The EH Guide to Anaemia, Low Iron and Iron Deficiency
Seeing Red – How to Recover from Anaemia, Low Iron and Iron Deficiency
Iron is the Cinderella mineral. It isn’t a sexy topic for the exploding world of super nutrition, and yet we can’t live without it. When there is insufficient iron to make red blood cells, that transport vital oxygen around the body, anaemia and iron deficiency will happen. The body needs iron, just as Picasso needed red oxide paint. The effect on the body is a gradual and overwhelming breakdown in vitality. It is a bit like trying to run a car without petrol. It will just splutter to a full stop.
If you frequently feel inexplicably tired, look very pale, feel low and have weak nails, see your GP as soon as possible, and ask for a blood test to check your iron levels. This is the easy part. If you are diagnosed with the condition, or low iron levels, your doctor will habitually prescribe iron sulphate tablets. The problem with iron in this form is that it is very strong, and often difficult to digest. It would be great to see the NHS, and GP’s embracing a new generation of food state supplements rich in naturally occurring iron that can return levels to normal, quickly and gently, without the unpleasant side effects frequently associated with harsh sulphates, which can include: constipation, nausea, loose bowels and stomach discomfort.
Nelson’s the homeopathic chemist and the people behind Spatone, a form of naturally occurring mineral rich water, found in the foothills of Snowdonia, is a good choice for topping up depleted iron levels before they have a chance to become serious. The trailblazing natural health company founded 160 years ago, offers an unrivalled depth of knowledge in holistic medicine. There is a pharmacy on Duke Street, London, which is jam-packed with every type of remedy, botanical skincare and the best food and mineral state supplements including Spatone. If Hogwarts had a chemist, it would be this! I spent hours browsing and discovered some exciting new supplement and handmade botanical skincare. Another form of iron that has been around since my childhood, is Floradix, a delightful iron rich elixir, made from fruits and vegetables, which can be found in most healthfood shops. You can’t taste the iron and it is hard not to glug from the bottle, as it is delicious! (But please don’t, as you might drink too much).
The problem with anaemia and low iron levels is that the condition is easy to miss, particularly amongst younger women, who are more susceptible to low iron levels through blood loss during menstruation or pregnancy – when the baby takes all the mother’s iron. Anaemia can also occur as a result of stomach bleeding. Of course, anaemia and low iron levels also have a lot to do with the 21st century disease of feeling tired all the time.
Why do we accept the idea of feeling constantly exhausted due to overwork, stress or because we are simply not taking care of ourselves? This is not normal. Let me tell you about my own story of anaemia and ongoing recovery.
Could you be anaemic? Symptoms to look out for:
My Story of Anaemia and Chronic Iron Deficiency
Six years ago, I started to experience sudden and chronic periods of extreme tiredness. It was a bewildering and frightening time and it very nearly ruined my life. Gradually, over a period of a couple of years they occurred more often. It was as if my natural, boundless energy and love of life was slowly ebbing away. In its place came an overwhelming feeling of weakness, lethargy and confusion. I frequently felt dizzy, miserable and lacking in focus. I didn’t feel refreshed in the morning, and hated getting out of bed, while it was a challenge to concentrate on writing, my greatest passion in life. A trip to the local shops, involving the slightest uphill gradient, would leave me breathless, exhausted and close to tears. I felt I was going mad. My health was falling apart, but I had no idea what was wrong. I was experiencing stress at work, but not enough to make me feel like I was slowly dying.
I made an appointment to see my GP and after a blood test, the puzzle began to fit into place, when I was diagnosed with severe iron deficiency anaemia.
The Problem with Iron Sulphate Tablets
My GP was a pleasant woman in her early thirties, who possessed a good bedside manner, and always seemed keen to help. She prescribed iron sulphate tablets and told me to eat more meat and leafy green vegetables, which are known to be rich in iron. Interestingly, she didn’t seem that bothered about what was causing my anaemia, but she did say it might be blood loss from a congenital hiatus hernia, and the fact that I was eating less meat. Unfortunately, the iron tablets didn’t work. They made me feel sick and caused agonizing stomach pain and constant trips to the loo. I returned to the GP and she prescribed a different iron tablet, often to given to children, who can’t tolerate iron sulphate. Unfortunately, my chemist said it wasn’t available, and I was offered a substitute, which also upset my stomach.
Understanding Anaemia and Low Iron Stores
When I returned yet again to the surgery, my once helpful GP was now only too happy for me to harness my own interest in natural health to try and find an alternative form of iron I could stomach. It was all very unsatisfactory, and with increasing desperation, I felt I was left to deal with the diagnosis and treat myself. Nor was it explained to me, that an anaemia diagnosis is only one half of the picture. When you are diagnosed, it is essential you ask your GP for your iron store reading, as this is affected by anaemia, and it can take up to a year for levels to run to normal. When iron stores are low, you will still feel weak and exhausted, even when you are told you are no longer clinically anaemic. This is where my recovery took so much longer. I was taking just enough nutritional iron in supplement form to no longer be clinically anaemic, but I had virtually no iron stores. The improvement in my health was negligible. I simply wasn’t taking enough iron.
Please see a good nutritionist, with an interest in a holistic approach to health or seek the advice of in-house experts at Nelson’s Homeopathic Pharmacy, Helios in Covent Garden or the Nutricentre, which is staffed by experts who really have time to listen and treat you as an individual. Shona, the head nutritionist at The Nutricentre says, “ We always try and build up the whole picture behind a person presenting with chronic tiredness. The key is to find out if the person is slightly depleted in iron or severely deficient. So we look at the person’s diet, we look at the GP’s test results if they had them and then we’ll go for something like the Solgar Gentle Iron if we think they are slightly depleted or the Hema-Plex if it is more serious and they have their GP test results.”
Today, more and more people who are living high stress lives, and perhaps existing on convenience foods except extreme tiredness as a normal part of life. “It isn’t normal to feel exhausted all the time,” says Shona. “We are a lot of people, both men and women, who are really in a very poor state. There is a loss of libido, they appear very pale, miserable and really quite unwell. Please get help. Start by asking for an iron test and seek professional nutritional advice before you lapse into anaemia, and your body stops functioning.”
After lurching in and out of anaemia for three or four years and trying just about every form of nutritional iron supplement on the market, I finally found the help I needed after a very helpful conversation with a knowledgeable naturopath at Wholefoods in Piccadilly. She told me about Hemaplex – a food state iron complex, that is easy to tolerate, and offers 85 mg of nutritional iron per tablet. (This is only suitable if a doctor has diagnosed you with anaemia or high iron deficiency as it is very strong).
After more than six months on Hema-Plex, I feel like the old me again. The last time I had my blood tested, my levels had reached 25, which is a great improvement on 0. Now, I am looking forward to achieving a reading of 50 and enjoying making organic liver terrine and snacking on delicious unsulphured apricots, adding Linwoods Pumpkin Seed mix to my cereals and baking and drinking nettle tea to gain as much iron as I can through my food. I am also looking forward to meeting Mr Marcus Reddy, the leading surgeon and upper gastro intestinal specialist, I hope will use keyhole surgery, and a necklace of tiny magnets to repair the stomach hernia that has caused me pain and discomfort since I first came into the world and is the at the heart of my recurring anaemia. It is time for a new chapter where the only time I see red, is when it is the embellishment on a Dolce and Gabbana, form-fitting lace masterpiece!
Iron rich food:
Supplement for Iron Deficiency
The Story of Spatone
Iron is the mysterious mineral we cannot do without. It oxygenates our blood and imparts the vitality we need to perform countless, effortless tasks and to realize our greatest dreams every single day of our lives. And yet almost one in ten women experiences low iron levels at some point in their lives, robbing us of our joie de vivre. But let’s make one thing clear. Feeling tired all the time isn’t a state of being we should accept as normal. And yet the answer to low iron levels lies in a remarkable nature phenomenon that happens on the ancient crags of Wales’s most sacred, highest mountain, Snowdon, steeped in Arthurian legend, as Kings Arthur’s last resting place. For it is said that the mountain, an ancient volcano, moves, causing the iron pyrite in the rocks to break down, and then run off the mountain in a necklace of iron rich underground springs and streams.
This energetic water has been used and celebrated for millennia. Now it is available from the source as Spatone, one of nature’s great wonders. The appeal of this natural, iron rich mineral water is that the iron is highly absorbable, gentle on digestion, and that the taste of iron is pleasantly disguised by the addition of natural apple extract.
Legend says that the precious, iron water was first discovered by Roman soldiers from the XX Legion, who were stationed at Canovium, three miles north of the Trefriw, the site where the water filters off the mountain and comes to the surface through an ancient cave. In the 18th century the cave was excavated, and people started to bathe in the therapeutic waters for the first time. In 1833, Lord Willoughby de Eresby built the elegant Cyclopean Bath House. Forty years later a new fangled pump room and bathouse house followed and the spa became the place to promenade, bathe and take home a bottle of the therapeutic spa water. Soon the iron rich water was being mailed to customers in every corner of the globe from Nairobi to New York.
After briefly falling out of fashion in the fifties, when prescriptions became free under the NHS, the spa entered a new emerald age, when Nelson’s the famous homeopathic Pharmacy acquired the rights to draw and bottle the water. Today the distinctive orange and grey sachets, containing the iron rich water are known the world over as Spatone – the magical water from Snowdonia – the mountain fabled as Eryri – the place of the eagles. To buy Spatone iron rich mineral water at Holland and Barrett click here.
Visit Snowdon and Snowdonia
Snowdon, Snowdonia and North Wales is a far from the madding crowd, Ethical Hedonist place to visit for a sustainable, getaway from it all holiday or weekend break. Take the train from London, or elegant Chester, for a great train journey along a coast steeped in Victorian glamour and allure. You will find it unforgettable as your feast on medieval castles , Victorian seaside pleasure palaces and the Great Orms Head.
Bangor and Snowdonia – The Reason I Became an Organic Girl!
I first ventured there to study English at University College Bangor, as an undergraduate in the eighties. I fell in love with the slow food culture of farmers markets, food festivals, funny people in bright orange clothes and tramping the hills and bogs of Snowdonia, looking for signs of King Arthur and his men, with a very dashing archaeology professor, who always delivered spellbinding lectures in a black tie and a spotted bow tie, often in the middle of a boggy field! Then there was the extraordinary organic bakery, with the unpronounceable Welsh name, that baked the bestest Chelsea buns and sourdough bread ever, and inspired me to become an organic girl. In fact it changed my life. I wouldn’t be editing this magazine if I hadn’t found that the secret of great food is in the soil – don’t panic so long as it’s organic! Click here to find out more about magnificent Wales.
“Down and back at day dawn, Tramp from lake to lake, Washing brain and heart clean Every step we take. Leave to Robert Browning Beggars, fleas, and vines; Leave to mournful Ruskin Popish Apennines, Dirty stones of Venice, And his gas lamps seven, We’ve the stones of Snowdon And the lamps of heaven.” Charles Kingsley
Please note that this is not a paid for advertorial. This is an independent article written and researched by journalist and editor of this magazine Alison Jane Reid. We hope you find it inspiring, enlightening and informative. You can support the magazine by clicking on the links, if you wish to buy the iron supplements mentioned in the feature and comment piece. You can also support us on our crowdfunding platform on @patreon, or donate directly to the magazine paypal button on the homepage to show your appreciation and help fund our exciting, independent sustainable magazine – thank you.
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