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Created in 2008, Phoenix Rising is the largest and oldest forum dedicated to furthering the understanding of and finding treatments for complex chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), long COVID, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and allied diseases.
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Have you ever tried plant based iron? Easier on the gut.just started iron supplements but the gi problems of cfs make it difficult.
I hope this helps:... I am bedridden two days before my period every month so I do believe there is a connection...
My doctor says anemia is a common symptom of CFS but that doesn't mean they are the same illness, they may just exacerbate each other
thanks everyone. i just started iron supplements but the gi problems of cfs make it difficult.
i just started iron supplements but the gi problems of cfs make it difficult.
*Increasing with molasses*
From Judee on PR:
I've read where a lot of people who had been taking supplements said taking blackstrap molasses worked better for absorption and their test numbers went up when they used that instead.
*Vitamin C dramatically increases absorption*
[Site includes study references]
* ...the amount and timing of Vitamin C also matters greatly, so just saying that Vitamin C increased iron absorption is not enough...
* Vitamin C’s importance in this piece of the puzzle for iron absorption can’t be stated emphatically enough since iron absorption may even rely on the presence of Vitamin C to occur. In fact, there have been many cases of iron deficiency being resolved only when Vitamin C was added!
* [Absorption] First of all, Vitamin C doesn’t just improve iron absorption, it DRAMATICALLY increases it. This is an extremely well-studied subject, and studies using even minimal amounts of Vitamin C with iron minimally show a doubling in the amount of absorption of iron, and maximally up to 6 times.
* [Dose] The dosage of Vitamin C for the maximum iron absorption is surprisingly small. Basically any amount of Vitamin C improved iron absorption. Even dosages as seemingly insignificant as 20 mg were effective at improving iron absorption,. While larger amounts improved absorption even more, it seems that maximum absorption peaks at just 100 mg of Vitamin C.
* [Timing] This is good news since it’s pretty easy to get 100 mg of Vitamin C when you eat basically any fresh, uncooked fruit. But Vitamin C content drastically decreases when food is cooked or stored, additionally, the _Vitamin C must be taken or eaten at the same time_ as the iron supplements or iron rich meal. That might not sound hard, just have some fresh vegetables with red meat at dinner, right? Wrong. Iron is absorbed poorly or not at all in the evening meal, so your steak is almost worthless for its iron content. This is because iron is maximally absorbed first thing in the morning when the hormone Hepcidin is lowest.
*Iron deficiency research results*
From Wonkmonk on PR:
I had iron deficiency in the past, and looked at many natural ways of how to improve iron status without supplements, and this is what I've found:
- Iron from meat sources (esp. red meat) is much better in bioavailability than iron from plant-based sources
- Iron of meat sources is to a much lesser degree or even not at all susceptible to factors that prevent iron absorption (it is called hem iron and has a special, very robust absorption mechanism)
- Consuming milk at the same time or within a few hours lowers the bioavailability of plant-based iron sources
- Vitamin C strongly improves iron absorption from all sources, in a study in India, iron deficiency in kids disappeared when they took 200mg pure Vitamin C with every meal.
- Meat protein (also from fish and other seafood) improves iron absorption from plant-based sources when consumed at the same time
- Organic acid in many fruits improve iron absorption from plant-based sources, tartaric acid (mainly in grapes) is especially effective, but citric acid (e.g. oranges), and malic acid (e.g. apples) also helps.
- Vinegar (all kinds) improves Iron absorption - probably it's because of the acetic acid.
- Avoid foods with high phytic acid content when eating high-iron foods at the same time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytic_acid#Food_science
- Avoid any other mineral supplements when consuming a high iron meal (they intertere with absorption), esp. Calcium, Magnesium. Natural sources are ok.
So a kind of meal that would be beneficial in terms of iron would for instance be: Lentils (high in iron, but bioavailability is low), whole grain rice or bread (fair amount of iron), plus some meat or fish (ideally red meat), plus an orange (citric acid + Vitamin C) plus a few grapes (tartaric acid) plus (if your stomach tolerates) a tablespoon of vinegar) and 200mg pure Vitamin C. As a vegetable, broccoli or kale would be good to add. Avoid any milk-based products 3 hours before and afterwards.
Generally the recipe would be: Any high-iron plant based food plus some meat or fish plus some fruit (ideally including some grapes) plus green veggies (but no spinach!) plus pure Vitamin C and avoid any dairy products for 3 hours before and afterwards.
I don't need any iron supplements anymore and I have maintained ferritin at about 100 (range 30-250).
*Testing is important*
Iron deficiency anemia should be verified with blood tests before anyone supplements iron. Because iron is used by bacteria and cancer cells for their growth, it is imperative that one have a full iron panel to rule out something called anemia of chronic disease, which can also cause a low serum iron reading, low transferrin saturation percent, and low hemoglobin.  Supplementing iron in this case amounts to feeding the pathogens, which is not a good idea. It also defeats the body’s protective mechanism of limiting available iron when pathogens are present. The body is purposely shunting available iron to ferritin to get it out of circulation and out of the pathogens’ reach.
A non-constipating supplement form of iron, ferrous bisglycinate, is highly recommended by several forums. Liver pills are another option. Iron infusions have some serious drawbacks that one should be aware of, including fatal allergic reactions.
Everyone with ME / CFS does not have low iron.