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I'm anemic: how can I get enough iron without a supplement?

By April 10, 2009 - 12:12pm
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I just found out that I'm slightly anemic, and I remember reading in another post here that long distance runners are at risk for anemia. (Anyone know why?) So my doctor said I need to take an over the counter iron supplement for the next 4 months or so and then go back in for another blood test. I was anemic before a couple of years ago, and I took an iron supplement at the time and hated it. It was really rough on my stomach, and I have GERD anyway, so I was not a happy camper. I'm wondering what quick and easy to prepare foods would help me build up my iron.

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Kristin, there's actually something called a "runner's anemia," it's so common among athletes like yourself.

It has to do with your body's use of oxygen. Here's a page about runners that explains this phenomenon (and some more things to do about it):


And here's a newsletter about runner's anemia from the Journal of the American Medical Assn., reprinted in Olympic Coach:


At least you know you're in very good company!!

April 15, 2009 - 8:12am
(reply to Diane Porter)

Wow -- I'd never heard of "footstrike" anemia -- how fascinating. And it totally makes sense. Thanks so much for these articles. That was very helpful in helping me understand how this happens in runners. How wild that even just running in softer, more padded shoes can help.

April 15, 2009 - 10:05am
HERWriter Guide

Hi Kristin

You are right, iron supplements can be hard on some people.

Here is a list of foods high in iron -some tasty, some not everyone's cup of tea!:

Meat or animal products:

Lean cuts of beef, pork and lamb.
Liver is very high in iron, so is kidney.
Fish and seafood - salmon, shrimp, clams.
Fowl - chicken, turkey and eggs.


Raisins and figs are wonderful.
Tofu, soy (veggie burgers made with soy are a great source!
Beans, beans and more beans - navy beans, soy beans, lima beans, pinto beans and lentils.
Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and spinach.
Nuts are a good source too - walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds.

Also, don't forget a lot of breakfast cereals and breads are fortified with iron. Check the labels carefully so you can pick one you like. I know that Bran Flakes are very high in iron.

You can also make your own granola or get some at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's - this is also a good source and beats eating kidney!

Good luck, I hope you find these more natural ways to get more iron in your system helpful and that they work!

April 11, 2009 - 11:27am
(reply to Susan Cody)

This is very helpful! Thanks, Susan!!

I still wish I knew why long distance runners are more susceptible to being anemic and what causes it......

April 13, 2009 - 9:31am
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