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Female Runners & Anemia

Over the past few years I have had occasional bouts of low ferritin stores and/or anemia.  Historically I don’t do well with iron supplements, so I try to focus on getting my iron from the foods that I eat.  Those with Celiac Disease can be at risk for anemia, in addition to women being at higher risk due to heavy menstruation.  During my physical last fall I discovered that my ferritin stores were once again low.  This time they weren’t below normal, but they were at the very bottom side of normal.  This concerned my physician because he said they see a higher incidence of stress fractures in women with low/normal ferritin stores.  Crap!  I have been down that path and I don’t want to go down it again

I immediately began taking an iron supplement, one that was previously okay with my stomach, only to find out that it was causing diarrhea.  After consulting with my physician, we agreed to try a diet full of iron-rich foods for 2 months and then recheck my blood work.  In addition to eating more read meat, I added in more beans and citrus with my spinach salads, tried tofu stir-fries and did all of the above consistently.  Where I had been in the habit of getting only protein or beans at Chipotle, I began getting steak and black beans.  I added raisins to every salad.  I really worked hard to avoid having to take supplements that were sure to make me sick.

The results are in…

November 2012:

January 2013:

  • Ferritin – 16
  • Hematocrit – 41.8
  • Hemoglobin – 13.9

Now the key is maintaining that improvement.  I should send myself a reminder with a link to this post to read once a week so that I keep on top of it. 

Have you ever been anemic?  What are some of your favorite iron-rich foods?

6 comments to Female Runners & Anemia

  • Hillary

    I have suffered from low ferritin on and off too. My last blood work was 21. I take a natural liquid supplement called Floravit. It is gluten-free and yeast-free. I have taken it in the past, even while I was pregnant and swear by it. It does not cause constipation or diahrea.

  • pdw

    I was always borderline anemic until I went vegetarian! Since then (20 years), I have been good. I could never take iron supplements either, they killed my stomach.

    Some tips

    - cook in cast iron, especially with acidic foods (like tomatoes)
    - eat vitamin C rich foods with iron rich foods to assist absorption
    - high oxalate greens are not good sources of iron, as the oxalates bind the iron
    - take any mineral supplements (calcium, for example) at a different time of day than your iron rich foods

  • I have suffered with anemia on and off since I got sick. Right now I have to take iron supplements as well as folic acid to help my red blood cells. I like to eat greens, but have to be careful with (believe it or not) 'overdoing' it on those now with my blood thinner -what a mess, right?! Great post and tips that I will keep as a resource for when I can eat more normally again. Thanks for the suggestions!

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