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  • iron deficiency

    to give you some background - 22/female/diagnosed with PCOS&insulin resistance when I was 19. Since then, I have broken a lot of my unhealthy habits and have my hormones under control -- recent blood test results show normal testosterone levels. BUT, my hair loss is still a problem--it's not falling out so much now that I have started using henna regularly and stopped doing protein treatments (what a mistake!), but it is still very thin on top. I finally found a doctor (a dermatologist) who tested ferritin levels instead of telling me that my hair loss was just because of stress. And he found very low iron stores - my ferritin level is 9, when it should be at least 40 for regrowth.

    This doctor prescribed ferrex 150+, which would be 150mg of iron daily for the first week and then two a day for 300mg daily after that -- but it isn't covered by my insurance, and costs more than I am willing to pay for it in the future again. Does anyone have any recommendations of an iron supplement to take that would be cheaper and just as effective at bringing iron stores up quickly? I'm guessing that one advantage of getting the prescription supplement from the pharmacy would be that I can trust that it actually contains what it's supposed to, as opposed to otc supplements.

    I do eat red meat--beef and lamb--but I guess not enough! I'm guessing I've always had an iron deficiency, since I've always had heavy periods and never ate beef growing up. I know that a lot of people have an anti-supplement stance because they feel that we should be getting our nutrition from food. I wish I weren't taking so many supplements, but right now I care more about regrowing my hair quickly, and would find it difficult to consume enough iron to do that through meat every day. I wonder, though, whether there's something going on that's hindering iron absorption from food? Does anyone have any experience with this? Could it be a gluten/leaky gut thing?

    As a side note -- yesterday I was visiting a friend who has almost waist-length curly hair, and I witnessed her treating it in the most horrific way. She was pulling on it with a flat iron, and using one of those plastic brushes with the little nubs on the end to brush her hair, also pulling at it as she did so. I don't know if any of the ladies here will be able to relate, but after trying to incorporate more gentle, natural hair care after having hair issues, it's so sad to see seemingly healthy young women treating their hair (and bodies in general) in the most unhealthy ways.

  • #2
    I will take a Floravital Liquid supplement when I feel run down. I've been prone to being anemic my entire life, so I need to watch myself really closely. I usually go by how the insides of my eyelids look - just pull down, if it looks like chicken flesh, youre anemic, if its nice an red and veiny, you're good.

    Many women just need to supplement during their periods. Also, I've read that many women just cannot absorb enough iron from their diet, regardless of how much damn spinach you eat!

    What also helps is making sure I take a LOT of b12, I need to take at least 5K, sublingual tabs per day, B12 is very important in the whole process. I made the mistake of buying a tablet brand which was half the dose (didn't notice it!) and within a few weeks I felt it badly, it took me another week or so to build the stores back up.

    Jen
    SW: 235
    CW:220
    Rough start due to major carb WD.

    MWF: 1 hour run/walk, 1.5 hours in the gym - upper/lower and core
    Sat/Sun=Yard/house work, chasing kids, playing
    Family walk every night instead of everyone vegging in front of the TV
    Personal trainer to build muscle mass & to help meet goals

    Comment


    • #3
      Liver is a good source of iron (and also delicious). When I was iron deficient, (my ferritin was 12 I think) my doctor prescribed ferrous sulfate. Apparently it can cause constipation in some, but I tolerated it pretty well and it got my iron back up in to the normal range. It's very affordable though.

      I'm not sure about the absorption part. I guess you could get a stool test to see if you're passing the iron out in high levels, maybe. I'm not even sure if that's a standard offered test. Or if you know that your digestion is bad, maybe try an elimination diet until it improves. I hope you get to feeling more healthy!

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      • #4
        Second the liver (but not overloading or you will get too much vit A!) and Florvital or Floradix. I take the Floradix tablets --cheap at iherb.
        Ancestral Nutrition Coaching
        Pregnancy Nutrition Coaching
        Primal Pregnancy Nutrition Article

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        • #5
          Get a cast iron pan too, and make sure you cook acidic things in it like tomato-based dishes. Fixed my son's anemia when he was 1 year old, and helped fix my mild anemia a few months ago (along with some Floradix liquid, which is rather expensive unfortunately).
          Liz.

          Zone diet on and off for several years....worked, but too much focus on exact meal composition
          Primal since July 2010...skinniest I've ever been and the least stressed about food

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          • #6
            Yes, it could DEFINITELY be related to leaky gut and I'm willing to bet that your PCOS and low ferritin are also connected to autoimmune thyroid issues. People with thyroid issues have notoriously low ferritin levels (I did!) They often have enlarged red blood cells, too (macrocytic anemia).
            Have you ever had your thyroid antibodies tested? Usually, when you're eating well and your ferritin is still low, there's an autoimmune factor involved.

            Please check out the practitioners at http://www.thyroidbook.com/practitioner-locator.html
            They are trained to deal with PCOS, autoimmune conditions and nutrition. If there's no one near you, many of them will work distance and order bloodwork that you can have done at any lab that does blood draws.

            Here's an iron that's popular with people w/ low ferritin. I took it for a long time and although I didn't have my ferritin levels retested, I felt like it gave me more energy, which is a good sign:
            http://www.iherb.com/Enzymatic-Thera...gels/2208?at=0

            For hair loss, I've found fo-ti (he shou wu) to be extremely helpful! It usually takes about a month to stop losing hair and then it will slowly grow back. Extra biotin and silica (Biosil brand) couldn't hurt either!
            http://www.prettyinprimal.blogspot.com

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            • #7
              Beets are rich in iron and are said to be good against anemia:

              http://www.shedyourweight.com/the_he..._red_beet.html

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              • #8
                Thanks for the advice everyone -- I've had chicken liver before but not beef liver. Any tips on how to cook it??

                hazyjane - My blood cell counts are fine, except for a really high platelet count, which has been constant over the past few years. No doctor ever questioned it, and I only looked into it recently and found out it could be due to low iron stores. I'm not anemic but I do have low iron stores. I had my TSH level tested twice in the past few months, but not T3 or T4 or antibodies, because both doctors (PCP and endo) said that the TSH level was normal. To be honest, I'm scared to get a definitive diagnosis of having thyroid issues, too, in addition to hormonal and nutritional problems. I get frustrated and depressed going to see doctors and having them treat me like I'm a hypochondriac. And I don't know that it would make a difference in terms of how I eat/exercise/live... except now I'm going to be more strict about being gluten-free. The other thing is, this dermatologist said he'd check ferritin levels again in a few months, and I suppose if the iron stores aren't higher by then, he will test those other things. He's been the most helpful of all the doctors I've been to in the past few months.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by imasin View Post
                  Thanks for the advice everyone -- I've had chicken liver before but not beef liver. Any tips on how to cook it??

                  hazyjane - My blood cell counts are fine, except for a really high platelet count, which has been constant over the past few years. No doctor ever questioned it, and I only looked into it recently and found out it could be due to low iron stores. I'm not anemic but I do have low iron stores. I had my TSH level tested twice in the past few months, but not T3 or T4 or antibodies, because both doctors (PCP and endo) said that the TSH level was normal. To be honest, I'm scared to get a definitive diagnosis of having thyroid issues, too, in addition to hormonal and nutritional problems. I get frustrated and depressed going to see doctors and having them treat me like I'm a hypochondriac. And I don't know that it would make a difference in terms of how I eat/exercise/live... except now I'm going to be more strict about being gluten-free. The other thing is, this dermatologist said he'd check ferritin levels again in a few months, and I suppose if the iron stores aren't higher by then, he will test those other things. He's been the most helpful of all the doctors I've been to in the past few months.
                  TSH doesn't mean anything when it comes to autoimmune stuff- my TSH has always comes back normal, yet I can be freezing, no energy, losing handfuls of hair, etc... The reason your docs didn't want to test your antibodies is because it's considered an medically unnecessary test (meaning that a diagnosis doesn't change the treatment in conventional medicine) and the insurance companies dissuade them from using those tests because it costs them more.
                  However, positive antibodies absolutely change the treatment in "functional endocrinology" and you don't usually need to treat it with nay prescription meds.

                  I had the same thing as you- normal iron but low ferritin.
                  The thing about the thyroid thing is that it can be the cause of most of your endocrine problems (with the immune system being the cause of the thyroid problems!)
                  I know it sounds scary, but it's actually less scary when you finally understand what's going on and how to treat it. It's also less scary when you realize that the immune system could be the underlying cause of all of this so that instead of thinking that you have ALL these different issues, you realize that it's really just ONE issue causing all these different problems. Does that make sense?

                  There's also the chance that your hormones are causing receptor site resistance for thyroid hormones (common w/ PCOS) and someone trained in functional endocrinology can figure out what to do for that patter of symptoms.

                  I'm being treated without any meds and I'm getting good results I just want to encourage you that it's not as scary as it seems right now. At first, I was freaked out, but I did my research, started the protocol my holistic doc gave me (which is pretty simple, actually), then I started feeling better and each month, my health falls a little more into place I lost weight, stopped losing hair, started having more energy and my hormone levels are starting to improve.

                  I wish I had discovered this years ago- I could have saved a lot of time and money that I spent going in circles trying to fix my endocrine system!!
                  http://www.prettyinprimal.blogspot.com

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                  • #10
                    hazyjane - thank you for all the information! I have a few more questions - how is the immune system the cause of all this? What kind of trigger would there be? And what is your treatment plan/protocol?

                    I have some genetically inherited autoimmune issues-- tuberous sclerosis complex (benign tumors growing under the skin or on the internal organs), and seborrheic keratoses (really tiny spots on the face, common in dark-skinned people)-- and I'm wondering if it's related to thyroid issues at all.

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                    • #11
                      In addition to thyroid issues those symptoms are also very commonly caused by gluten intolerance. Have you tried going gluten free for half a year yet? Anyone with PCOS should. Actually considering that you have additional autoimmune conditions you absolutely need to try gluten free for an extended amount of time. The longer a gluten intolerance goes untreated the more autoimmune conditions you become at risk for, and since gluten intolerance is a genetic condition the associated autoimmune problems are often seen as hereditary as well.
                      "You can demonstrate the purpose and limits of human digestion with a simple experiment: eat a steak with some whole corn kernels, and see what comes out the other end. It won’t be the steak."
                      -J.Stanton

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ProtoAlex View Post
                        In addition to thyroid issues those symptoms are also very commonly caused by gluten intolerance. Have you tried going gluten free for half a year yet? Anyone with PCOS should. Actually considering that you have additional autoimmune conditions you absolutely need to try gluten free for an extended amount of time. The longer a gluten intolerance goes untreated the more autoimmune conditions you become at risk for, and since gluten intolerance is a genetic condition the associated autoimmune problems are often seen as hereditary as well.
                        And indeed gluten can cause autoimmune thyroid issues. I would suggest going 100% gluten free (no cheating, even a tiny bit every now and then can sustain gut damage, inflammation, autoimmune issues etc), in fact I would suggest 100% grain free if possible. All grains contain gluten like peptides, I for one react to corn and ( gluten free) oats with the same symptoms as I get from gluten. I didn't see whether you eat dairy but going casein free could also be helpful, casein intolerance often goes hand in hand with gluten issues and that would help the gut heal. Gluten, dairy, sugar, are the big three IMO.

                        But then I'd suggest going gluten, sugar and casein free to everyone lol.

                        And yeah as someone with long curly hair which I treat with the utmost of care, I am wincing!
                        Gluten intolerance and hypermobility syndrome http://www.cfids.org/pdf/joint-hypermobility-guide.pdf

                        Eat food. Mostly real. Enjoy life.

                        Health, energy, wellbeing, vitality, joy, LIFE! Health At Every Size

                        "Do not ask what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
                        Harold Whitman

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by hazyjane View Post
                          Yes, it could DEFINITELY be related to leaky gut and I'm willing to bet that your PCOS and low ferritin are also connected to autoimmune thyroid issues. People with thyroid issues have notoriously low ferritin levels (I did!) They often have enlarged red blood cells, too (macrocytic anemia).!
                          WOAH! This is the first I've heard of a connection between anemia & PCOS. I've had my thyroid tested (when I demanded it back in 1998 when I suspected I had PCOS) and it was all negative. I finally got a diagnosis of PCOS in 2006. But apparently I'm no longer PCOS after having my 2nd kid (yet here I sit, still very overweight, struggling with energy issues, always COLD etc etc).
                          SW: 235
                          CW:220
                          Rough start due to major carb WD.

                          MWF: 1 hour run/walk, 1.5 hours in the gym - upper/lower and core
                          Sat/Sun=Yard/house work, chasing kids, playing
                          Family walk every night instead of everyone vegging in front of the TV
                          Personal trainer to build muscle mass & to help meet goals

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by imasin View Post
                            hazyjane - thank you for all the information! I have a few more questions - how is the immune system the cause of all this? What kind of trigger would there be? And what is your treatment plan/protocol?

                            I have some genetically inherited autoimmune issues-- tuberous sclerosis complex (benign tumors growing under the skin or on the internal organs), and seborrheic keratoses (really tiny spots on the face, common in dark-skinned people)-- and I'm wondering if it's related to thyroid issues at all.
                            Gluten intolerance is the main cause of autoimmune thyroid problems (with antigens also being a possible factor) and it's often a genetic intolerance (as opposed to a leaky gut-induced intolerance).
                            What happens is that the immune system, as it is attacking the gluten molecules, also attacks TPO molecules (which it mistakes for gluten), destroying thyroid tissue in the process. The thyroid then begins to function less optimally.

                            All our cells respond to thyroid hormones, so problems with thyroid hormones can be far reaching and cause all kinds of seemingly unrelated symptoms.
                            We also have to remember that there will be leaky gut (and likely a leaky brain barrier) from gluten exposure in intolerant individuals, so the leaky gut, in and of itself, is going to cause a lot of disparate symptoms- everything from skin issues, allergies, inflammation, mental issues, etc, so that could manifest in many different ways.

                            As far as the PCOS goes, I don't know exactly how it ties in, but it's been found that a large % of sufferers also have Hashimoto's. Same thing with a bunch of other autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Antiphospholipid Syndrome, Sjogren's Syndrome and Raynaud's. They tend to be interconnected, since they all share the same cause- the immune system.

                            My treatment protocol involves modulating the immune system with high dose D3, fish oil, probiotics and glutathione/SOD topical cream.
                            It also involves down-regulating the TH1 immune pathway (most Hashi's people are TH1 dominant- but not all) by avoiding TH1 stimulators (echinacea, astragalus, licorice, medicinal mushrooms, beta glucan) and activating the opposite immune pathway (Th2) using a TH2 stimulator antioxidant formula containing green tea, resveratrol, pine bark and grape seed.) Like balancing a see saw.
                            I also take colostrum to stimulate T suppressor cels, which modulate both pathways (colostrum is also a great immune builder and gut healer).

                            It also involves being strictly gluten free and avoiding cross-contamination (if I go out to eat, I take gluten enzymes with me in case f exposure, but I mostly only eat out where I know the kitchen staff is properly trained) Gluten exposure can cause a cytokine storm lasting for months, so it's important for me not to cheat and to be very careful!

                            It's not a complicated regimen, as I was already taking the D, probiotics and fish oil. It just meant adding the TH2 formula, colostrum and glutathione cream.

                            The only time I've had flare-ups has been after getting a virus, when my immune system was challenged and overreacted. Otherwise, I feel a lot better- my hair doesn't fall out, I have more energy, way less brain fog, easier to lose weight I had gained from the Hashi's, etc.
                            http://www.prettyinprimal.blogspot.com

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                            • #15
                              *processing everything*

                              I've tried going gluten-free for 30 days straight before but ate wheat partway through, at work or social events, so although I didn't eat much, I was never completely gluten-free for an extended period of time. I'm on the third day of attempting 30 days straight again right now. Except now with the knowledge of these autoimmune issues tied to iron malabsorption, I'm definitely going to be stricter.

                              So testing TSH/T3/T4 sheds no light on whether someone has Hashimoto's or not? They would have to test for thyroid antibodies?

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