Whenever I tell people that I raised my iron levels by taking away meat and replacing it with plants, they say something like “Isn’t that the opposite way to raise your iron?!” ….and the answer is no! 🙂
**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or trained in nutritional science. What I write is only based on my personal experience and is not written to issue medical advice. However, if you want to try what worked for me, that’s up to you!**
I have a medical history full of strange occurrences. Random allergic reactions of indeterminate causes, low platelet count in my blood, and, most notably, several occurrences of…well, there isn’t really a medical term for the incidents that I have had. Here’s what normally happens:
It’s the middle of my menstrual cycle. I’m feeling good, waking up early to start on chores or get ready for work. I have a large glass of water and some fruit for breakfast…and then suddenly, I get a stab of searingly painful cramps. That’s the normal part- then I get hit with nausea, loss of vision, diarrhea, and then finally : all the muscles in my body seize up and are unable to move. My hands cramp up and close, my face and chest become totally numb, as well as my legs and feet. Even my tongue cramps up and becomes stiff. This ordeal normally lasts for 3-4 hours.
These incidents started happening to me 5 years ago. After several emergency trips and ER doctors disregarding all my symptoms as just “caused by hyperventilation” (which wasn’t what was happening), a nice holistic doctor in town suggested that it might be an iron deficiency that was shutting down my circulation. I got a blood test and my iron saturation was at a 14. Healthy range is 15-55, so I wasn’t terribly low. Still, I decided I would do my best to raise it.
My normal daily diet at that point was a lot of lean meats like turkey and chicken, eggs, root vegetables, and minimal grains. I was eating mostly Paleo.
Upon finding out that my iron needed help, I took the advice of medical professionals and friends who said that eating more beef would fix my iron issues. I began eating grass-fed beef most days of the week for months in hope that things were getting better. I ate burgers during all of my periods, thinking that it would help keep my iron up. Each time that my menstrual cycle came around, the pain just teetered on the edge of causing all of those terrible symptoms again.
6 months of trying to fix my iron with meat ended up putting me in the hospital again- with the EMTs and ER doctor worried that I might have heart problems.
I went home that day knowing I had to change everything about the way I ate. Meat was out of my daily diet from then on- with the exception of special occasions. I began making a raw cacao banana bread for my breakfasts, and eating simple fare of beans and potatoes on a big pile of spinach (1-2 cups for each lunch and each dinner). It wasn’t too difficult because I’ve always liked eating plants better than eating animals.
10 days after being in the hospital, 10 days eating mostly plants, 10 days with no animal iron in my blood stream… I had my blood tested and my iron saturation was at 41! 🙂 That was also 10 days that I stayed away from iron supplements because I wanted to see how much power my food had over my health.
Here’s a little breakdown of the iron content of the three little foods that I based my whole diet around:
Black beans: 16 mg per cup
Spinach: About 1 mg per cup raw, 6 mg if boiled!
Cacao nibs (raw): 0.7 mg per tablespoon
Now the funny thing is that my incidents didn’t actually correlate with my iron at all…but either way, I have high iron regularly now and that’s good! 😀 Haha.
I am in the process of cracking the code of the numbness in my whole body…but in the meantime, veganism has at least staved it off for all but one menstrual cycle in the last 7 months! ^_^