One of the benefits of eating a low carb plan is the opportunity to raise your iron levels. There was a time in my life several years ago, that my iron levels were so low that I had to get regular IV iron infusions. At the time my doctors were at a loss understanding why my iron was so low. At one point, I was even scheduled for exploratory surgery. Thankfully, a beautiful friend of mine that was a nurse, Candace, brought to my attention the danger of undergoing surgery. Because I was diagnosed with Guillan Barre, I could have easily been completely paralyzed by the anesthesia. Her quick thinking allowed me to cancel the operation and possibly even save my life. However, my low iron issues continued to baffle my doctors.
It was not until I began to eat more meat and eliminate gluten that my iron levels began to rise. This year due to my dietary changes I saw my iron levels soar to a 13.5 grams per deciliter hemoglobin. Is it any wonder my energy also saw an increase? Eating a LCHF was finally the piece I was missing to correct my low iron.
How do you know if your iron levels are low? For one you can ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you crave chewing on ice?
- Do you find yourself anxious?
- Is your energy level low?
- Is your hair thinning?
If you answered any of these questions with a yes, you could be low in iron. One of the bad side effects of a diet full of gluten is that it can prevent you from absorbing iron properly. Note that you test your iron levels with a hemoglobin test and it still come back “normal” because you could still be having absorption issues. A more accurate iron level test is a ferritin test, this shows if you are absorbing the iron your body needs by getting into your cells.
Why is iron so important? Iron helps to carry oxygen to the mitochondria of your cells, which is where fat burning occurs. Sometimes people who are eating low carb and do a fair amount of exercise may still not be losing weight and wondering what’s going on. I would suggest you visit your doctor and have your ferritin level checked. If you do not have any iron in your cells, you might not getting enough oxygen into your mitochondria, and in turn slowing down your weight loss. So although you might eating enough iron in your diet, it might not be reaching your cells.
What can deplete your iron levels? It could be as obvious as heavy menstrual cycles, exercising rigorously or even a loss of blood due to an injury. It can also be because you are not including red meats into your diet, a high source of iron. Lastly, food allergies and a case of leaky might be the culprit.
There are two ways you can raise your iron levels. One is with heme iron that binds to proteins, mainly found in red meats, the other is non-heme found in plants, this does not bind to proteins, and is not absorbed as easily.
Vegetarians may be low on iron and need to make sure they include foods that are high in vitamin C to help with absorption issues. An easy way to include more vitamin C is to simply include more herbs into your diet. People might be surprised to know that there is more of this powerful vitamin in herbs then in our fruits.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not take iron supplements unless directed by a doctor. Although this is a valuable mineral too much iron in the form of supplements might be a dangerous thing.
If you feel your iron levels might be low, ask your doctor for a hemoglobin and ferritin test to see if you are in need supplementation.