Vegan or not, the ability to absorb and maintain iron levels can be difficult for individuals. Although people can often be quick to blame low iron on being vegan, this is not necessarily true. I know many people who have been very low on iron and are not vegan, but being low in folic acid or B12 can also play a role.
I was low in iron when tested during my pregnancy with Zaedyn, had a PPH which led to very low iron from such a huge blood loss, managed to bring it up, but I do not know whether or not I ever rose above the “normal” iron levels. As much as I try to eat iron rich foods, I seem to be low again when recently tested. Having breastfed for almost 2 years now, looking after a very busy toddler who has not long been sleeping through the night, and being 14 weeks pregnant, I can understand why I am low as well. I suppose I do not eat a lot of processed fortified foods, and I have been making a better effort to combine vitamin C with iron. I do not usually drink juice, but I have been eating citrus fruits and drinking an organic orange juice to help.
In the past, I have talked about nettle being good for iron, but I haven’t kept up drinking nettle tea on a regular basis. I had big intentions to make sure my iron was high before conceiving, but it is a lot easier said than done. When talking with my homeopath, she had suggested Ferrum Phos 3x a day to help with iron absorption. I have found it hard to tell what works simply because the timing was also perfect with Zaedyn starting to sleep through the night, and even when my iron is low, I feel full of energy. If I was never tested, I possibly wouldn’t even know that I was low. However, the thought of being low in iron is not good when even at a normal level it can drop considerably late in pregnancy. Since I am avoiding wanting to take iron pills, unless anyone has a suggestion of a good vegan brand, I am trying to include more iron rich foods and find natural alternatives. My intentions were great, although it isn’t always easy when you go through phases of not wanting certain foods or making something quickly because I am starving.
Knowing that I would need to be tested again, I started contemplating whether there was something else I could be doing. Floradix was suggested, but when I saw that it contained wheat germ and honey, I kept looking. Then I found Floravital. This is also a liquid iron tonic, but it is yeast and gluten free, and of course vegan! There seems to be so much debate about levels or iron and some of these alternatives not being high enough compared to some pills, but then there is also debate about too high of iron and easier ability to digest and absorb liquid iron over pills. Sometimes I find it all a bit confusing and overwhelming.
Anyways, when I went to see my midwife on Tuesday, she instantly told me about a possible new way to solve my low iron: Moxa, or mugwort. I knew that she had started studying acupuncture and had mentioned the possibility of looking into it for iron, but I was excited that this did not involve needles. Moxibustion is used for all sorts, but another popular use during pregnancy is to turn breech babies.
The points to help with iron absorption, using moxa, are located below my knee and toward the outside of my shin (where the blue dot is). I also pinned an article about Pregnancy and Labour through Japanese Acupuncture and Moxibustion where you can click on the guidelines for using moxa and pictures of the location points under Anemia. The moxa sticks that I have are not as smoky as they used to be. After lighting the end of this black cigar like stick, the end begins to turn gray. For 10 days, I will be holding the moxa stick close to these points for 5 minutes on each side, helping to balance the Yin and Yang. You can feel the heat, but it is not painful. This is an indirect method where the moxa stick never actually touches the skin. Occasionally tap the ash off and continue until 5 minutes has passed. Then place in a jar with lid to deprive the moxa stick from oxygen, keeping it from continuing to burn.
I am no expert at all this, but I have heard about moxa previously from an Eastern Concepts class, and I am always curious and open to natural alternatives. I also need to make my way to the Herbal Clinic in Hamilton to hopefully talk with the qualified Medical Herbalists and registered natural medicine practitioners to possibly find an iron tonic or something to suit me. I get my nettle and raspberry leaf tea from there, and I suppose I might as well stock up on the raspberry leaf tea to begin at 29 weeks.
I would love to hear your thoughts on increasing or maintaining iron levels and any experiences you might like to share. I believe that there is not one right solution for everyone along with so many other factors that contribute to each individual, but I am open to ideas and am also sharing mine in case they work for you. Also, what vegan iron rich foods do you enjoy? I recently posted a new recipe for lentil dhal that we tried and am happy for you to leave links of your recipes or ones that you enjoy that are rich in iron. Hopefully I manage to increase my iron naturally 🙂