Making Lots of Energy Naturally
by Christopher Allison
Today we’ll be talking about a nutrient that is the pillar and strength of virtually every chemical and metabolic process in our bodies. It’s often low and its importance is frequently overlooked. This nutrient will dictate whether your body works efficiently and you have enough energy. If it is lower than optimal, literally nothing in your body will work well.
I’m talking about a precious metal that is often the cause of:
- Low energy
- Immune system irregularities
- Fatigued adrenals
This nutrient is actually a metal. It is iron. Many have heard the saying, “You need iron to feel well.” And yet, in my practice many people come to me with low iron levels and they still don’t supplement. Low iron is a major stumbling block to health as it is necessary for life, energy and well-being.
What many don’t realize is “WHY” this metal is so vitally important to our overall well-being.
What Does Iron Do?
Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen around your body. It supports the energy cycle of every living cell including your brain, muscles, endocrine system and immune system.
Oxygen is core to your cellular energy. If we have less iron, we carry less oxygen. If we have less oxygen, we make less energy. And without the energy you need nothing will work optimally and your body’s ability to regulate and rebuild itself is compromised.
But getting enough iron may be a bit more complicated than eating your veggies or taking an iron supplement. Of course eating your veggies and taking an iron supplement will help, but it is also a good idea to ask the very important question, “Why is my body not getting enough iron?”
Being Able to Absorb Iron
In order to fully digest your food, you need to make sure you’ve got adequate stomach acid. Stomach acid micronizes the food into small enough particles to liberate the minerals from inside the cellulose of the veggies or protein from the animals.
If you are on medications that block stomach acid, this will severely limit the ability of your body to extract iron and many other vital nutrients as well. After passing through the stomach, the pancreas is then triggered to release those important enzymes that further the digestive process.
Digestion, or effectively taking food and making it into energy and tissue, takes a lot of your body’s resources.
If you are under stress, your body’s resources will be funneled away from digestion and toward the fight or flight response.
This is another reason to live life in peace, particularly while eating. Take a moment, breathe, slow your mind and bring your awareness to the moment. Then your digestive tract will be more responsive to digestion and you’ll get the nutrients you need.
Losing Too Much Iron Each Month
If you are a woman and your menstrual cycle is heavy, you may be losing more iron every month than you are able to reabsorb through your diet. For many women, a heavy menstrual cycle is related to hormone imbalance. Therefore, it would be important to make sure everything that influences hormones is in balance.
That would include the stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol along with insulin. Once these stressors are stabilized, the menstrual cycle regains its hormone balance.
Of course, all women lose a certain amount of iron every month while menstruating. The key is maintaining a healthy hormone balance and a normal menstrual flow to not lose too much iron.
What if you eat in peace, chew your food thoroughly, take no stomach-acid-lowering medications and have healthy cycles, yet your iron is still low?
In that case, we want to take a look at any potential inflammatory issues in your digestive tract.
Inflammation and Iron Absorption
As it turns out, over the last 30 to 40 years, commercial agriculture has considerably altered our food. There are chemicals sprayed on our food and genetically modified into our food.
This means modern agriculture has not only introduced new and unhealthy chemicals that challenge our intestinal flora, but many of these compounds are bound to the structure of the food itself.
The job of your immune system is to protect you from dangerous things. It detects the chemicals bound to your food and decides to attack them as foreign invaders.
This attack can lead to cortisol and blood sugar swings, as well as inflammation.
This inflammation can lead to something called leaky gut. A leaky gut allows toxic chemicals to enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract. At the same time, the inflammation reduces the absorption of nutrients like iron you desperately need from your food.
The Good News
Fortunately, your body is designed to find a healthy equilibrium. It is up to you to provide the opportunity for your body to do that.
In the case of dietary iron, it takes good digestion, absorption, controlling stress and hormonal balance, low inflammation and eating enough of the foods that have iron in them.
When that isn’t enough or if you would like to supplement until these other issues are taken care of, it’s a good idea to supplement with easy-to-digest and bioavailable iron.
Of course, you can also get iron from the foods you eat. Some of the foods that are classically the highest in iron are:
- Red meat
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as:
- Beet greens
- Dandelion greens
- Dried fruit, such as raisins, apricots and prunes
In supplemental form, iron bisglycinate is the easiest on the stomach and is therefore nicknamed “Gentle iron.” You can increase absorption by taking it with vitamin C. Supplemental iron dosage starts from 10 mg and up to 50 mg per day (if you are really low).
Too Much of a Good Thing?
With everything iron can do for you it may seem that everyone should take it. But with all its goodness, some people may accumulate too much iron.
There is a condition called, “hemochromatosis.” In these cases, as iron stores to extreme, it causes toxicity and free radical damage.
It is easy to check your iron with your doctor. A simple blood test will do.
How Much Iron Should We Have?
As we learn more about nutritional optimization, there are doctors who consider some ranges in the blood to be too wide. They may consider the low side of normal to be not quite good enough. These doctors would suggest that you maintain levels that are close to the center of your blood test.
The goal is to have enough iron to efficiently carry the oxygen to your tissue, but not so much that you create too many free radicals and tissue damage.
To keep your immune system and muscles strong, your blood healthy, enjoy eating iron-rich foods. If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, it’s a good idea to have your iron level checked. And try to determine the cause of your low iron. Finally, to be on the safe side, ask for a blood test before supplementing.
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Chris Allison DOM is formally trained as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and is licensed as an Acupuncturist. His love of helping people took him into Functional Medicine, Hormone Balancing, Neurochemistry and Endocrinology. As a young adult he learned the interaction between our mind, body and spirit and teaches how they are all interconnected and influence the experiences we have in life. With the diverse training Chris has, he can take complex symptom patterns and explain in easy to understand terms just what is going on and how to rebalance in a way that takes care of the core reasons we feel the way we do. Many people who have been to numerous MD’s and holistic practitioners are able to finally get the answers they need to become balanced and fit again.