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Iron Deficiency Anaemia

First of all, know the signs. You may have one or more of the following and if they are an ongoing issue, get a check up with your GP:

Feeling tired



Hair falling out

Pale skin

Muscle cramps

Irregular heart beat or chest pain


Cold hands and feet

Loss of appetite


Sore tongue


Strange cravings

Feeling itchy

Brittle nails

Poor diet, heavy periods, breastfeeding, pregnancy and a vigorous exercise regime may all contribute to iron deficiency anaemia, as will certain conditions and diseases such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.

Vitamin C and A improve absorption of non-heme iron. By that I mean, if you are eating a plant-based diet, make sure you are also eating plenty of brightly coloured vegetables, for example red, orange and green. A bell pepper has more vitamin C than an orange and sweet potato, spinach and carrots are high in βeta-carotene (provitamin A). Carotenoids are inefficiently converted by the body, into retinol (vitamin A), sometimes as little as 24:1, which could be why liver was traditionally prescribed for anaemia. Not only is liver high in iron but is also the best dietary source of retinol.

The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for Vitamin C, for most adults, is 40mg/d. And it is claimed that this may be obtained from diet alone. However, heat and prolonged storage destroys it: how long has that pepper been knocking around in the fridge? How long after picking, did it land on your plate? Do you boil vegetables in lots of water? There is also an ongoing argument about whether soil depletion reduces vitamin levels. With all these factors in mind, you may wish to consider a vitamin C supplement.

You could also consider soaking or fermenting wholegrains, nuts, seeds, and legumes to neutralise the anti-nutrient properties, such as phytates that block iron absorption.

Try not to drink tea or coffee immediately after your meal and instead, drink between meals. This is because the beneficial polyphenols (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds), present in tea and coffee, also reduce iron absorption.

A word of caution though. More is not necessarily better, particularly with iron. Only supplement if you have iron deficiency anaemia, or if advised to by your health care practitioner. Excessive iron levels may cause serious health issues. If you do need to supplement and find ferrous sulfate causes unpleasant gut issues, you could try swapping to iron bisglycinate, which is generally more tolerable.

Hope this is helpful?

Until next time,

Ali x