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  1. #1
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    Low Blood Iron...WTH?

    Backstory: I've been donating blood for the last 5 years; since i'm O+, the blood center lovvvves me and about a year ago I started doing this automated blood donation in which they take 2 units of red cells and return the plasma/white/platelets/etc and some saline back to me (machine looks like donating plasma, but works a little different obviously) around new years, I decided to go vegetarian (note, I never ate that much red meat to begin with, and never had anything approaching an iron problem, if anything I had almost higher than normal iron levels) and the first donation of the year went fine. I went back this weekend for the second donation (you can only do about 3 of these a year) and my iron was too low. not only was it too low for the double donation, it was too low for a regular whole blood donation.

    what I don't get here, is that I eat at least 2 servings each of broccoli and spinach per week, and try to sneak as green as i can get of a salad in every day. also, I don't drink much tea (as I know it reduces absorbtion of non-heme iron)

    my only guess is that since I've started cycling (about a month and a half ago) I've changed my body's usual iron demand and that surplus is getting used for muscle/blood production. I feel better physically than I ever have, so I'm sure it isn't some random condition or ailment.

    am I just not eating enough iron-rich veggies? am I possibly eating something else that messes with absorbtion?
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  2. #2
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    Wow! You and Greg Lemond! Sorry I can't help, but the story is Lemond took an "iron pill" and went from zero to hero in no time flat. If you take an "iron pill" maybe you'll win the TdF too!

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Celiac Sprue disease, which is an allergy of wheat protein (gluten) can interfere with nutrient uptake. My mother has it and her 1st symptom was low iron. It took the doctors years to finally make the right diagnosis. It is genetic and usually for persons of Northern European decent. Just a thought.
    06 Litespeed Tuscany
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  4. #4
    Killing Rabbits
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    Eat a citrus fruit or take some vitamin C with your non-heme iron to increase absorbtion. Non-heme sources also suffer in that they are also usually high in Calcium; which also decreases absorbtion.

  5. #5
    '05 NUEser EJ123's Avatar
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    Odwalla super protein has about 18% d.v iron and lots of protein

  6. #6
    Enjoying the ride Yield's Avatar
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    I'm O+ also and I had similar issues a few months ago. I would give whole blood every 60-70 days and at one point, my doctor did a CBC (complete blood count) for some issues I was having and my hemoglobin and hemocrit came back low. He put me on Ferrex and that took care of it after about 2 months. What happens is that my body doesn't rebound from donating like most people's do. Every time I donated my iron would get *almost* back where it was, then I'd donate again. Even though I eat plenty of red meat and veggies that are high in iron (or so I think) I'm guessing it isn't enough. Since our blood type is needed so badly I'm not going to stop donating, I'm just going to spread out the donations. I'll probably give every 90 days now.

    And if you take iron supplements, prepare yourself for the color change in your stool . It might not happen to everyone but mine was pretty drastic.

  7. #7
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yield
    And if you take iron supplements, prepare yourself for the color change in your stool . It might not happen to everyone but mine was pretty drastic.
    hah...all I need to do for that is drink the purple flavor of powerade it turns green

    the news that calcium messes with iron uptake is helpful. I know I probably do better on calcium rich foods than iron rich ones. there goes the milk, cause I sure as hell don't want to give up cheese or broccoli.

    My fiance is usually able to donate only every 16 weeks or so (half as often as usual), so I may just stretch things out and take iron the week before donation time.
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  8. #8
    Going up? Sir-Lanceimnot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krazygluon
    Backstory: I've been donating blood for the last 5 years; since i'm O+, the blood center lovvvves me and about a year ago I started doing this automated blood donation in which they take 2 units of red cells and return the plasma/white/platelets/etc and some saline back to me (machine looks like donating plasma, but works a little different obviously) around new years, I decided to go vegetarian (note, I never ate that much red meat to begin with, and never had anything approaching an iron problem, if anything I had almost higher than normal iron levels) and the first donation of the year went fine. I went back this weekend for the second donation (you can only do about 3 of these a year) and my iron was too low. not only was it too low for the double donation, it was too low for a regular whole blood donation.

    what I don't get here, is that I eat at least 2 servings each of broccoli and spinach per week, and try to sneak as green as i can get of a salad in every day. also, I don't drink much tea (as I know it reduces absorbtion of non-heme iron)

    my only guess is that since I've started cycling (about a month and a half ago) I've changed my body's usual iron demand and that surplus is getting used for muscle/blood production. I feel better physically than I ever have, so I'm sure it isn't some random condition or ailment.

    am I just not eating enough iron-rich veggies? am I possibly eating something else that messes with absorbtion?
    It has nothing to do with blood type as it has happened to me also and I am B+. I also give blood regularly to the Red Cross. Not sure what causes it but only happened one time. She asked if I was a vegetarian... No way, I am a carnivore! Sorry I can not help you with why it happened. I do know they make me do jumping jacks before I give blood because my resting heart rate is below the 52bpm that they set as a standard.
    Shut up and RIDE!

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  9. #9
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    around new years, I decided to go vegetarian
    Ding, Ding, Ding.....

    what I don't get here, is that I eat at least 2 servings each of broccoli and spinach per week,
    Each serving of broccoli will give you 10% of your DAILY needs of iron for a male. Spinach gives you 18%. You would need to eat 5 servings of spinach EVERY day. Also endurance atheletes need even more than a normal adult. So, even 5 servings a day may not be enough.

    Ironically, spinach has oxalic acid and phytic acid which hinders the body's abilty to absorb non-heme iron, which is exactly what vegetables contain. Meat has heme iron which is more readily absorbed than non-heme anyway. Factor in the oxalic acid and phytic acid, and you could be getting as little as 2% absorption. Ingesting heme iron can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron.

    You don't have to give up calcium rich foods, nor should you, just don't eat them at the same time as your iron rich foods.

    You need a supplement or a nice juicy steak. SlowFe is a good one.

    You can also use iron cooking utensils as well as take vit. C and ingest foods with malic acid to increase absorption.

    Here is a list of vegetarian food and their iron content. Strive for 7-8 mg of iron daily.

    Food
    Serving
    Iron content (mg)

    Cashew nuts
    2 tbsp
    1.0

    Pumpkin seeds
    2 tbsp
    2.5

    Tahini/Sesame seeds
    2 tbsp
    1.2

    Sunflower seeds
    2 tbsp
    1.1

    Molasses
    1 tbsp
    3.3

    Licorice
    50 g
    4.4


    Apricots (dried)
    1/4 cup
    1.5

    Raisins
    1/4 cup
    1.1

    Avocado
    1/2
    1.0

    Prunes
    1/4 cup
    0.9

    Kelp (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    42.0

    Nori (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    20.9

    Parsley (raw)
    50 g
    4.7

    Potato, with skin (cooked)
    1 medium
    2.7

    Spinach (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.5

    Broccoli (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.0

    Brussels sprouts (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    0.9

    Some breakfast cereals (fortified)
    100 g
    10 (approx)

    Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    2.0

    Barley, whole (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.6

    Wheat germ
    2 tbsp
    1.2

    Bread, whole wheat
    1 slice
    0.9

    Rice, brown (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    0.5

    Tofu
    1/2 cup
    6.2

    Soybeans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    4.4

    Garbanzo beans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    3.4

    Lentils (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    3.2

    Navy beans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    2.5

    Pinto beans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    2.2

    Lima beans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    2.2

    Tempeh (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.8

    Split peas (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.7

    Kidney beans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.5

    Peas (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    1.2

    Baked beans (cooked)
    1/2 cup
    0.7

  10. #10
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    wow, thanks for the dietary information slowandsteady, I'm glad I like tofu and sushi, they look to be the highest on there.

    I think I found the culprit. as I said earlier, after about 2 months of being vegetarian, I donated and had no trouble, so I tried to ask myself what I had changed. other than cycling, another thing came up. I read somewhere that stomach acid levels also affect iron absorbtion. (i'm guessing they break down the iron complexes into something the intestine can actually absorb...just a guess) one thing that did change is I started taking prilosec OTC for this awful hereditary stomach acid problem (dad and all his siblings either have wicked ulcers take tagamet/other acid inhibitors)
    I noticed mine is also stress related, so since its summer I'm going to lay off the stuff for a while and see how my levels change.

    any suggestions/clarifications are always welcome.
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  11. #11
    Wheee LilSprocket's Avatar
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    may be it could be "Dilutional or pseudoanemia (sports anemia)"
    http://www.cptips.com/blood.htm

    I've been a vegetarian for 39 years, have never suffered anemia and my blood iron is consistently a little high. The doc is not alarmed, thinks it’s from my diet which contains nearly everything on slowandsteady’s list.
    If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.
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  12. #12
    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krazygluon
    one thing that did change is I started taking prilosec OTC for this awful hereditary stomach acid problem
    Anemia is listed as a (less common) side effect of Prilosec. If the stomach thing is hereditary and chronic, you should probably see a doc rather than self-medicate; maybe there's something else he can recommend or prescribe that has fewer side effects.
    Can you pass the test?
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  13. #13
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    Thank you 'nother, I run out of the stuff on saturday so I'll see whether the heart burn returns and try something else. (rolaids works well enough, it just wind up eating the stuff for dessert every night)

    so to get my iron back up can I just supercharge my diet or do i have to take a suppliment?
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    My own experience with the Red Cross' new machine was pretty bad (read pass out and scare my wife to death). I'm sticking with the tried and true whole blood donation from now on.

  15. #15
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    This whole Prilosec thing has me thinking....bleeding gastric ulcer = anemia

    It never hurts(alright sometimes) to get checked out by your doctor.

  16. #16
    Sprockette wabbit's Avatar
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    i hear ya... i found that I was a bit anemic after last summer, but i could feel it. It's not uncommon for women (for obvious reasons) and so I have been on iron supplements. If you had celiac disease you'd have other symptoms too, you would be unable to eat things like pasta.

    I make it a point to eat red meat, which I know isn't ideal for everyone, but liver has a very high concentration of iron, much more than spinach or broccoli. Seafood also is high in iron, and of course, there's prunes and prune juice and dried fruits like apricots and raisins. If low iron is affecting how you feel, i.e. fatigue, then you might start on a supplement.
    You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That's great...if you want to attract vermin.

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