Iron Deficiency

The best time to take an iron supplement

Kelly Pris

Iron-deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in women. We tend to eat meat less often and we have higher requirement for iron due to menstruation, pregnancy and lactation.

Iron is part of hemoglobin and myoglobin. It plays an important role in carrying oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide to the lungs. It's also important to the muscles, as it provides the oxygen needed for muscle contraction, such as in the heart.

Adequate iron levels are also essential to the immune system. Germs, and especially bacteria, chelate iron for their own metabolism, depleting iron stores in the body. Human iron reserves, unlike other minerals,  are regulated by absorption rather than the amount excreted.

Signs of Iron deficiency:

  • Dizziness when going from sitting to standing

  • Listlessness

  • Exhaustion (less oxygen is reaching your tissues, leaving you energy deprived)

  • Heavy periods

  • Paleness

  • Being short of breath

  • Craving ice

  • Feeling anxious for no reason

  • Hair loss

  • Inflammatory bowel disease


Vitamin C appears to be irons best friend when it comes to absorption of both heme iron (animal sources) and non-heme iron (plant sources). By understanding more about this mineral and carefully selecting the foods you eat, you can improve iron intake and availability.

Certain foods also block the absorption of iron. The tannic acids in tea and coffee, dairy products, soy and eggs are common offenders. Mid-morning is a great time to take an iron supplement with orange juice for Vitamin C or include a Vitamin C capsule. Be aware that many other minerals compete with iron for absorption, avoid taking a calcium or a multivitamin supplement with iron.

Choose your iron supplement carefully

Many women avoid these completely because of the side effects. Ferrous sulfate is commonly used to address anemia but its side effects include constipation, trapped gas and upset stomach.

Thankfully, nature has much simpler answers with no side effects! Herbs are a wonderful source of iron. Red Raspberry leaf is listed as one of the best in Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pederson. It is also one of the oldest and most popular pregnancy and lactation herbs.

I needed a natural way to raise Tristan's red blood cell count for many years and I relied heavily on three herbal extracts to keep the anemia caused by his damaged kidneys in check, without having to use Ferrous sulfate. Because, in addition to the common side effects of this chemical formula, his teeth also turned a dark gray color with in a few weeks of using liquid ferrous sulfate. I soon stopped giving it to him and used these three herbs, rather successfully, instead:

Dandelion Root:

This root is used as a tonic and it is often the principle herb in blood purifying, kidney and pancreas formulations. Its nutritional profile is very impressive, there is an abundant but very balanced profile of minerals. It contains an average of 9.6 mg. of iron per 100 grams.

Yellow Dock Root:

Yellow dock is a common weed, found nearly world wide. The yellow carrot shaped roots of this plant are another excellent source of iron and it's naturally rich in Vitamin C.

Stinging Nettle:

This is an herb with a high iron content, but what makes it even more valuable is the presence of vitamins A (retinol), B group, C (ascorbic acid), and K, which improve iron absorption in the body. Whether as a tonic, tea, or supplement, this herb can help normalize iron levels.

This simple combination of herbs went on to become a favorite of midwives and became Herbal Iron, a best selling product. Rather than upsetting the stomach, Herbal Iron is a digestive tonic and is non constipating.


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