Iron 101 - 5 Ways to Increase Your Iron Levels

Published by Wellbel Editors | January 28, 2022

One of the most difficult elements of dealing with hair loss is not knowing what the source is.

If you’re experiencing alopecia areata or sudden hair thinning and you’ve identified an iron deficiency as the root cause, the good news is that there are several options for how to improve your iron levels.

Iron is an important mineral needed for growth and development, as well as the transport of oxygen throughout the body. But for all its importance, you might be surprised to know that iron deficiency is quite common. Iron deficiency anemia affects one out of five women under the age of fifty. 

To learn if low iron could be the root cause of your hair troubles, click here.

How To Increase Your Iron Levels

Fortunately, raising your iron levels does not have to be complicated. Here are five ways you can increase your levels and prevent iron-related hair loss.

#1: Eat More Iron-Rich Foods

Iron is found naturally in both animal and plant-based foods. Heme iron is the form found in animal products and is most easily absorbed while non-heme iron is the form found in plants.  

Animal sources of iron:

  • Beef

  • Pork

  • Chicken

  • Turkey

  • Shellfish

  • Fish

Plant sources of iron:

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Whole grains (oats, quinoa)

  • Beans and lentils

  • Enriched fortified cereals

  • Pumpkin seeds

Roughly 15-35% of heme iron is absorbed compared to 2-20% of non-heme iron. Because non-heme iron is more difficult to absorb, those who follow a plant-based diet are at an increased risk of iron deficiency. 

Eating a variety of whole foods can help increase your dietary intake of iron.

#2: Eat More Vitamin C Rich Foods

Vitamin C has been found to bind to non-heme iron and store it in a form that is more easily absorbed. Foods rich in vitamin C include peppers, citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, strawberries, and kale. Pairing these foods with iron-rich foods can help increase iron levels. A great example of this pairing would be peppers with beans. 

#3: Consider An Iron Supplement

Because iron is a difficult mineral to absorb, supplementation may be necessary to achieve adequate levels. That said, it is possible to take too much iron and reach toxic levels. Be sure to consult your doctor first so they can help guide you in knowing which dosage and form of iron is best for you.

#4: Space Out Your Tea And Coffee

Tannins and oxalates are natural compounds found in tea and coffee known to bind non-heme iron and prevent absorption. Rather than eliminating these beverages entirely, consume them two hours away from iron-rich foods or supplements.

#5: Cook With A Cast Iron Pan

When using cast iron, iron is released from the pan and absorbed by the foods being cooked, particularly acidic foods like tomatoes. One study found that cooking with cast iron increased the iron content of food by sixteen percent.

Hair Health and Iron

Don’t forget, your hair is a reflection of your internal health. If you’re dealing with hair loss, it’s possible there’s something else going on. If you are concerned about your iron levels don’t hesitate to have a conversation with your doctor and ask for the support you need.

Sources:

Are We Underestimating the Prevalence of Iron Deficiency? | Columbia University

Iron Nutrition And Absorption: Dietary Factors Which Impact Iron Bioavailability | Journal of the American Dietetic Association

Does Cooking With Cast Iron Pots And Pans Add Iron To Our Food? | Columbia University

 

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Dr. Danielle Desroche

Dr. Danielle Desroche is a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in PCOS, fertility, and thyroid health.
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