Many of our clients have anemia caused by their heavy, painful menstrual flow. Anemia, which is a deficiency of red cells or of haemoglobin in the blood, seriously impacts health and is something to be concerned about. Those with anemia struggle with symptoms like:
- Extreme fatigue
- Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise
- Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise
- Difficulty concentrating
- Pale skin
- Leg cramps
I once worked with an anemic client who could barely muster the energy to care for her kids once they got home from school. Her symptoms were so bad that she was forced to take leave from work to in order to recover. I felt horrible that the condition had totally consumed her…her whole lifestyle revolved around her anemia.
If your symptoms haven’t got that bad yet, anemia caused by heavy periods makes workdays really stressful. I’ve had clients who are constantly worried they might bleed through their pants, even though they’re wearing a super max tampon AND a pad. They always pack an emergency pair of bottoms ‘just in case’…. Because it has happened before.
Are you prone to anemia?
Typically women who are approaching menopause notice a big increase in their flow. This is a natural time of hormonal change, but if progesterone drops and estrogen remains high, it creates a hormone imbalance. In addition, the estrogenic environment may encourage the growth of fibroids which can lead to heavy periods.
Women who are obese or have a high body fat percentage are also at risk of heavy flow and/or fibroid growths.
Note that we usually see heavy flow go hand-in-hand with spotting. We will be writing an article all about spotting, so stay tuned to our channels for the release update.
The traditional approach fails
It’s very frustrating if you have anemia caused by heavy flow because you might make some progress and then your period ‘bleeds you dry’ again and all your symptoms come back with a vengeance!
Unfortunately, many conventional treatments for anemia either A) don’t work or B) cause side effects that can disrupt or prevent hormone balance.
For example, women who have tried iron pills complain about stomach cramps, nausea, and/or diarrhea… and they’re still anemic!
Constipation is also a common side effect of supplementing with iron which is a BIG problem if you’ve got heavy flow. Why? Because heavy flow is typically caused by excess estrogen, which causes the uterine lining to grow more than it should and stimulates the growth of fibroids too. Estrogen leaves the body through the bowels and if you aren’t ‘regular’ any treatments to restore hormone balance won’t be as effective.
We help our clients reduce their monthly flow by balancing their hormones which also reduces and prevents the growth of fibroids and cysts.
The information in this blog post is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have or regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post or on this website. Consult your doctor before you take any supplements or herbs recommended in the following text. This is especially important if you are taking any medications.
Our holistic approach
We find healing anemia and rebuilding blood levels requires a holistic approach. The entire body needs to be supported so that it can produce and sustain more than enough healthy blood.
If your iron is very low you may need to opt for iron shots and transfusions which you can do under medical supervision. When combined with a dietary protocol, transfusions can be even more effective.
Fresh, organic, nutrient-rich greens provide iron along with B vitamins, magnesium and chlorophyll (plant blood) which all help to build blood levels. When you’re actively trying to build blood, include one serving of steamed leafy greens such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, mustard greens or dandelion greens daily. Get into the habit of including greens with your dinner.
Pro Tip: steaming your greens makes them easier to digest. The nutrients more easily absorbed than if the greens were raw. You can even include frozen pre-steamed greens in your smoothies!
#3 Heme Iron
If you aren’t vegetarian, make sure to include animal protein which contains heme iron. Heme iron from grass-fed animals and wild seafood is easier to absorb than plant-based iron. For example, one serving of oysters provides 44% (8 mg) of a woman’s recommended daily iron intake. So consider going for oysters with the girls or snack on smoked oysters with gluten-free crackers.
This blue-green algae has a high amount of folic acid and iron. Studies show that spirulina effectively brings iron levels up and can prevent anemia. And if you’re vegetarian, it’s a great plant-based source of iron. I recommend fresh spirulina, here’s a good source if you’re in Canada.
#5 Vitamin C
This is an essential companion vitamin which enhances absorption of the iron in your food.
#6 Avoid Calcium
We don’t mean avoid calcium altogether! Just make sure to avoid combining calcium and iron-rich foods because calcium can inhibit the absorption of iron.
It’s so essential that you absorb the nutrition from your food. If your gut is a mess, it’s difficult for your food to nourish you. Work on healing your gut and find a quality probiotic to help you out.
#8 Iron-rich Foods
Include other iron-rich foods in your diet such as blackstrap molasses, red fruits (most have iron), raw cacao powder, and hemp hearts.
Pull it all together
You’re probably going through the list of 8 things and thinking, “okay, how the heck do I make sure I’m doing as many of these things as possible to build my blood??”. Don’t worry! I’ve created a smoothie recipe for you that ticks most of the boxes. Make this shake 3-4 times a week for breakfast and you will feel the benefits of increased blood levels.
Here’s my blood-building shake recipe
- 1 cup coconut or non-dairy milk of choice
- ½ cup frozen steamed leafy greens
- 1 frozen banana
- ½ lemon, zested
- 3 Tbsp collagen peptide protein powder (or protein powder of choice)
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground flax seed
- 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
- 1 tsp spirulina powder
- 1 tsp amla or camu camu berry powder
- Blend until smooth and enjoy first thing in the morning
When you’re working to heal anemia, we highly recommend that you work with your doctor and monitor your iron levels while you try any at-home protocols.
If you have a heavy flow, rebuilding iron lost during your period is just part of the puzzle. Instead of focusing only on supplementation, understand that building blood is about proper nutrition and your body’s ability to absorb all the goodness in your food. By comparing your diet to the 8 tips above, you can make improvements and feel the effects of increasing blood levels.
We know that it’s difficult to bring all our recommendations together in a way that works for you, plus stay consistent on a daily basis. Plus, you need to know when things are working and when you need to modify. If you want our support, reach out to us! We have helped anemic women with heavy periods through our programs and specific protocols. Contact us here.