“Doc, I’ve been anemic for a long time. No matter how much I try to eat leafy green vegetables and take my iron supplements, my labs still show I’m anemic. So, why aren’t my iron supplements fixing my anemia?” I get this question from patients all the time especially from women who are more frequently anemic because of menstruation. It can happen when there is heavy bleeding. A lot of these women have been advised to add iron to their diet. Clinically, when I’m working with patients who have been adding a lot of iron but are still anemic, I look at labs to see what is happening. I often see on their blood panel that they don’t have all the constituents to fix their anemia. Taking iron supplements alone isn’t a guarantee to fix your anemia.
Wait, but you were told it would? Here’s the thing: you can have plenty of iron and still be anemic. By the way, you can also be iron deficient and not be anemic. Anemia is a condition where your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin helps your blood transport oxygen. If you don’t have it, you are often going to be pale and tired.
Symptoms of anemia:
- Foggy brain
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Racing or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
Why Do They Recommend Iron for Anemia?
Why did my doctor recommend iron if I need hemoglobin? Iron is a key constituent of hemoglobin, and it’s estimated that 37% of women worldwide are iron deficient. It makes sense to recommend iron. But there is more to hemoglobin then just iron. I say this all the time, people aren’t getting enough greens. What’s the problem with that? Those leafy greens can help make hemoglobin. If you have iron, but not the other components, your body isn’t going to be able to produce it.
What’s a good source of those hemoglobin components? Plant chlorophyll. It is very chemically similar to hemoglobin. Chlorophyll is almost like the blood of a plant, and it has so many of the key components we need to produce our red blood cells. In the image below, you can see hemoglobin next to plant chlorophyll. The hemoglobin is built around the iron molecule while chlorophyll is built around magnesium. Look how similar they are! You could almost pop the magnesium out of the middle of that plant chlorophyll and pop in iron to have hemoglobin.
How to Easily Improve Your Anemia
If you are taking whole food iron, or a synthetic iron supplement, it can be hard to have good hemoglobin levels if you don’t have all of the constituents to make it. When a person is just taking iron, they are relying on their body to have all of the other molecules. We can feed the body the constituents it needs! You can add wheat grass or leafy greens, like kale, to your diet. I always recommend whole foods first, but you can also supplement with chlorophyll. If you combine iron and chlorophyll you have a much higher chance of producing red blood cells, hemoglobin at a very high rate.
So, if you are suffering from anemia and wondering, “why aren’t my iron supplements fixing my anemia,” then you might find out you are missing out on greens. You can make sure you are getting those leafy greens or you can supplement with chlorophyll directly. It’s important to know how to take care of yourself with so much misinformation out there. My advice is simple, combine chlorophyll with your increased iron and your next lab will likely show proper hemoglobin levels.
Written By Dr. Patrick Flynn
Dr. Patrick talks about iron and anemia in this short video: