Low iron and why you are so darn tired all the time …

“Iron – one of the essential trace elements of life on earth. Formed deep within stars then scattered across space by collapsed supernovas which spew their contents right across the universe. Iron is secreted in our soils, hiding in our glaciers, floating in our oceans and carried in our blood” Ann Jones

I was amazed by this incredibly poetic description of how iron comes to us. So many of us have experienced times of low iron. So how does it happen and what can we do about it ?

Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden table

 

There are lots of reasons why you may be low in iron :

* Dietary insufficiency
* Blood loss from disease, trauma, menstruation
* Times of increased need e.g. recovery from injury, pregnancy, post birth, exercise
* Drug mugging – some medication make it hard for you to absorb iron. These include antibiotics, acid blocking medications, osteoporosis treatments, thyroid supplements.
* Lack of necessary digestive enzymes and cofactors needed for absorption
* Too much calcium or phosphorus

Iron is needed for many functions but the main one is for regenerating and rebuilding red blood cells. RBC’s use haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Insufficient iron leads to low RBC count and means that the heart and lungs have to work much harder to ensure that oxygen is getting where it’s needed. Apart from blood production and oxygen transport iron is also needed for healthy levels of enzymes which control many cell functions and for healthy immune responses.

Signs of low iron :

* brittle or flaking nails
* cold hands and feet
* tongue soreness
* food cravings
* fatigue/lethargy/poor recovery/low motivation
* headaches
* shortness of breath
* lightheadedness
* palpitations/erratic heart rate
* poor immune function
* poor concentration
* depression, anxiety and panic
* muscle weakness and pale skin

Sources of iron include meat, dark leafy vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and seeds, eggs.

Things needed to absorb iron efficiently – vitamin C, B12, folic acid, digestive enzymes and adequate stomach acid. Coffee, tea and wine can decrease your ability to absorb iron as can some medications (see above).

Blood tests :
An iron study of your blood is a snapshot of your current situation.
It is important to have good levels of serum iron and ferritin. The reference ranges on your blood test results are not always a good indicator of an adequate iron status. Read more here about pathology testing.

Depending on your level of deficiency, addressing low iron can take several months to correct and depends greatly on the quality and appropriateness of your supplement. There area number of herbal medicines which can increase red blood cell count and iron absorption making your supplementation much more effective. Anyone who has experienced constipation, nausea or other side effects of ‘off the supermarket shelf’ iron supplements can tell you how unpleasant it can be.

It’s worth speaking to someone who can identify the causes of your deficiency and the most effective, safe and side effect free iron sources for you.

 

 

 

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Sticky, chewy date and nut bars …

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Looking for something to get you through the 3pm slump ? Look no further !
These easy to make, gluten free, vegan bars are just the thing. They come together in about 10 minutes and require no baking so are perfect when you’re baking on the run.

Sticky date and nut bars

1/2 cup honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup
1/2 cup nut butter – this can be any nut butter or a combination. I like to use 1/2 peanut
and 1/2 almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats) – if you are gluten intolerant make sure your oats are GF
1 1/2 cups nuts – use what you like here – almonds, pecans, walnuts – if you have time toss them around in a frypan for a few minutes to toast them and bring out their flavour
2 cups dates, pitted
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces chopped finely (optional)

Melt honey/syrup and nut butter together in a small saucepan over low heat. When melted remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Blitz dates in a food processor till it forms a paste. Don’t worry if there are still some lumps. Place date paste in a large bowl.
Place nuts in food processor and pulse till roughly chopped. Place in bowl with dates.
Add rolled oats and chocolate if using. Mix well. This is easiest done with clean hands.
Pour over butter/syrup mixture and mix well.

Line a slice pan with being paper and spoon in mixture. Top with another piece of baking paper and squash flat with hands or rolling pin till about 1 1/2 cm thick.

Chill in fridge or freezer till cold then slice into small bars. These are quite rich so small bars are best. Store in fridge or for longer term storage you can place in freezer and thaw as wanted.

Feel free to change the ingredients to suit your taste. Try replacing some nuts with seeds, dried fruit or rice puffs.

 

The weather is warming up ….. Smoothie Time

smoothie with blueberries, banana and cereal. the toning. selective focus

Whether you are trying to get some extra nutrients into your diet, lose some weight or change up your breakfast routine you need to make smoothies your new best friend.

Quick to pull together, nutrient dense and so many variations that you’ll never be bored.
I swear by smoothies and have one almost every day. Lately I have been adding in some Just Greens or Just Reds powder for an extra boost and I am really noticing the difference. ( I don’t get paid to endorse these products – I just really like them )

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For even more oomph try adding some omega 3 sources like a teaspoon of flax, walnut or chia oil. Spirulina is a great source of amino acids and iodine. Probiotics found in live yoghurts or available in powder form is great for gut health. Protein powders can also be a huge help, especially when recovering from exercise. Use a clean powder like rice, pea or pure whey powder.

Whenever I speak to people who tell me they are too busy to eat well I steer them towards smoothies. If you have some frozen fruit and a blender you are off and racing. You can easily adjust the calorie level to suit your health goals and its easy to add in ingredients that you may be needing at specific times. 

To make things even easier and more time efficient you could try making up some freezer smoothie bags. Put the ingredients in the blender with some water or milk and you have breakfast ready in under a minute.

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Here’s a few of my favourites …. Use frozen fruit where you can or add lots of ice. Add enough water and ice to these recipes to get the consistency you like. Mix it up – there’s no hard and fast rules here. Add what you like and get blending.

My favourite smoothie
1/3 cup each of frozen mango and berries
1/2 small frozen banana
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons Just Reds powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 big handfuls of greens – spinach, celery, parsley, kale

Chocolate almond smoothie – for when you feel like something a bit sweet
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons chocolate protein powder
3 medjool dates
Lots of ice

Creaky joints smoothie – great for arthritis or any type of joint pain
1 stick celery with leaves
Small handful of parsley
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 peeled orange
1 cup cubed pineapple ( frozen is good)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Liver Boosting Smoothie – great of you have been exercising a lot, taking medications, using alcohol, eating processed foods or too much fat
1 small beetroot
juice of a lemon
big handful of kale
1/2 cucumber
1 orange

Digestive Help Smoothie – for IBS type symptoms
1 cup honeydew melon
1/2 cucumber
1/2 cup plain yoghurt with live cultures
1 teaspoon psyllium husks
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons honey

Stomach Settler – for an upset tummy
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 avocado
1 teaspoon chia seed
2 teaspoons honey
fresh mint

Lean muscle building smoothie – great for after the gym
1 orange
1 frozen banana
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons spiralling or Just Greens powder
1 cup water or coconut water
2 tablespoons clean protein powder

Recovery smoothie – replenishes after exercising and promotes recovery and muscle repair
1 banana
1 cup almond or rice milk
1/2 coconut water or water
2 tablespoons clean protein powder
1 teaspoon each of flax seeds, chia seeds and LSA
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nut butter

Mega Green smoothie – so many minerals, anti-oxidants, immune boosters and liver supporters to keep you feeling great
1½ cups water
10 spinach leaves
5 kale leaves, stalk removed
3 celery stalks with leaves
1  apple, cored and chopped
1  pear, cored and chopped
1  banana frozen
Juice of ½  lemon
1/2 avocado
big handful of parsley

Blended green smoothie with ingredients on wooden table