Monthly Archives: January 2014
This Sunday is the Big Game. I’ve been warned I cannot use its official name due to copyright laws, so I’m going to assume you know what the heck I’m talking about. Whether you enjoy football or not, the Big Game is a great opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family … and to eat. Following is a roundup of healthy recipes you can enjoy during the festivities. In all cases, you can feel free to use a substitute for any ingredient you wish to avoid. Most of these recipes are dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free and free of other unhealthy ingredients. The final section lists recipes which may need “tweaking,” with my recommendations for substitutions. Please also note that all ingredients should be organic.
I want to sincerely thank my blogging friends who shared their recipes with me. I am sincerely grateful for their assistance with this post.
Quick and Easy Appetizers
Following are a few quick and easy ideas you can use to create unique appetizers folks will love:
- Make or buy hummus, stirring in one of the following combinations: avocado and peppers; pesto; pepper jelly; Dijon mustard and cracked peppercorns; chopped spinach and diced garlic; or any other combination of spices, veggies and condiments.
- Slice cucumber or zucchini into 3/4″ wheels, scoop out the center (leaving a base), and fill with any of the following: hummus; salsa; pesto; crab and onions; nut butter combined with hot peppers; egg salad; homemade fermented veggies; or any other creative combination.
- Cut a slit in large dates and stuff with almonds, spiced nuts or any of the fillings shared previously. Wrap in bacon and cook until done for an extra treat. Not all of the fillings shared previously will cook well, so use wisdom in selecting which combinations to wrap in bacon.
- Skewer a folded basil leaf, cherry tomato and mozzarella cheese (substitute) on a toothpick. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with Italian dressing for super-simple Caprese salad appetizers.
- Make nachos, substituting zucchini slices, sweet pepper cubes, cauliflower florets or other veggies for the chips and using a cheese substitute. My favorite cheese substitute is Daiya, but others are available. To make, slice your chosen veggie, lay them on a cookie sheet, spread with your favorite organic salsa or tomato sauce, and top with your cheese of choice and other toppings.
- Make good ol’ salsa, but add unique ingredients such as diced artichoke hearts, cucumbers, sunchokes or water chestnuts, black olives, avocados, peas, corn, bacon, etc. Your imagination is the only limit to what fun ingredients might be used.
Healthy Allergen-Free Appetizer Recipe Roundup
The following appetizer recipes are relatively easy and will add pizzazz to your event:
Healthy Recipes that May Require Some Tweaking
Easy Dill Party Pretzels, Solid Gold Eats: These are so simple and are absolutely delicious. My recommendation is to use gluten-free pretzels. I also recommend using melted organic coconut oil instead of canola, as canola is often genetically modified and is extremely high in inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids. Instead of using Ranch dressing mix, which typically contains monosodium glutamate and other less than appealing ingredients, use 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder and 1 tablespoon parsley.
Baked Zucchini Sticks, For the Love of Cooking: To completely avoid all of the top eight allergens, I recommend substituting olive oil for the eggs; nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese; gluten-free bread crumbs for the Italian bread crumbs; and please never use cooking spray. Put a bit of coconut oil on a paper towel and rub the pan with that instead of using spray-on cooking spray which often contains rancid oils and oils which are highly inflammatory.
Sweet Potato Puffs, The Lean Green Bean: Substitute any cheese alternative for the goat cheese. If tree nuts are an issue, either leave them off or use chopped sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead.
Chocolate Covered Bacon, My Kind of Cooking: Substitute dairy-free chocolate if needed and use nitrate-free bacon. Other than the healthy fat in bacon and the antioxidants in the chocolate, this isn’t exactly healthy, but it sounds delicious!
Your turn! What’s your favorite snack for get togethers?
Dry skin is a common challenge, yet very few people know how to identify the cause of their dry skin or how to alleviate the symptoms. This article is the first in a series of three articles about effectively alleviating dry skin. This article shares information about little-known causes of dry skin and how to identify them. The Definitive Guide to Ending Dry Skin: Part 2 shares information on different ingredients that are great for alleviating dry skin.
The medical term for dry skin is “xeroderma,” but knowing the medical term does little to alleviate the symptoms. The bottom line is that dry skin needs to be addressed from the inside out. Most people use topical treatments to alleviate dry skin. Doing so creates very temporary relief. For prolonged relief, one must identify what is causing the dry skin and address that while using topical products to reduce symptoms.
Dry skin is typically the result of a lack of oil or water in the upper layers of the skin. Potential causes of the lack of oil and or water are listed below.
Most Common Causes of Dry Skin
- Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal imbalances are a very common cause of dry skin which are sadly often overlooked. Imbalances in thyroid hormones and/or reproductive hormones can create dry skin which itches so severely it strongly impacts quality of life. To ensure all hormone levels are normal, ask your physician to order a complete thyroid panel and a saliva hormone test. For more information, read How to Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate. You can order your own saliva hormone test here: Saliva Hormone Tests. Most people find their dry skin challenges disappear once their hormone levels are brought back into balance.
- Physiological illnesses or conditions: There are several health conditions that may cause dry, itchy skin. The following are known to cause dry skin: anemia, asthma, diabetes, thyroid imbalances, food and environmental allergies, high blood pressure, hepatitis (all forms), kidney disease, liver disease, ichthyosis vulgaris (“fish scale disease”), and others. If you suspect your dry skin is caused by an unidentified disease or illness, work with your physician to have the correct testing done.
- Dehydration: This seems like a no-brainer, but even mild dehydration can cause the skin to dry out. To ensure you are drinking enough water, make it your goal to drink half your body weight in ounces of purified water every day. This means a woman who weighs 150 pounds should aim to drink 75 ounces of purified water daily. The skin’s texture, health and vibrancy often improve dramatically simply by drinking more water. If skin dehydration is being caused by your heating system, using a humidifier may help.
- Lack of healthy dietary fat or a fatty acid imbalance: The myth that dietary fats are dangerous was especially damaging to skin health. Your body requires healthy forms of fat to maintain healthy skin, balance hormones, maintain healthy blood vessels, and more. Eating a fat-free or low-fat diet almost guarantees dry skin. Incorporating healthy fats such as those found in nuts and seeds, coconut oil, organic meats, dairy and eggs, avocados, etc. is one easy way to moisturize from the inside out. During the winter, I find that eating 1-2 tablespoons of organic coconut oil on a daily basis is a simple way to prevent or alleviate dry skin.
Eating large amounts of oils which are high in omega 6 fatty acids may also have a drying effect on the skin, as those oils are known to be very inflammatory. Avoid oils such as soy, peanut canola and corn, as those oils are extremely high in omega 6 fatty acids. Using organic oils such as olive and coconut are much better options. Increase your omega 3 consumption by eating organic chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, etc.
- Failing to protect skin from harsh weather, cleaning products, etc.: If you are going to be in extreme weather conditions, please take time to protect your face and hands. Moisturizing prior to the exposure and covering your face and hands with a warm scarf or gloves can help. If you are frequently exposed to harsh cleaning products or chemicals, please protect your skin with gloves and other protective gear. If it is not practical to use gloves, coat your hands in a heavy coating of lanolin or cocoa butter prior to doing the work.
- Using products containing Sodium Laureth or Lauryl Sulfate: We’ve all been brainwashed into thinking a product cannot clean without lots of bubbly lather. That is simply not true. In order to create fake lather, many manufacturers add chemical foaming agents (sodium laureth sulfate and/or sodium lauryl sulfate) to their products. Both products are known skin irritants which are also known to cause dry skin. For more information on these products, read Top Five Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care Products.
- Using products containing alcohols or other harsh ingredients: If you do not recognize an ingredient in a body care product, chances are you’d be better off without it. Believe it or not, many lotions contain various forms of alcohol. The alcohols are added to make the product dry quickly or feel very light on the skin. The problem is that the alcohols in the moisturizers actually dry out the skin. If you don’t make your own body care products, only use moisturizers that do not contain alcohol and which contain truly natural ingredients.
- Taking medications that dry the skin: There are a number of prescriptions which have dry skin as a known side effect. Those medications include statin medications for high cholesterol, several medications for high blood pressure, and multiple medications for acne. If you suspect your dry skin is caused or exacerbated by one of your medications, discuss the issue with your physician and ask about alternatives. (Never stop taking any prescribed medication without discussing it with your physician.)
- Excess bathing: You do not need to take a shower or bath every single day. I promise. Frequent bathing, especially in very hot water, will dry the skin very quickly. Bathing in unfiltered water can also cause dry skin due to the drying effects of chlorine. Most people do just fine bathing 2-3 times per week. If you can’t bring yourself to bathe less frequently, bathing in slightly cooler water and using a dechlorinating shower filter or bath ball will help protect you from the drying effects of chlorine. (Click the links to see the products I use.)
- Aging: Sadly, one of the side effects of aging is that the skin produces less sebum, its natural moisturizer. The strategies discussed previously can help maintain more moisture in your skin, as can eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercise, etc.
Photo courtesy of Ruby Blossom
Otitis Media – the common ear infection – is the most common reason parents schedule doctor appointments for children. Ear infections are incredibly painful and can lead to hearing issues, yet research has proven antibiotics are ineffective. There are a variety of alternative approaches that are known to be very effective.
When discussing ear infections, it is important to recognize they typically involve biofilms. Biofilms are a complex matrix of bacteria that may also include fungal and viral cells. The various cells in an ear infection create a strong matrix, called a “biofilm,” to protect them from antibiotics. The antibiotic resistance often develops before the child feels pain or realizes there’s a problem.
One important thing to remember about ear infections is that the human body is perfectly capable of healing them without intervention if the person’s immune system is functioning as it should. One of the primary ways of resolving ear infections is to help protect your immunity by eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, etc. However, there are times when medical intervention should definitely be sought.
If a child’s fever is extremely high (above 102F degrees), if the pain is intense or if symptoms last longer than three days, seek medical treatment immediately.
If an ear infection does develop, the following are known to help:
- Eliminate sugar from the diet. I realize that may be tough, but sugar depresses immunity and makes it difficult for the child’s body to use its natural defenses to battle the infection.
- Use herbal ear drops. Commercial herbal ear drops typically contain Garlic, Goldenseal and perhaps Mullein infused into oil. The oil is gently warmed and 2-5 drops are put in each ear every 2-4 hours. The oil feels good and diminishes pain, but the antibiotic/antiviral/
antifungal properties of the herbs actually penetrate (soak through) the ear drum to reach the infection on the other side. I find the combination of Garlic and Goldenseal to be far more effective than garlic and mullein. I like this one: http://amzn.to/1NpuXmw.
NEVER use ear drops if the ear drum has ruptured. Seek immediate medical attention.
- Use other naturally antibacterial ear drops. There are a wide variety of ear drops available which contain ingredients known to be naturally antibacterial and antiviral. One of my favorites contains Grapefruit Seed Extract and a tiny bit of Tea Tree Oil blended into a soothing amount of Glycerin. You can view them here: NutriBiotics Ear Drops.
- Consider homeopathic remedies. There are a variety of homeopathic remedies for ear aches. When using homeopathics, remember that nothing should be eaten ten minutes before or after taking them orally, and that mint products should be avoided for an hour. Homeopathic ear drops can be alternated with other ear drops being used. One advantage of homeopathics is that they do not interact with prescription medications and do not cause side effects when used as directed.
- Use colloidal silver drops. Colloidal silver drops can be placed in the ear canal every 2-4 hours. Similar to the ear drops described above, colloidal silver is known to be soothing and to stimulate the body to heal itself. For more information on colloidal silver, please read: Common Uses for Colloidal Silver.
- Use a probiotic and/or fermented foods other than yogurt. Probiotics help the Peyers Patches in the gut boost immunity. Probiotics also help maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Since 70% of immunity resides in the gut, it makes sense to care for it! I recommend using a probiotic specifically designed for children, such as the ones made by Udo’s Choice, Renew Life or Garden of Life. Fermented veggies are also a great way of gaining beneficial bacteria. Serve some with every meal or serve water kefir between meals.
- Use immune boosters. During an active infection, the body will respond well and be able to fight infection better if immunity boosters are consumed. Eating a lot of garlic, onions and turmeric is a great place to start. Taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D or Monolaurin are also known to boost the body’s ability to fight infection.
- Eliminate dairy. If a child has recurring ear infections, try eliminating dairy for one month. Many parents find ear infections miraculously stop occurring when dairy is eliminated. Wheat or other food allergies may also be a culprit, but dairy is the most common.
- Use a rice bag: Applying a bit of warmth to the affected ear is a very effective way to bring soothing relief from the pain. The simplest way to create a heating pad is to pour uncooked rice into a clean cotton sock, tie the top, and then microwave the sock in 20-second bursts until it is warm to the touch but not hot. Lay the sock over the ear, repeat as needed. (For the record, this is the only time I advocate the use of a microwave.)
- Seek medical intervention when needed. There are times an antibiotic may be needed. If symptoms or fever remain for more than three days, if the fever is extremely high or if pain is intense, seek treatment immediately.
What’s your favorite ear ache remedy?
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Williams
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am very pleased to share the following post written by my friend, Randy Clark. I hope his words, and those of Dr. King, will inspire you to be more loving and accepting of others.
I’d noted January 20, 2014 on my editorial calendar—Dr. Martin Luther King day. I wanted to write a post that shared the impact this man had on my life. I’m a product of the 1960’s. Like many of my generation, I was greatly influenced by Dr. King. He demonstrated how to live as a committed contributing person in our society. He showed us how one person could make a difference. As I wrote and rewrote, deleted and started over, it occurred to me I didn’t have to write it. It was already written. I could think of no better way to express those lessons of love than with Dr. King’s own words.
Quotes from Dr. King
- I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
- Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
- Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.
- Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
- That old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind.
- The time is always right to do what is right.
- Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.
- In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
- Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
- Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Reflecting on Dr. King’s actions, achievements, and words, I am proud of the lessons I’ve learned and hopeful for the areas I find myself lacking. If you’d like to read more quotes from Dr. King go to Martin Luther King Jr’s main beliefs and values. Now go love somebody.
Meet Randy Clark
Image courtesy of Q. Thomas Bower
I love working out. In addition to the health and emotional benefits I gain from working out, I also love the gym environment. Usually. Today was an exception. It’s been a while since I’ve ranted on the blog, so I figured I was due. Please note this post is mildly sarcastic and is intended to be humorous. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether I succeeded or not.
Here’s my list of things people do at the gym that make others think they are complete jerks:
- Leaving machines a swampy mess: Believe it or not, I’m really not interested in bathing in your sweat. It takes less than 30 seconds to wipe down a machine. Just do it.
- Using the circuit training machines for marathon workouts: “Circuit” is synonymous with “quick and efficient.” When you and your pal share a circuit machine for thirty minutes and ignore the lights telling you when it’s time to move on, it throws a real wrench in the works. Here’s a hint: There are three of that same machine on the main floor. Go use them! The sign clearly says to not use the circuit machines unless you’re doing circuit training. Are you? No? Then get the heck out of there so I can complete my workout!
- Using machines as a personal office: You know who you are. You finish your reps and then sit on the machine for twenty minutes checking messages, texting and making your Facebook friends laugh. Dude, just stop, ok? Other folks need to use the machine and don’t have time to wait for your social experiment to end.
- Loudly discussing personal traumas non-stop on your cell phone: I find it amazing that people manage to work out (kind of) while having extremely loud emotional conversations on their cell phones. What amazes me even more is that these conversations last for 40 minutes or longer, yet the person continues pretending to work out. Personal conversations that evoke high levels of loud emotion should never occur in a public place. Not in a gym. Not in the locker room. Not in a restaurant. Not in Walgreens. And for the love of all things good, not in a restroom stall. Find a private place to vent your angst. Please. Some of you should also consider seeking professional help.
- Standing in front of the mirror taking a selfie and blocking the view for everyone trying to use the mirrors to check their form: I don’t think this one needs explanation. Besides that, selfies are much more appreciated when taken while driving, operating dangerous equipment, or completing other tasks requiring two hands.
- Creepily staring at women while they work out: In spite of how some of the women are dressed and the fact music is playing, the gym is not a club. It is also not an adult bookstore. Go home and fantasize.
- Being the “my way or the highway” self-proclaimed guru who thinks you’re doing it wrong and need his or her advice: Most people who work out have devoted time to research and are doing what’s best for their personal situation. If they need assistance, they will contact a certified trainer. If no one asks for help, please don’t offer it. On a side note, your acne and aggressiveness will probably clear up once you stop using steroids.
- Doing complicated Yogalate or Jazzercize routines in walkways: A man in my gym does this. I swear. Walkways are intended for walking, not Jazzercize. Dressing like Richard Simmons and doing intricate dance and yoga moves that consume these areas and make it impossible to walk across the gym isn’t cool in more ways than one. Kudos for doing the workout, but please do it in areas of the gym designated for floor exercises. On a side note, thanks for exposing me to workout clothing covered in sequins.
- Expecting your mom to clean up after you: Your mom doesn’t work out here and the maid quit. You are solely responsible for putting your free weights away, wiping down the machines, mopping up the water you spilled, or picking up the disgusting tissue you dropped and left on the floor. Be an adult and follow gym rules. Thanks.
- Using the weight benches as tables: The benches are for weightlifting, not storage. If you don’t want someone else’s sweaty buns on your cell phone, towel or water bottle, don’t leave them on the equipment. In return, we promise to never put our sweaty buns on any of your property. Ever.
- Carrying everything except the kitchen sink everywhere you go: I promise you can endure a half-hour workout without your makeup, hairbrush, Snickers bar, pepper spray and four water bottles. I promise. Here’s a thought: Spend $6 and buy a lock so you can store your stuff in a locker instead of carrying it with you in the gym. The fact it takes you longer to pick up your stuff than it does for you to use a machine is a bit of an inconvenience. (For everyone else, I mean.)
I feel so much better now. Thanks for listening.
Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.
Photo Courtesy of Pascal
It seems almost everyone has been hit with the nasty stomach bug that is spreading rapidly. As I’ve said many times before, we don’t get sick because we’re exposed to a virus, we get sick because our body’s immune system is too weak to fight the invader. Maintaining a strong immune system is not as difficult as it sounds.
Here are my tips for avoiding stomach viruses:
- Take a strong probiotic (or eat a lot of probiotic foods) daily: In my experience, people who are taking a strong probiotic are often the only ones untouched by nasty stomach bugs. Why? Because the probiotics support the Peyer’s patches in the digestive tract. Peyer’s patches are responsible for 70% of your overall immunity. Keeping them healthy makes a big difference in how vulnerable you are. I recommend taking a probiotic with at least 30 billion active cultures. There are many conflicting opinions about what makes a “good” probiotic. In reality, there are no “bad” probiotics, some are simply better suited for specific needs. A general probiotic is known to be a powerful immunity booster. I like those made by Now Foods, Renew Life and Trace Minerals.
- Take 2000 or more IU of Vitamin D3 daily: Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin. It is a hormone that is known to have a huge effect on boosting immunity. Some studies found taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D on a daily basis was actually more effective against fighting the flu than a flu shot. For more info on Vitamin D, read 20 Surprising Facts About Vitamin D.
- Don’t eat or drink after others: This seems very logical, but I find many families eat and drink from the same containers without even thinking about it. If someone you love has been affected by the stomach flu, be careful to not eat or drink using the same containers or utensils. Keeping kisses limited to the forehead is also wise.
- Wash bedding more frequently: Studies found that pillows, pillow cases and bedding often harbor fungus that might interfere with the body’s ability to kill off viruses. Washing these items more frequently (at least once a week) may help improve immunity.
- Use Hot Water: The virus responsible for the stomach flu, the norovirus, is not easily killed. Using very hot water when washing clothing can help. It may also help to use your dishwasher set to the highest heat and sanitation level possible. Be aware that the norovirus can live on carpets for several weeks. If someone vomits on the carpet, take time to clean the area well using a very strong cleanser. Many people believe using chlorine bleach is the only way to disinfect surfaces. Using hydrogen peroxide is equally effective without exposing yourself to the poisons in bleach.
- Buy a new toothbrush: Viruses can live on toothbrushes for a very long time. This is why some people find it wise to soak their toothbrushes in a solution of 50% hydrygen peroxide and 50% purified water between uses. If someone in your home becomes ill, it may be time to throw away your old toothbrush and start fresh.
- The basics: Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, wash your hands frequently, etc. We all know these are important, but the simple things often get ignored. Keep all of your systems functioning at peak performance by taking good care of yourself.
- Eliminate sugar and chemical additives from your food: A single teaspoon of sugar is known to depress immunity for 8-12 hours. Eliminating sugar and eating a clean diet void of chemical additives is a simple way to help your body maintain strong immunity.
- Exercise: There’s no escaping the fact that exercise boosts immunity. You should not exercise while ill, but exercising while you’re healthy may help keep you that way.
- Don’t take risks with food: Food poisoning is obviously not viral, but this time of year many people fall prey to errors in judgment that result in a very upset tummy. Play it safe and don’t take risks. Do not eat foods that are questionable for any reason.
- If you get sick, stay home: This is another factor that seems like a “no brainer,” yet we all know that one co-worker who comes to work when they shouldn’t, or parents who send their kids to school when they shouldn’t. Quarantine yourself from the outside world so that you do not expose your already weakened immune system to other illnesses and to protect others from getting what you have.
- Seek medical attention when needed: If you catch the stomach flu, sip water as much as possible to avoid becoming dehydrated. Sipping on coconut water blended with a bit of sugar is a great way of replenishing electrolytes and maintaining hydration. If you or a person you are caring for becomes extremely lethargic or weak, does not improve after 24 hours, or develops other symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately. Dehydration is a serious issue that may require medical intervention to reverse.
What’s your favorite way to beat winter digestive illnesses?
Photograph courtesy of Evil Erin
Iron-Deficiency Anemia is a very common health issue. Many women have been told at some point in their life they have Iron-Deficiency Anemia and that it is “chronic.” Unfortunately, the term “chronic” typically means the diagnosing doctor has chosen to not identify the cause of the condition. The doctor assumes the woman’s anemia is “normal” for her and therefore can only be controlled, not treated. I beg to differ.
Iron-Deficiency Anemia always has a cause or causes. It is never a “normal” state of being. Never. Let me clarify that I am speaking about Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the type of anemia that occurs when the body’s iron stores are below normal. Please note I am solely referring to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, not Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia, Pernicious Anemia, Aplastic Anemia or any other form of anemia. Although the symptoms of the various types of anemia may be similar, they each have very distinct causes and cannot be addressed using the same approach. Please note that all references in this article are for adults, not children.
Iron-Deficiency Anemia results in a deficiency of red blood cells and diminishes the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide away from cells. The most common symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia include:
- Easy bruising
- Cold hands and feet
- Elevated heart rate/heart palpitations/chest pain (Seek immediate medical attention for any form of chest pain)
- Swollen tongue/sore tongue/cracks in corners of mouth
- Muscle pain
- Pale skin
- Depression and/or a lack of motivation
- Brittle nails
- Frequent infection/illness
- Irritability/inability to concentrate
- Bluish coloration to whites of eyes
- Cravings for unusual items (chalk, clay, paper, etc.) or a strong desire to chew ice
Each of those symptoms could also be a sign of other health conditions, some more serious than others. Please consult a trained practitioner if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.
Possible Tests for Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Iron-Deficiency Anemia is typically identified via blood tests. When checking for Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the following tests should be run at a minimum. Please note that each lab has its own definition of what “normal” ranges are. The ranges provided below are general guidelines:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): An overview of blood composition.
- Hemoglobin: A protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Normal range for men is between 13.5-17.5; for women 12.0-15.5. Please note that results which are within “normal” but are at the low end may still cause symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
- Iron: A measure of the iron in the blood stream. Normal ranges between 60-170 mcg/dL.
- Ferritin: A protein that stores iron. Is a measure of the body’s iron stores. Although some labs state that levels as low as 10 are “normal,” most people do not begin to feel anything close to normal until their Ferritin levels are at least 40. Please note that levels as low as zero are not a definite indicator of cancer or other serious disease. Extremely low levels need to be researched in more detail to determine the cause, but are not necessarily an indicator of a terminal condition. I once had Ferritin levels of zero which my doctor erroneously assumed meant I had cancer. After having a bone marrow biopsy, the consulting hematologist looked at me and asked why on earth the doctor ordered a bone marrow biopsy instead of investigating the cause and type of anemia first. Good question!
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is essential for iron to be absorbed. A deficiency can lead to Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Normal ranges vary between 200-900 pg/mL.
- Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC): A measure of the number of proteins available for transporting iron. Normal ranges are typically between 240-450 mcg/dL.
- Transferrin Saturation: A measure of how saturated with iron the proteins responsible for transporting iron are. Normal ranges are between 20-50%.
Potential Causes of Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Your doctor may order other tests if s/he wishes to identify the specific cause of the Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Potential causes of low iron levels and Iron-Deficiency Anemia may include:
- Lack of iron in the diet
- Inability to absorb iron in the digestive tract
- Unidentified bleeding (in oral cavity, lungs, stomach, digestive tract, etc.)
- Other forms of anemia not yet tested for or identified
- Pregnancy and lactation
- Extremely heavy menstruation
- Frequent blood donation
- Excessive exercise (Iron-Deficiency Anemia is common in long-distance runners)
- Celiac, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s or other digestive disorders
- H Pylori infection (stomach ulcer)
- Use of a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec, Nexxium, etc.
- Kidney disease
- Gastric bypass surgery/colostomy
- Thyroid imbalances or other hormonal imbalance
- Enlarged spleen or splenic dysfunction
- Lead poisoning
Further Testing to Identify the Cause of Chronic Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Consistent Iron-Deficiency Anemia can be caused by any of the factors discussed previously, but may also be an indicator of more severe health issues. I advise considering the following to identify the root cause of Iron-Deficiency Anemia:
- Check antiparietal antibody levels to ensure Pernicious Anemia is not the cause of the anemia
- Test for other forms of anemia if symptoms and blood work indicate a possibility
- Test for digestive disorders
- Test for vitamin and nutritional deficiencies and supplement as needed
- Test for food allergies (the inflammation caused by food allergies can impair iron absorption)
- Check for bleeding in the digestive tract and digestive disorders
- Check for bleeding in the respiratory system
- Test thyroid levels (with a complete thyroid panel including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPO and Reverse T3 at a minimum)
- Test hormone levels and have a gynecological exam if extremely heavy menstruation is suspected as the cause
- Test for pregnancy (if appropriate)
Reversing the Deficiency
Many factors may contribute to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, so work with your doctor to determine what approach should be taken to reverse the deficiency. The most common approaches used to reverse the deficiency include:
- Identify and Address the Cause: Although it is imperative to get iron levels up using supplements or other approaches, it is also essential to identify why the iron deficiency exists and address the cause. If the cause can be identified and eliminated or greatly alleviated, the body can more easily restore iron levels to normal levels. If testing reveals a more severe form of anemia exists, additional steps will be needed. I will share more about the other forms of anemia in future posts.
- Increase Iron Consumption: Increasing the amount of iron eaten on a daily basis can be helpful, but may not be sufficient in cases of absorption and digestion challenges. Please be aware that the iron contained in plants is called “non-heme” iron. It is not as easily absorbed as the heme iron in animal products. The body must convert non-heme iron into heme iron before it can absorb it. The best way to assist the body in making converting non-heme iron into heme iron is to eat fruits or veggies high in Vitamin C with foods containing non-heme iron. (Eating foods high in Vitamin C will assist with the absorption of iron in animal products, too, but is especially important for vegetable sources of iron.) This is one reason why spinach salads often contain oranges. The food that is highest in iron content is liver. Other foods high in iron include red meat, chicken and turkey, quinoa, organ meats, raisins, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, prunes, molasses, beans and lentils, salmon, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate (at least 80%), broccoli and others. I am not a fan of “iron fortified” milk and cereals because the iron those foods contain is in a form that is very difficult to absorb.
- Use Iron Supplementation: Iron pills or supplements should never be taken if testing has not proven you are deficient in iron. Excess iron in the bloodstream can have negative affects which are as bad or worse as an iron deficiency. Please also be aware the forms of iron most commonly sold in drug stores are difficult to absorb and often cause constipation. Ferrous sulfate is the most commonly sold form of iron, but is very poorly absorbed and often causes constipation. It is not a form I recommend. My preferred forms of supplemental iron include iron citrate, iron gluconate, iron bisglycinate and/or chelated iron. Iron is best absorbed when it is taken on an empty stomach. My favorite iron supplements are Hematinic Formula and Vitamin Code Raw Iron.
- Severe cases of Iron-Deficiency Anemia may require blood transfusions or intravenous iron. Those approaches are usually not needed unless other health issues are present.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that Iron-Deficiency Anemia can usually be quickly addressed and reversed. More difficult cases may require further testing and additional therapies, but quality of life can usually be restored fairly quickly.
Red Blood Cell Photograph courtesy of Wellcome Images
Anemia Blood Cell Photograph Courtesy of Alpha Images
Happy New Year! I wish each of you a joyous 2014 filled with abundant health, joy and blessings.
2013 was an amazing year for Good Works Wellness Research. I am so blessed to share information that empowers you to improve your health. I appreciate your support and encouragement more than you know. In 2014, I will launch a broad selection of online coaching programs, will increase my offering of online webinars and onsite seminars, and will continue expanding my list of services. I look forward to growing with you!
Following are the articles I wrote in 2013 which received the highest number of views and interaction. Some of the articles that made the list surprised me. It was especially surprising to see some of my oldest articles make the list this year, even though they were not last year’s top ten. Interesting!
As always, if there is a topic you would like me to cover, please let me know! I am here to serve you.
Top Articles of 2013
- Green Coffee Bean Extract and Raspberry Ketones: Truth or Hype?
Shares important information about whether or not these popular supplements actually work. Also shares important warnings on side effects and potential negative consequences of using them.
- Signs of Zinc Deficiency and Ways to Increase Zinc Levels
Discusses ways to spot a zinc deficiency and the best ways to boost your zinc levels. The statement, “You need zinc to think,” is very true!
- Create a Detoxification Bath Using Common Ingredients
Provides details on simple ingredients you can add to a bath to create a pampering detoxification experience and boost health.
- Important Facts About Chia Seeds
Turns out these tiny seeds are loaded with nutrients and health benefits. This article shares information about why chia seeds are a great addition to any eating style and also shares recipes and creative ways to use them.
- Top 10 Ways to Shorten the Duration of a Cold
A helpful article that shares simple steps to take to make any cold or flu less severe.
- Top Seven Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight
An inability to lose weight is not always due to lifestyle issues. This article discusses physiological imbalances that can make weight loss impossible.
- How Motorcycle Riding Improves Physical Health
The fact this article made the top ten was a very pleasant surprise! My thanks to all the motorcycle advocacy sites that picked it up and shared it. Article shares facts about the ways riding a motorcycle improves health and wellness.
- The Wonders of Goldenseal
This was another surprise. One of the first articles I ever wrote, it shares information about the many uses of the versatile herb Goldenseal. Also shares dosage information, warnings and contraindications.
- Top 11 Reasons I Refuse to Get a Flu Shot
This article generated a lot of controversy, but was written with love. The article shares the top scientific reasons I choose to not get a flu shot. Vaccination is a very personal choice. I’m not anti-vaccination, I’m simply pro-research.
- The Joy of Fruitless Smoothies
This was another big surprise and was also another very early article. It is encouraging to see that information I shared several years ago is still pertinent. This article shares information about why smoothies do not need fruit. Also shares several great recipes.