Being busy may not be the only reason you're run down. Many women may have low iron levels and not know it. Abigail and Killeen discuss the growing health crisis of iron deficiency- why we need iron, who's at risk, and then make a call to Dr. Erin Stokes.
Announcer: [00:00] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Welcome to episode six of "That Supplement Show."
[00:10] Today, Abigail and Killeen are here for a more serious conversation. They're talking about iron -- or the lack thereof. When's the last time you thought about your iron levels? It's probably been a while.
[00:20] Find out who's at risk for low iron, why so many people struggle with iron supplementation, and why our hosts think they've got a solution for those in need of iron support.
Abigail McShinsky: [00:28] Hey, Killeen.
Killeen McGowan: [00:29] Hi, Abigail.
Abigail: [00:30] We've been having a lot of fun conversations the last couple of weeks on That Supplement Show. We've talked about energy, our relationship with food, and our dual obsession with herbs -- a few of the fun topics that we've covered -- but today, we're getting a little bit more serious. Something a little bit more tiring, maybe.
Killeen: [00:48] It's true. We've been talking about a lot of energizing things, and now we're going to switch that up, but don't worry, it won't be too depressing. We've got a solution. I've got a statement here in front of me that's going to be the basis of our chat today. You ready?
Abigail: [01:00] Hit us.
Killeen: [01:01] Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.
Abigail: [01:07] Oh, wow, and yet, we aren't here today to complain about how awful that is. We're going to do something about it, right?
Killeen: [01:12] Yes. Love the positive spin. You're always an optimist, Abigail.
Abigail: [01:15] I try.
Killeen: [01:17] We want to bring awareness to the epidemic of iron deficiency, and you know, one of the craziest things about this is that so many people don't even know that they themselves are indeed low in iron.
[01:27] I think because we're part of such a busy society, and we often chalk up the sluggish days to being overworked and overbooked and just flat out. It doesn't mean by having that busy life, there isn't some other underlying cause.
[01:43] That said, let's go over the basics of iron. Let's talk about why we need it, who's at risk for low iron, and then, how one might figure out if she herself has less than optimal iron levels.
Abigail: [01:56] I think what we should do in order to cover those basics is switch up our usual routine.
Killeen: [02:00] I think I know where you're going with this.
Abigail: [02:03] I think we should start off by calling the doctor, and by doctor, I mean our friend and naturopathic practitioner, Erin Stokes.
Killeen: [02:09] That's right. If you've listened to prior episodes of "That Supplement Show," we usually call up Dr. Stokes and have her weigh in near the end of our conversation of the day. Yet, in this case, she's without a doubt the perfect person to give us an "Iron 101," if you will. I think that you're onto something. Let's call her up now, and get some deep iron education.
Dr. Erin Stokes: [02:33] Hi, this is Dr. Erin Stokes.
Abigail: [02:35] Hi, Erin. It's Abigail and Killeen. How are you?
Erin: [02:38] Hi, Abby and Killeen, two of my favorite people! Doing well, thanks. How are you?
Abigail: [02:42] Doing wonderful. We're sitting together today and having a chat about iron and talking about the crisis of low iron levels. We were wondering if you could go over some of the basics with us. We've got three key questions for you.
Erin: [02:54] I would be happy to help.
Abigail: [02:55] All right, let's start off with the easiest one, and probably the most important to inform the rest of our conversation, and that's why do we even need iron?
Erin: [03:03] Great question. Iron is crucial for us, and the reason is, is that it's involved in oxygen transport. When you think about oxygen and how important it is for all of our tissues, the most important function of iron that helps us understand a lot of what iron does is oxygen transport.
[03:27] We get a little technical here, but I promise we won't go too deep. Iron's basically part of hemoglobin, and a lot of people have heard of hemoglobin, maybe they've even had their hemoglobin levels tested, and hemoglobin is a substance in red blood cells that basically carries oxygen to all parts of our body from our lungs. It gets that oxygen from our lungs and transports it throughout our entire body.
Killeen: [03:55] You know what? Wasn't there a video that you had showed us recently when you were informing us about iron levels that went into the depths of what hemoglobin was and how it worked?
Erin: [04:06] There was. I'm visual, and I know a lot of other people are too, and so, I'd like to show how it all works. That way, when we start saying iron is so important for energy production in all of our cells, for normal growth and development, for healthy brain function, it starts to make some sense, because yes, OK, if iron's part of hemoglobin and that's transporting oxygen everywhere, it's a big deal if we don't have enough iron.
Killeen: [04:38] Yeah, I'm totally going to put that video in the show notes for our listeners today.
Abigail: [04:42] You mentioned something, Erin, about the hemoglobin that made me think, when we think of what we need for life, for human life, for all life, I always think of oxygen as the first thing. Iron is incredibly important if that's how all our cells are getting oxygen, right?
Erin: [04:55] Yes, oxygen is life to us, and we know that, if you're breathing. When you think about oxygen transport, iron is a key player.
Killeen: [05:04] So, oxygen transport and energy production. What else does iron do?
Erin: [05:09] Iron's important for thermoregulation. What's thermoregulation? That's basically our ability to maintain our core body temperature. You go out on a cold winter's day, and you know how some people seem to be able to keep warm and others don't? Some of that might be constitution, but iron plays a really important role in thermoregulation.
[05:32] It's also an important component of healthy immune function. It plays a role in our bodies in detoxification. I mentioned earlier, it's crucial for brain function.
[05:46] It's really covering our whole body, in many ways. Again, it goes back to the core function, which is oxygen transport.
Killeen: [05:57] Of course, it's true that all nutrients are important, but it sounds like iron is really, really important. Thanks for that.
[06:05] For what's next, who is at risk for low iron? It seems like any of us could be low iron, but are there particular populations that should really keep an eye on their iron levels?
Erin: [06:16] Absolutely. What comes to mind first is menstruating women. When a woman has her menstrual cycle, there can be blood loss that can vary widely.
[06:27] Sometimes, we look at somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 milligrams of iron lost each month, but the fact is, Killeen and Abby, that for some women it's quite a bit more than that. We have to think about menstruating women, particularly women who have a heavy menses.
[06:45] Perimenopause is also another time that often gets overlooked. There's more of a focus on women when they're younger, in the teen years, and 20s, and also the connection with reproduction.
[07:01] As women are going through perimenopause there's a lot of hormonal shifts. Sometimes cycles can also shift. It's important to consider that population. As long as women are menstruating, they are definitely at risk.
[07:14] Then pregnant women. There is an increased demand for iron in pregnancy. If women have had multiple pregnancies, there can be a cumulative depletion that can happen, particularly if it's not investigated early on.
[07:31] We also want to consider vegetarians and vegans. They are always, vegetarians and vegans, going to be having non-heme sources of iron. Again, without getting too techie, heme source of iron is going to be, essentially, meat.
[07:50] Meat is better absorbed, and this is really just biochemistry, than non-heme sources, which are some of the vegetarian sources, like almonds, and spinach, which are great sources of iron. I want to be really clear about that.
[08:04] Sometimes, for vegetarians and vegans, their food source doesn't have as much bioavailable iron, so we want to keep a close look at that population.
[08:15] Also, blood donors. Think about people that have an increased demand. If somebody's donating blood, then they're losing blood, and then, consequently, losing iron. Those are some of the populations we think of.
[08:29] We also look at athletes, particularly women, and especially really high performance, high endurance athletes, thinking people that are running marathons, triathletes. If you're just a weekend warrior, that doesn't mean you're totally off the hook, because you do have an increased need for iron with increased exercise.
[08:52] These are all populations we're going to look at. It's worth noting that we're focusing on women in this conversation. Generally, men do not need iron, because they're not having that monthly blood loss.
[09:08] They certainly need iron in their diets, but they don't generally need supplemental iron, unless they have a specific health condition that they are working on with their healthcare practitioner.
Abigail: [09:19] Dr. Stokes, it sounds like there's a lot of different groups of people who may want to keep an eye on their iron levels, and specifically women. A question I did have was, is that because the only way we lose iron is through blood loss, or primary way we lose iron?
Erin: [09:35] It is. It's also going to be a consistent and regular blood loss. Then, of course, you mentioned blood donors. If somebody's donating blood on a regular basis, that would be another way.
[09:46] You want to look at blood loss, and then also increased need, or increased demand. The increased demand side is going to be when we're talking about vegetarians, vegans, and athletes. They may have increased demands.
[10:03] It's like that supply and demand you look at with any vitamin or mineral, but it is really important to note that we are focusing on women. Men generally do not need supplemental iron unless, or course, they have been evaluated by their health care practitioner, and they're working with a health care practitioner on some specific need.
[10:27] We don't want people to get too much iron. I guess that's the take-home message. That's why getting evaluated for low iron is important.
Abigail: [10:35] Really, everyone sounds like they should get evaluated for low iron. It's not something you necessarily want to pick up off the shelf and determine yourself, but especially men should be evaluated. I think that's an important distinction for listeners.
Erin: [10:47] I would say especially men and also for woman who are suspecting that they might be low in iron. For example, one of the possible signs or symptoms of iron deficiency is fatigue. Understanding the role of oxygen transport, that makes a lot of sense. That being said, there are so many different potential causes for fatigue.
[11:12] This would be part of what a practitioner would called a differential diagnosis of trying to figure out what exactly is going on, and really addressing the underlying cause. That's why it makes sense to get evaluated no matter who you are, because then, you have the information in hand to take proactive steps for your health.
Abigail: [11:35] How do I know then, if I'm low in iron? What are some of the signs I should be looking for?
Erin: [11:40] Great question. Before we get into some of the signs of iron deficiency, I think it's a really good point in our conversation to differentiate between non-anemic iron deficiency...which is really what we're talking about in this podcast. We're talking about iron deficiency...We want to differentiate that from anemia.
[12:07] Probably, Killeen and Abbey, you've both heard people use those terms interchangeably, say "I'm anemic," somebody might say, but they're meaning to say, "I am iron deficient." Out in the world, a lot of times those terms are used interchangeably. The fact of the matter is, is that there are lots of different kinds of anemia. If fact, there's over 400 different kinds of anemia. We don't want to use those terms together.
[12:38] We're really focusing on a nutrient deficiency in iron. This is what we call non-anemic iron deficiency. I just wanted to clear that up before I jump into talking about the different signs.
Abigail: [12:52] That's a perfect distinction. Thank you.
Erin: [12:54] Sure. Again, I always like to go back to the root of our conversation, thinking about iron and its crucial role with hemoglobin, involved in oxygen transport. Some of the signs that could indicate iron deficiency...again, understanding that this would need to be further evaluated by a health care practitioner...are fatigue. Fatigue is the big one. It's really basic biochemistry. If you're not getting enough oxygen to your tissues, you're just not going to have the energy the you need to do day-to-day activities.
[13:33] They also experience muscle weakness, particularly when you're exerting yourself, so maybe when you're trying to exercise, you could experience muscle weakness. Sometimes, people will get a rapid heart rate. I mentioned earlier that iron is really important for thermoregulation. When people have iron deficiency, they have a difficult time staying warm when they are exposed to the cold. Those are some of the most common signs that somebody may be low in iron.
Killeen: [14:13] That was really helpful, Erin. Thanks for shedding light on iron, what it is, who low iron affects, and how we know, or at least get an inkling of maybe if we might, ourselves, be low in iron. I would actually like you hold on the line, if you would, because now, we want get into what to do if you're low in iron. Erin, I know you have a really good story. Can we put you on hold for just a second while we have a quick word from our sponsor?
[14:41] [commercial break]
Abigail: [15:06] Still there Dr. Stokes?
Erin: [15:07] I am here.
Abigail: [15:09] Awesome. Now, given that very apropos word from our sponsor, I'm hoping you have some time to share your personal story about Blood Builder. I know that it's had a big impact on you.
Erin: [15:17] It has. Blood Builder has been a great solution for me, and so I would love to tell my story. Really, Abby and Killeen, I learned about Blood Builder through my work as a naturopathic doctor, and talking with so many different women over the years that had benefited from the supplement. I, myself, have often bordered on being iron deficient.
[15:46] Throughout the years, I had several years where I was vegetarian. I was iron deficient during that time. I did well with maintaining my iron levels throughout my pregnancy, and I did take Blood Builder. Through the pregnancy of our beautiful boy, who is now almost 11, I had an incredible birth experience. It was also quite long. I had a natural childbirth with a big, over nine-pound baby, and was in labor and through delivery for really a day and a half.
[16:20] After my birth, I was really iron deficient. Gosh, I went from feeling so powerful in that time during birth of our son, to just being so weak after the birth, that I literally had to leave via a wheelchair. I was holding our little son, our newborn, beautiful baby boy. I was very weak. I was shaking. I was certainly quite iron deficient. They had done some blood work.
[16:53] My medical doctor that I worked closely, said to me, "You really need to make sure that you're taking iron every single day." I wanted to take Blood Builder. As you know, many iron supplements...This is something that we haven't really talked about yet...can lead to adverse side effects. I had certainly had those in the past, where I tried to take other supplements before I knew about Blood Builder.
[17:22] Mainly for me, it was the stomach upset. It just made me feel really nauseous. I know for other women, the typical iron supplements can make them constipated, and all kinds of other symptoms. Blood Builder was definitely my go-to choice. I took Blood Builder very faithfully. I was really committed to getting back on my feet, literally and figuratively and feeling better. The whole process was so exhausting. I was up of course in the middle of the night with my son and I'm just really happy to report that when I took blood builder daily, my lab values, my postpartum lab values, weeks later were phenomenal.
[18:04] They were so incredible that my medical doctor came to me specifically and said, "What were you taking? Because these are some of the most impressive results I've ever seen." I told her and then she took a different look. She took a second look. There's nothing like that evidence, I guess.
[18:22] She took a second look at the supplement and started to suggest it to her patients as well. It has a happy ending but boy, I went quite low, in terms of the iron levels and I was just so grateful to have Blood Builder to help bring me back up.
Killeen: [18:41] What's so moving to me is that you are not the only person that I've heard this type of story from. There are other iron deficient women, both here at work with us, as well as just on social media who have shared how Blood Builder in quotes changed their life. Of course, we can't suggest that a product can do such a thing but we can talk about the fact that Blood Builder is now clinically proven to increase our iron stores.
Erin: [19:05] Yes, we can and I'm so happy we got here. I've been holding my breath because I've been wanting to talk about the study. It's so exciting. I think that those of us that have worked with blood builder over the years really know its value, but there is nothing like having a clinical study to validate this.
[19:25] This is just a great news for us and for all of the women whose lives this is going to improve and has improved. This was a study, Abby and Killeen, that was recently conducted at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. There were pre-menopausal women who have iron deficiencies.
[19:50] What participants in the study did is they took one serving per day of Blood Builder every day for eight weeks. They also kept a study diary and in this diary, they noted what time of day they took the supplement, they also took a note of their energy levels and any possible or potential side-effects that they were feeling.
Killeen: [20:13] The results were...
Erin: [20:15] Well, Abigail and Killeen, I'm delighted to share with you that after only eight weeks, there were statistically significant improvements in every measure of iron status.
Erin: [20:32] Again, we're going to get a little technical here, but I want to share the good news. Serum, ferritin, hemoglobin and total body iron stores all increased. Super impressive results for an eight-week study.
Abigail: [20:51] It's kind of like, when you have the hunch that something's working, you feel good about it, but then when you know for a fact that that is indeed working, so great.
Erin: [21:00] It really is, and I have to say this is just an incredible validation for something that we do know. We've heard so many stories, literally in my case, hundreds of women I've talked with about Blood Builder. But to see this in a clinical study, with a widely reputed medical school, University of Maryland School of Medicine, this is really fantastic news.
[21:31] You may know that it's not that common for there to be a clinical study on a supplement. This is great. The statistically significant improvement in iron. Also really important is that there were decreases in this, both the severity and the frequency of fatigue.
[21:51] Remember we talked about the number one symptom that we associate with iron deficiency and that is so prevalent is fatigue. To actually have the participants report this decrease in fatigue is huge. Bonus, important, no reports of negative GI side-effects. These are very typical with iron supplements.
[22:15] This means that there were no, none reports of nausea, vomiting, constipation, none of this. We're just delighted to have this opportunity to share the news about this clinical study on Blood Builder and how this has the potential to improve so many more lives. It's already improved so many lives. It's building up even greater momentum around this beloved product.
Killeen: [22:42] Well, it's so great and in...what was it? Episode 3? When we talked about energy, we talked about low iron. I feel like we should go back and update and say, "Hey, by the way, iron supplementation, specifically Blood Builder, might be what you're looking for to increase that energy."
Abigail: [22:59] Clinically proven.
Killeen: [23:00] Yeah, love it.
Abigail: [23:02] I'm really excited about the lack of side effects, because I can't imagine, you're suffering with low energy or some of the other symptoms of iron deficiency and then to find a solution, only for that to make you feel unwell, it's going to be so frustrating. To have an answer that is easy on the stomach and is still going to work, that seems huge, especially with how big iron deficiency is worldwide.
Killeen: [23:24] Agreed. Well, I think we're almost done here for today. Erin, we should probably let you go I'm sure you have other things to tend to. Thanks so much for staying on for the bulk of this episode and I'm really glad you could provide us with all the details surrounding non anemic iron deficiency.
[23:41] I think we've accomplished our goal today for bringing awareness to the issue and letting our listeners know about the risks and the importance of getting an assessment.
Erin: [23:48] Thanks, Killeen and Abby. I was so glad to be able to talk with you about this today. It's an important subject and I hope that it's going to inspire people out there to take action and that this is going to improve a lot of lives. I look forward to our next conversation.
Abigail: [24:04] Thank you, Dr. Stokes. Bye.
Killeen: [24:07] It's completely true. Of course, you and I are partial to MegaFood. There are other supplements out there. I just think Blood Builder is such a wonderful option. As for how easy those other supplements are on the digestive system, that's up to the user to decide.
[24:21] I just know for me that I can take Blood Builder without any of those uncomfortable side-effects. I personally take it for a little bit of extra iron support during my monthly cycle. At a time when I'm already kind of uncomfortable, I don't need more side-effects to be piled on on top of that.
Abigail: [24:37] Or discomfort.
Killeen: [24:38] Not cool. I've never taken other iron supplements, so I haven't experienced any of those. I feel like I would stop. I would say, "Oh, never mind. It's not worth it." It seems like, especially from what Dr. Stokes said, it's very much worth it to keep our iron where it should be.
Abigail: [24:55] You're not alone with that reaction. In fact 50 percent of people working with a health care practitioner taking iron supplementation to address a deficiency stop taking it because those side effects are just so impactful and unbearable.
Killeen: [25:08] Yeah, so Blood Builder doesn't have any of that and it's clinically proven. Yeah. We're ending our little non-sales pitch there and we're going to say we're super enthusiastic about it, but do what works for you, all right?
Abigail: [25:21] There's some other great features about Blood Builder. We didn't talk about what the product contains. We know it's iron supplementation but it doesn't just stop there.
Killeen: [25:29] That's right. I have to say I love the inclusion of the beetroot that comes from our farm partner, Stahlbush Island farms -- this incredible sustainable farm out in Oregon. I'm going to put a link to their site in the show notes. They've got a great story of their own and they grow fantastic food, too.
Abigail: [25:46] I'm kind of obsessed with Stahlbush.
Abigail: [25:48] Their website is absolutely worth checking out. They have a biomass plant on site. That's all I'll say, but check them out. As we're talking about show notes, maybe we should put a link to the clinical study results in there, too?
Killeen: [26:00] Yeah. For all the science geeks out there that want to read up on the clinical study, it'll be there for you.
Abigail: [26:05] Because we really just touched the tip of the iceberg on that.
Killeen: [26:08] Yeah.
Abigail: [26:09] You know what, Killeen? That wasn't as depressing as I thought it would be.
Killeen: [26:13] Agreed. Maybe it's an awful problem, this iron deficiency. As we said, we're helping to solve it and that's kind of why we've created this podcast to begin with, right?
Abigail: [26:21] What's our goal? Improving lives and inspiring others?
Killeen: [26:24] Yep, that's at the heart of it all. I think our work is done...well, for today anyhow, but this has been a good talk.
Abigail: [26:32] I'm looking forward to the next one.
Killeen: [26:33] Me too.
Abigail: [26:34] All right. Talk to you soon.
Killeen: [26:34] Bye.
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