When I went home, I took the time to meet with my Doctor. Even without health coverage in France, an appointment with her and the blood test she requested for a complete check up where less than what it would have been in the US (free for me in fact because my grandmother and dad were not going to let me drop a penny).
While I’m overall healthy with a great BMI of 21.1, only 18.8% of fat and pretty much everything good there were two issues that came up through the blood tests.
#1 My Iron Bank levels are really low: 16.1
While the reference levels are 11-158, my doctor would like to see me at least at 40. Heck last time I was at 40 (2006) she had me take iron supplements. Women need around 18mg/day. I eat a pescatarian diet (fish, dairy, eggs) which means no read meat. And guess what? That’s where you find not only the most iron but also the one that is absorbed best.
Now being a runner (and mostly vegetarian) probably has a lot to do with this. This great little article Running and Rusting explains how runners have more blood hence the iron is more diluted. Foot strike hemolysis aka the break down of red cells when the foot hit the ground is also to blame. So being a runner doesn’t help and yet we need iron even more. Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin, hemoglobin carries oxygen and we all know how lack of oxygen in the muscles feels.
Right now I am on iron supplements to boost things up a little. Ultimately I’d like to be off of supplements and just obtain it through my diet. So I’ve started looking into what I can eat to improve iron sources and absorption in my diet.
- Avoid tea (or coffee) and calcium along with iron intake because they lower the absorption of iron. So my cup of tea has to been taken out of meal time, same for dairy.
- Take a source of vitamin C which helps with iron absorption during meals: hello fruit and citrus.
- Add iron rich foods to my diet: canned sardines (10% of my need for 2oz), molasses (1 Tbsp=15%) (do you think molasses cookies count?), dulse flakes (1 Tbsp=14%), an egg every morning (5%/egg), use the cast iron pan.
#2 My thyroid is working too much. That is likely due to both lack of iron and lack of iodine in my diet.
Iodine is necessary in the function of the thyroid. The thyroid controls the metabolism and regulate hormones. Adults need about 150mcg/day but shouldn’t take more than 1,100 mcg (it becomes toxic over a certain amount).
I realized that the salts we have at home do not have iodine. A lot of table salts contains iodine because it’s one of the only ways to have it unless you live by the sea and breathe it every day. I have been prescribed with supplements for the time being, but again I don’t plan to live on supplements.
Solution: Eat Dulse Flakes which contain 173% of my needs per Tbsp. All I do is sprinkle a little on my salads and voila!
I am thankful that I have not felt the effects of low iron and iodine yet. But I don’t want to let it go to that point so it’s important for me to take steps now. I’m even considering having red meat maybe once a week to help with the iron.
Have you ever dealt with low iron and/or iodine, what did you do to help?