trace minerals. It makes me feel great. It’s easy and inexpensive, tastes good and is very versatile. It’s a winner all-around!
Now this one may be a tough one to take, especially if you are not accustomed to eating organ meats. But, organs meats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet with ten to 100 times the vitamins and essential minerals than muscle meat. [source] We try to eat organ meat at least a couple times a week. (Try our super delicious Chicken Liver Pate!) If you really can’t get over the idea of organ meats you always have the option of just turning them into capsules and taking them with or instead of your other iron supplements. (Here’s how!)
Other Foods To Include
Dried fruit, black cherries, leafy greens, seaweed, blackstrap molasses, nuts and seeds, beets, beans and lentils, and eggs. Forget everything you’ve read in the past about eggs. You can eat them every day! They are nature’s powerhouse!
When Food Alone Won’t Do It
One of the easiest things I’ve found that helps boost my iron levels, but that does not cause constipation is liquid chlorophyll. It comes flavored sometimes, but I don’t mind it just plain. I mix it with a little juice and chug it in the morning. During times of real need, I have consumed about 1/4 cup a day or more.
Supplementing with herbs can be easier on digestion than iron pills. Great herbs to include are Nettle, Red Raspberry Leaf, Dandelion, Spirulina, and Kelp. These can be made into teas, tinctures, or capsules.