Iron deficiency can be a very serious problem for people with cirrhosis. Please take this seriously, as I know two people who passed away in the last 6 months who were were having a very difficult time raising their iron levels (and one was not able to get a transfusion, because it was against her religion).
I recently learned that there are a few common things that can EASILY be preventing your body from absorbing iron and calcium!
Proton Pump Inhibitors actually prevent iron absorption AND calcium absorption. I learned this about two years ago. You can read more about the dangers of PPIs by clicking HERE. And HERE. And HERE. Ask me how I really feel about Proton Pump Inhibitors!!
But PPIs aren't the only thing that can prevent the body from absorbing iron.
I only recently learned that calcium prevents iron absorption! So yes, cow's milk can prevent iron absorption (I am NOT a big fan of cow's milk, for many reasons, but in addition I truly believe it can cause excessive bloating and encephalopathy in a person with stage 4 cirrhosis). Caffeine, chocolate, tea and coffee can prevent iron absorption. And anything with high levels of tannins (found in tea). And SODA is apparently a big no-no, as well.
I had no idea of this simple thing that could have made it SO easy to prevent my own low iron levels for the last 9 months! I was taking calcium at the same time as my iron supplements, and if I'd just taken them separately, I could have avoided this problem! I couldn't help wondering how many other people have this same issue, because a person with cirrhosis can easily be low on iron AND calcium, and Jake's doctor told him to take Citracal... but he never said anything about taking it SEPARATELY from any iron supplements!
Everyone who thinks they must have a lot of iron because they consume a lot of meat and dairy should check out this article on PubMed.
Calcium and iron absorption: mechanism of action and nutritional importance.
Proper iron levels / hemoglobin = increased oxygen
My husband had a blood transfusion while he was in the hospital, and while I was NOT keen on this idea, I couldn't help but notice how much better he felt, after the procedure. There was a very obvious change in his energy level, which made me want to study alternative ways to improve the quality and oxygen levels in his blood (which is how I learned about PEMF).
When I was 19, I was experiencing what I thought might be chronic fatigue. My Aunt told me to take Geritol, and although I was hesitant because I thought that was just a supplement for little old ladies... I actually did feel a lot better, after I took it (side note: you would not believe how many rave reviews this stuff has on Amazon right now). It seemed weird that I was anemic, because I ate a good amount of meat at the time, but that didn't seem to make a difference, and my diet wasn't very good. And anemia does run in my family.
Well, fast forward to 2016, and I was once again experiencing anemia. I donate blood regularly to a hospital that saved my father's life over 20 years ago (see, I actually don't hate hospitals)! Donating blood can also be a good way to see where your iron and cholesterol levels are at.
Well, sadly I failed my hemoglobin test, about 5 of the last 7 times I've tried to donate. I couldn't figure out what was going on, since I've been donating regularly for the last 3 years, and this seemed to start happening over the last 9 months, and it wasn't an issue before. I know that in the past, if I was taking Visalus supplements, I would always pass with no problem... but I ran out of the vitamins, so I wondered if maybe that was why I was "flunking." I don't eat meat, but I've been vegetarian for the better part of 20 years, and the anemia didn't seem to be an issue till now (if you scroll down you will see an article that shows, just because you eat meat, doesn't mean you will have a better iron level, and in fact, if you have too much iron from meat you'll be at a higher risk for heart disease).
A good friend had given me some of her Hema-Plex, to try, and I couldn't believe how well it worked! When I took it, I passed my hemoglobin test very easily (just taking one a day, for 5 days before the donation). But I ran out of those, too.
Side note: be sure to take this as directed, as with any iron supplement... YOU REALLY CAN GET SICK FROM TAKING TOO MUCH IRON AT ONCE. I somehow forgot you're only supposed to take one of these per day, for 5 days, not 5 in one day, for one day...and I got so nauseous after the blood donation, I started to "white out" (like a blackout, only everything was turning white). I started vomiting. It was bad. Thank God they were well prepared at the donation center and had barf bags on hand! And luckily I had a full 40 oz container of detox water with me. I know this will sound nuts but when everything started turning white, all I could think of is, OMG I DON'T HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE I CANNOT PASS OUT AND WIND UP IN A HOSPITAL!!! And I started glugging it like crazy and my eyesight completely returned to normal within about 30 seconds.
But I was taking Geritol, pretty consistently, and I still failed when I tried to donate last week. My hemoglobin was just 11.2, and it needs to be 12.5 in order to donate. I was so annoyed. I'd been drinking veggie shakes with vitamin C (which helps you absorb the iron) AND I was taking Geritol, consistently, ever day! What the heck!
Calcium was the Culprit!
Well, the nurse who checked my blood that day was the FIRST person to ever ask me if I'd been taking calcium supplements, because calcium can interfere with the absorption of iron. And SURE ENOUGH... THAT WAS IT! I've been taking extra calcium, just about every day for the last nine months, in an effort to re-grow a tooth that I cracked about 2 years ago. And I was taking this calcium AT THE SAME TIME as my iron supplements and my green smoothies! In fact, I would sometimes even put calcium INTO my husband's spinach smoothies (with extra vitamin C) and I had NO idea this could be preventing him from absorbing the iron I was trying so hard to get him to ingest!
It kind of blows my mind that none of the other nurses who told me that I'd just failed my blood test, ever told me about this calcium-blocking-iron-absorption thing! And it happened five times! You'd think this would be a standard procedure, but... nope. There was one nurse who did give me a sheet showing ways I could actually increase my iron levels, and I did do some of the tricks on that list, but none of it was doing any good while I was taking extra calcium WITH the iron-rich foods!
This is a pretty good article about things that can hurt your iron levels.
The Foods That Hurt Your Iron Levels
There had never been an occasion so dire, and the cause came as a shock, even to her doctor. A few select foods—healthy foods in any other light (including herbal tea) —were in fact depleting her iron levels. This realization was overwhelming for her, not unlike legendary mathematician John Nash finding out he'd lost his mind, all the while thinking he was on the brink of brilliance.
Hardcore meat eaters may call vegetarians weak lettuce lovers, but few realize that red meat, although it builds muscle, is not actually any better a source of iron than greens.Without enough iron, the body becomes fatigued—in extreme cases, to the point of compromised cognition and speech. But we all get tired, so without routine blood tests, many people don't even realize their iron levels are low until they get indirect symptoms like a fever, and by then levels are dangerously low. If the condition goes untreated, they can need blood transfusions.
Mom didn't get that far, but she was close. Before the summer, her run-ins with iron deficiency moderately waxed and waned but were ultimately maintained by Floradix. Her midwife had introduced her to the magic stuff during her pregnancy, when women are particularly vulnerable, but she first discovered she was anemic at age 14. This was in the 1960s, when kids were told to eat their spinach—remember Popeye the sailor? He nearly smoked the stuff through his pipe. It's no wonder he fancied a girl named Olive Oyl and adopted her daughter Swee'Pea; together, they align in an iron vortex of dark leafy greens, legumes, and extracted plant fat.
Many other unexpected foods can also deplete the body of iron: soda, cow's milk, chocolate, tea, and coffee. Anything with high tannins (tea) or caffeine content may lend a boost of energy and may even be nutritious in many ways, but ironically, for people prone to iron deficiency, large amounts of these foods and drinks can actually block cells from absorbing a full dose of iron. During the early stages of Mom's fever, I stressed that she drink tea with Echinacea, an herb thought to boost the immune system. Silly me. I might as well have given her cyanide.
While Mom lay on the couch with no concrete dietary recommendations from her doctor (he prescribed iron pills), she and I searched through alternative medical books and drafted a grocery list. In addition to spinach (most effective when eaten raw or lightly cooked), I searched the aisles for whole grains, brown rice, beets, almonds, dried fruit, bananas, oranges, pineapple, broccoli, green peppers, beans, cruciferous vegetables (like Brussels sprouts), and cultured foods like soy, kefir, and yogurt. If she weren't vegan, I would have also picked up eggs, seafood (especially clams or oysters), and organ meats like chicken livers. As well as iron-rich food, the body also needs food that will help it absorb the iron: those containing manganese, vitamin C, and potassium. Within a week, Mom was back to normal.
Most important, don't wait till a crash. Shuffle these items into a daily diet or at least give them some weekly spots. Feeling particularly low? Take a shot of Floradix, available in the supplement aisle at most health food stores, the nearest Whole Foods Market included. Its combination of highly soluble iron, vitamins B and C, and herbal extracts allow for an estimated 25-percent absorption rate over iron pills' 2 to 10 percent. As with any supplement, though, Floradix should not replace a healthy diet. However, Popeye-advised or not, it is good to have around.