Iron is without a doubt essential to our health, it has several roles in the body. Iron is needed production of red blood cells and facilitates the transport of oxygen around the body. Iron is also involved in the immune system function, production of enzymes and the conversion of blood sugar to energy.
Deficiency or suboptimal iron are very often touted as one of the downfalls of plant-based (vegan) diets. From my clinical experience I can say vegans are no more likely to suffer with iron deficiency than meat eaters.
It is true that haem-iron from meat is easier for the human body to absorb thus making it, in theory, easier to have healthy iron levels if you include meat in your diet. Saying that there is no reason while you shouldn’t get the iron you need from a plant based diet. All that’s required is a little bit of knowledge and planning.

There are many underlying causes such as inadequate diet, impaired absorption, late stage pregnancy and heavy periods can all contribute to low iron levels. There are several chronic conditions (i.e. Crohn’s disease) and medications (i.e. Proton Pump Inhibitors such as Omeprazol) that are associated with decreased absorption of iron.

What you drink and eat can interfere with absorption even if you are otherwise healthy. Calcium, oxalates (found in green leafy veg, beetroot, nuts, wheat bran and other foods), polyphenols (tea and coffee) and phytates (legumes, seeds and whole grains) are all known to reduce the absorption of iron. Fermentation, soaking, and boiling beans and grains all reduce phytates and oxalates. Drinking your tea and coffee away from main meals is also advisable.

Vitamin C on the other hand increases the absorption of iron from non-hame iron by two to three fold. Anybody following a healthy plant based diet should have plenty good sources of Vitamin C in their diet. Having a fresh salad with lemon dressing alongside an iron rich meal or some fruit for dessert are great strategies.

Iron deficiency symptoms include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling or crawling feelings in legs, headaches, irregular or fast heartbeat, cold hands and feet, brittle nails and hair loss. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms if is always a good idea to have a blood test to check for iron levels.

A good practitioner will never prescribe iron supplement unless it is based on results of a blood test as having too much iron may have detrimental effect on the body. Having too much iron results in oxidative stress and can contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and some cancers .
However in a case of diagnosed deficiency iron supplement is a sure way of increasing iron blood levels until underlying causes can be addressed.

For any vegan it is important to not only maintain cruelty free aspects in their diet but this cruelty free ethos spreads to all aspects of life. That’s why it is important to me to be able to prescribe vegans supplements from companies that are run with vegan values in mind such as Vertese. Supplements produced by Vertese are both Vegetarian and Vegan Society approved, they are made using vegan sources, not tested on animals and encapsulated in gelatine free capsules. The Beetroot, B12 and Iron complex contains 15mg of iron citrate that is gentle for people with sensitive stomachs. The complex also contains vitamin B12 (one vitamin that vegans need to supplement) and vitamin C from the superfood acerola cherry.
Vertese supplements are available from where you can explore the whole range of their vegan friendly products.

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