Before I met my boyfriend, he was a normal meat-eating guy and definitely a sugar and bread addict. Luckily, once we got together, he was open to trying my “rabbit salad” and “strange smoothies” ie. raw food style of eating. To his surprise, he immediately felt better and without any pressure from me, he decided himself to go on a high raw food and vegan diet! It was really great to witness his transformation. In the last 2 years, his energy levels improved, his skin cleared, his digestion improved immensely and he continues to look younger and younger. Because of such positive results, he even joined me on a 10-day and 14-day juice fast. Most recently, he completed a 21-day water fast with me in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
Over the last 6 months, however, he was starting to feel exceptionally tired. My schedule was pretty hectic with a lot of travel and we initially thought it was from all the buses, planes and changing hotels which would make anyone tired (including me!). But it just seemed to get worse. So, when we arrived to Israel, he went to the doctor and ordered some standard blood tests. The result: Low Red Blood Cell Count (RBC), Low Hemoglobin, and Low Hematocrit. What does that mean? He has a case of iron-deficiency anemia.
What is Anemia?
Anemia can occur for a few reasons, but is most commonly associated with a lack of iron in the blood. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, and low iron levels result in decreased incorporation of hemoglobin into red blood cells. Because hemoglobin normally carries oxygen from the lungs to the capillaries, anemia leads to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in organs. This can make a person feel lethargic, dizzy, weak, generally unwell and even a bit foggy in the brain.
Did the Raw Food Diet fail for him?
The truth is, although my boyfriend followed me on the raw food journey, he never really liked eating dark leafy greens. He didn’t like the taste of spirulina, in fact, he hated it. So, he wasn’t eating enough greens, either powdered or fresh. In the morning, he would make a big batch of fresh fruit smoothie, pour out some for himself, and then add the green superfoods and leafy greens for me. One of my “go-to” snacks is always a handful of dried organic apricots. But he never really liked those either. Being a former refined sugar lover, he would choose organic dates instead. It’s easy to see that he was simply not getting enough high-iron content foods in his daily diet. So, I don’t think the raw food diet failed him and I do not think that a vegan or vegetarian diet is dangerous to his health. He just wasn’t attentive to getting all the minerals his body needs. (And he also wasn’t listening to me saying “You need to eat more greens!”)
As a side note, the last time I was tested for iron, it was just below the threshold of being too high! The doctor actually told me to stop eating red meat! I didn’t say a word but silently laughed to myself, because I haven’t eaten meat in over 21 years!! I knew it was from my daily Green Smoothie. Somehow my body knew how to hold on to just enough iron and not have too much. When we give the body what it needs, it knows what to do…that’s the internal intelligence of our healing system!
The blood test results were a big wake-up call. The same day that he received the results, my boyfriend immediately started adding spirulina to his smoothies and started taking a liquid iron supplement. After only 2 days, he noticed the difference. His energy levels picked up and he had an easier time waking up in the morning. Now he is also making a conscious effort to eat more greens in his diet as well. He is not eating meat and has no interest to eat meat, but he did decide to try some plain vegan seitan (with no added flavors so no flavor enhancers). He cooks the seitan with some olive oil, organic cumin and cayenne pepper and adds it to a big raw food salad. (Note: Seitan contains wheat and is not a good option for anyone who is a celiac or sensitive to gluten.) He seems to be remembering to take his daily B12 supplement now too because he is just overall more aware of the importance of getting all the nutrients he needs!
Because of what happened, I will also take an iron supplement for 1-2 months to help get my body back on track just in case I am deficient as well. With over 8 months of non-stop traveling to Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, we did not always have the chance to eat as much variety in our diets. For that reason, I could now be low in iron too. Living in one place makes it very easy, and I am now happy to be having 1 green juice, 1 Green Smoothie and 1 fresh wheatgrass shot per day along with my normal salads and fruit.
Vegan Sources of Iron
There are definitely vegan and vegetarian food options that are naturally high in iron, like cherries, dark leafy greens, molasses and/or organic apricots. Green superfoods like spirulina, chlorella, dulse or kelp are also good sources of iron. Having some organic powdered greens in a Daily Green Smoothie is a great way to get a healthy daily dose of iron. Rotating greens helps to get all the nutrients you need, so be sure to switch out your greens between kale, spinach, bok choy, parsley, beet greens, collard greens, Swiss Chard and whatever other edible fresh greens you can find in your local farmer’s market or organic supermarket. If you are new to a vegan or raw food diet, it’s a good idea to get your blood tested in the first 6 months to be sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Do you Need to Take a Supplement?
Whether you take an iron supplement is really up to you, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you are attentive to eating greens in your daily diet. If you do decide to take an iron supplement, be sure to find one in liquid form because iron tablets (or pills) tend to have a constipating effect. If you become pregnant, you will need more iron and for sure, you should consider taking an iron supplement.
In the Science of Iridology, we have a subtype by color called Ferrum Chromotose which shows an inability to store iron. An example of this subtype is shown here. You can see the “tiger striping” or light brown and dark brown stripes in the iris. This is an inherited trait, and if I see this marking during an Iridology Analysis, I will always advise the client to be attentive to getting enough iron in their diet. It should be no surprise that my boyfriend has this marking in his eyes and I do not. If you have this marking, you are more likely to suffer from anemia, especially when there is a lack of high-iron content foods in the diet.
On a daily basis, the only nutritional supplement I take is a B12 complex. I personally think it’s important for everyone to take a daily B vitamin complex, including meat-eaters. Most B12 is lost in the process of cooking and many people (especially meat-eaters) have reduced or limited absorption capabilities.
Here’s to your health!
More on Healthy Living:
- 40-Day Water Fast: Comprehensive Guide & Personal Journal
- Fasting Retreat, Organic Raw Food & Total Relaxation at Farm of Life in Costa Rica
- Sea Salt with Chemical Additives?! Check for E535 & E536 Yellow Prussiate of Soda (YPS)
- Jennifer’s ‘Raw Foods for Success!’ Class in Philadelphia, PA
- Find out where I moved to….! HINT: It’s a healing place