Iron-Deficiency How to Optimize Iron Absorption from Food and Supplements for People with Anemia


A medical diagnosis of iron-deficiency anemia (IDA), or simply “anemia,” is given to those who have a much lower number of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) than is considered healthy. Due to iron’s central role in red blood cell formation, iron deficiency is frequently to blame for RBC shortages. Although there are several kinds of “anemia,” only Iron-Deficiency Anemia will be covered here.

Hemoglobin in Red Blood Cells binds breathed oxygen and carries it to all body tissues and organs. Simultaneously, the lungs draw in ambient air and bring back carbon dioxide to be exhaled. For the body to have sufficient oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, enough iron must be in the blood to produce enough RBCs.

Anemia due to a lack of iron is prevalent.

Not everyone has enough Iron to produce enough healthy red blood cells for efficient oxygen transport. Iron deficiency anemia is projected to affect 19% of the U.S. population, leading to an annual total of 429,000 hospitalizations and 4,686 deaths (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).

Women of childbearing age (between the ages of 13 and 45) and elderly people in nursing homes are disproportionately afflicted by this anemia.

Children and adults need 10 milligrams of iron daily; premenopausal women need 15 milligrams; and pregnant women need 30 milligrams.

Anemia Symptoms & Signs

Most of the symptoms of anemia can be traced back to a lack of oxygen reaching the body’s tissues and the brain. Weakness, headaches, and overall paleness seem to be the norm. Slow mental reactions, listlessness, irritability, poor concentration, difficulty swallowing, spoon-shaped fingernails, sensitivity to colds, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, excessive menstrual bleeding, increased susceptibility to infection, and obesity can all result from untreated or worsening anemia.

Anemia can worsen the symptoms of, or make it harder to manage, conditions like asthma and heart disease.

Anemia due to a lack of iron: its origins

Bleeding or other blood loss is the leading cause of IDA. Any blood loss is dangerous because the body has trouble making up for the diminished oxygen supply. Most people are familiar with blood loss due to injury, menstruation, or hemorrhoids. However, there are situations when bleeding occurs invisibly, such as when a stomach ulcer bleeds. At these points, individuals have no idea that they are anemic.

Different Reasons:

> An insufficient amount of iron in one’s diet or ingesting iron without converters (see below). Consumption of alcoholic beverages or drunkenness > Medical drug-induced iron depletion > The loss of iron from natural supplements is more significant than that from food.

Further Reading on Iron Deficiency

Since iron “floats around” in the blood, its stores are quickly depleted. When a medicine or herbal component is ingested, it binds to the Iron, rendering both ineffective. The Iron and the drug or herb component are then excreted in the urine or feces. Those who need to take a medicine, supplement, or Iron for their health may experience difficulties.

Numerous prescription medications reduce iron stores. (This is by no means an exhaustive list, but)

Diuretics (also known as “water pills”) > Antibiotics (including cephalosporins, penicillins, tetracyclines, etc.) > Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (including ibuprofen, steroids, etc.) > Blood Pressure Lowering Drugs (including calcium-channel blockers, ACE-Inhibitors, and others) > The examples continue…

Here are (again, not all) of the regularly used natural supplements that reduce Iron stores by competing with it in the blood or the digestive tract:

The order of importance is: > Calcium > Magnesium > Artichoke > Cascara sagrada > Chamomile > CoEnzymeQ10 > The examples continue…

The Iron in the following foods and beverages is lost when combined with Iron-containing foods or Iron supplements:

Products from the Dairy Industry > Coffee > Tea > Spirits & Wines

If the supplement or medication attaches to the Iron in the digestive tract, waiting two hours between taking the two will increase the Iron’s chances of being absorbed. If you’re unsure whether your supplement will interact with Iron, you shouldn’t take it (to find out more, ask your doctor or pharmacist).

Heme, non-Heme, and elemental iron are the three varieties.

Heme iron is the most readily absorbed form of the element. Due to their high heme content, they are the most suitable iron source for red blood cell production. Red meats, liver, chicken, seafood, and eggs are familiar dietary sources of Heme Iron.

The Iron in foods that aren’t Heme requires a cofactor, such as vitamin C, A, or beta-carotene, before it can be absorbed and utilized. This Iron form is useless to the body without those helpers. Dark green leafy vegetables, nutritious grains, nuts, blackstrap molasses, and dried fruits; herbs like cayenne, kelp, peppermint, and rosehip are good examples of non-meat/animal sources of non-heme iron. The Iron in these foods and supplements is not bioavailable without adding vitamin C, A, or Beta-Carotene.

Iron Deficiency and Its Treatment Supplemental Elemental Iron Sources like Ferrous Sulfate are commonly used to treat Anemia. The body cannot absorb elemental iron. Hence a converter, such as the vitamins listed above, is required. This means that although a bottle of Elemental Iron may claim that each pill contains 325 mg of Iron, only roughly 20 mg of that amount is helpful.

Like almost all vitamins and minerals, iron is peculiar because it is absorbed more when the body needs it.

The stool will turn a dark green or nearly black color from all iron sources (when appropriately absorbed). That’s a very natural response.

Iron supplements should not be taken if…

Iron supplements can harm your health if you take them if your body doesn’t need them. These include heart disease, Iron Toxicity, and liver damage. Therefore, adult males and postmenopausal women shouldn’t use Iron supplements unless their doctor tells them to.

How to Absorb Iron Effectively (and Make the Most of Your Diet)

Vegetables, nuts, and cereals are all excellent sources of iron. However, as was previously explained, its form makes it useless to the human body. Iron from these foods is excreted in the urine if the body lacks a converter (vitamin C, A, or Beta-Carotene). So, if you’re going to eat foods high in Non-Heme Iron, you need to supplement with vitamins. Heme Iron is already in a usable form in foods that contain it.

Coffee, dairy products, alcohol, and tea all bind to Iron, rendering it useless even when combined with a converter like a vitamin C, so avoid these beverages if you’re taking Iron supplements or eating a diet high in Iron.

Citrus fruits are a good vitamin C. Yellow, orange veggies, and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin A and Beta-Carotene.


Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (2009). Check out “Anemia or Iron Deficiency” at

Thank you, and best regards.
Doctor Ronda

Dr. Ronda Behnke Theys emphasizes that the information she shares is for academic purposes only. It would be best never to change your health routine or stop taking medications without talking to your doctor.

Classical homeopath and proponent of other natural healing modalities Dr. Ronda Behnke Theys. Dr. Ronda, co-founder of The Homeopathic Centers of America, shares her knowledge through seminars, articles, publications, and one-on-one consultations. Her clientele raves about her keen perception and accepting demeanor. Dr. Ronda can be reached at 920-558-9806 or his website ( Call on me when you’re ready to mend, and I’ll be here to hear you out. Check out the HCA website mentioned earlier for a free healing guide to aid you on your journey.

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