Author: Christine Howell, Geelong and Kimberly Orbons, Naturopath, Adelaide 9th September 2016
Did you know that simply boosting your iron stores can have a huge impact on how your thyroid functions? There are many ways you can improve your iron levels to get you feeling better. Iron is essential for the production and regulation of thyroid hormones.
Lacking oxygen for cellular metabolism is the number one effect of this deficiency on hypothyroidism. Your Free T3 Thyroid hormones cannot produce much cellular energy if we do not have optimal ferritin, which is the iron stores within our cells. Not to mention the effects such as poor circulation and fatigue that iron deficiency causes, a double whammy for those already suffering hypothyroidism states. Iron deficiency impairs thyroid hormone synthesis by reducing activity of heme-dependent thyroid peroxidase (the enzyme for building your metabolism!). Iron-deficiency & anemia decreases your metabolism and iron supplementation improves it.
**RDI (recommended dietary intake, for women 19 – 50yrs =18 mg and women 51+ yrs = 8mg daily). Keep in mind that our bodies absorb only a small quantity of iron from heme iron sources ( e.g meats /seafood’s) and even less from plant based iron foods(e.g. spinach, dark leafy greens).
#1. Stop drinking tea, coffee and green tea with your iron supplement or iron rich foods, the caffeine competes for iron absorption. Also avoid tannin rich teas such as peppermint and chamomile…yes , they also interfere with absorption. Tannins are also high in some wines, particularly red, and some herbal liquids too. The astringent nature of tannins tightens blood vessels in the bowel causing constipation and bowel irritability. Talk to your naturopath, as stopping these things altogether may be more advising them than just a different time of day to your iron supplement.
#2. Get yourself some blackstrap molasses. Take 1 tbsp. daily, away from food and drinks, to boost levels further. This superfood contains up to 36.3% of daily iron, 34% of daily calcium, 34% of daily magnesium, 23% of daily potassium per 35g serve (1Tbsp)!!! It is still approximately 60% sugar, but its raw unprocessed so still even low GI than rapadura or coconut sugar. Use as a sugar substitute in baking, replace sugar in stews and sauces, and for constipation patients (a common severe issue for hypothyroidism, which decreases iron stores further!) use it to sweeten liquorice tea daily which will sooth the gut as well and nourishing you. Read more about digestive health here.
#3. Eat more regular amounts in the way of animal meat products (esp red meats)… these are richer sources of iron than plant based forms. Having a regular size portion with meals and snacks will be better than a very large steak at night. Eg eggs with breakfast, turkey lettuce rolls as a snack, and meat in your salad wrap at lunch.
#4. Consume Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits and bright coloured vegies with your iron to enhance absorption. These are often also high in Vitamin A, bio flavonoids and lutein which are handy for healthy metabolism. Green and red veg and fruit in every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner is recommended. Want to know about diet superfoods? Have a good read here.
#5. Reduce wholegrains with iron consumption, as the phytates and fibres decrease the absorption. Alternatively, pre-soak grains, sprout your grains, or cook grains with a little apple cider vinegar to combat this. It’s medically considered ‘normal’ to find lower RBC iron and ferritin in menstruating women than in men of the same age. So you may need to tailor grains and dietary intake on your plates a little differently to others in your household.
#6. Do not take calcium or zinc supplements at the same time as your iron. These minerals compete for intestinal absorption. Food grade doses for the RDI are easily absorbed together, but higher doses means for receptors are taken up. Separating these supplements to a different time of day will increase there therapeutic effects. Also, avoid high dose ferrous fumarate iron supplements from your pharmacy. These doses are far too high, and the residual iron left in the bow causes further constipation and blocking other dietary minerals.
#7. Take a good quality iron supplement from your health food store or health practitioner. These brands are usually far superior as they are bioavailable for the cells to use. There are liquids, capsules, and tablets, or you can add iron to your prescription compounding which is quite costs effective (if it doesn’t already contain the competing nutrients) and as above, avoid high dose ferrous fumarate iron supplements.
#8. Get tested to see if you have parasites or intestinal worms. These drastically affect iron absorption. Rid your body of these to restore your iron levels. The same may be observed by gut dysbiosis and candida infections. Learn more about the difference between bloating and belly fat.
#9. During an acute infection, check with your naturopath if you can stop your iron for that week. Invading pathogens love to eat all that yummy iron up (hence why in inflammation& infection affect your ferritin readings). Continuing iron supps during an infection may worsen those symptoms. If you are a regular blood donor, think about taking a 3 month break from donating so that you can regenerate your iron stores back up again. Also, have a close look at your inflammation levels, these readings affect your iron stores. Ferritin is the name of the major iron storage protein of the body. We test both ferritin and iron levels which is more effective assessment because ferritin levels will drop before anemia or red blood cell abnormality occurs
“Increased ferritin levels can indicate inflammation, liver dysfunction and oxidative stress. I have seen ferritin levels increase with viral infections or colds, and will query this with patients if their ferritin is very high. Also consider hemochromatosis, the hereditary iron disorder.”
– LUCY HERRON, Founder & CEO of The Lucy Rose Clinic
#10. Eating lots of pre packaged foods and junk foods will really limit your iron intake. Eat decent healthy nutritious meals you have prepared yourself to ensure the best possible chance of boosting your iron levels. This also includes fortified foods: after processing some manufacturers add back in a few key nutrients. Makes them look healthier on the labels… Right? But the added forms of nutrients are often different to the naturally occurring ones. Processing food will also strip naturally occurring cofactors, reducing absorption, storage and efficacy of your dietary intake.
Refer to your personal treatment plans by your health practitioner, and ask them for hep, meals suggestions and tips making these changes. Odds are, if you are struggling with any of the above, they are probably the reason you ended up deficient in the first place. So correcting these where possible will ensure that after your deficiency is addressed we can stop the problem coming back! Now THAT’S achieving good health!!!
At The Lucy Rose Clinic, we recommend specific Thyroid screening, functional testing, dietary and lifestyle advice. If you need more support for your health please call 1300 THYROID and make a booking, or download the free ebook from our website.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dip of Applied Science (Naturopathy), Southern School of Natural Therapies
Christine gained her qualifications as a naturopath over 20 years ago and over this time has developed a love and passion for hormone management. Having specialized in children’s health, mental health issues and hormonal imbalances for a number of years, Christine is aware of the importance of good nutrition and supportive natural medicines to help achieve optimal health. Naturopathy has so much to offer, especially with thyroid conditions that can be vastly improved through better nutrition and using an integrated approach to improve overall well being. Her lifelong dedication has always been about educating people to live healthier and happier lifestyles. She has experienced firsthand the importance of good sound advice and knowledge for patients. In her retail consulting experience, so often people of the public are so misguided or mislead with information they have read or what they thought someone had told them: “Focusing on individualized treatment plans, is the key step to unlocking the burden of unwanted/ troublesome symptoms.”
Adv Dip Naturopathy, Adv Dip Western Herbal Medicine
Head Naturopath Kimberly Orbons is passionate about encouraging and empowering each person to facilitate their own good health with Nutrition, Herbal Medicine and preventative lifestyle management. Using a combination of diagnostics and symptomatology to identify the different metabolic processes contributing to disease allows her to treat the root or cause of poor health, providing relief of symptoms and long term recovery.
Kimberly believes it is extremely important to build a personalized healing plan, taking all the complexities of a patient’s health and illness into consideration. Her consults have a strong focus on client care and treating each patient as an individual, and may therefore co-ordinate with other medical treatments. The goal is to establish each patient’s ability to live in the best possible state of health, naturally. Her mentors in clinical practice include Founder Lucy Herron, Dr. David Brownstein, Naturopath Angela Hywood and Dr. Sarah Wine. Since achieving her qualifications in 2007 she has extensive clinical experience, and also 3 years managing the natural health sections and seminar within pharmacy.
Kimberly works closely with our CEO Lizzy Herron, our naturopathic consultants and all The Lucy Rose clinical staff to ensure our patients are provided with the best and most up to date health services and quality health advice. She has actively contributed to our online media, patient guidelines, patient support and informational services for the past 3 years and enjoys providing excellent free to access health data to patients across Australia daily.
Recommended Reading & References
Hurrell R, Egli I. 2000. ‘Iron bioavailability and Dietary Reference Values’. The American Journal of Cliniical Nutrition. Vol 91. No.5
Byrd-Bredbenner, C. 2007. Wardlaws Perspectives in Nutrition. 8th ed. p536-541.