When you say you’re going to “pump iron” it usually means you’re going to lift some weights. However, the iron I’m talking about is the one pumping in your blood! When you have gluten intolerance and are beginning a gluten free diet, your meal plans should include plenty of foods high in iron and Vitamin C. The reason you need more Vitamin C is because it increases iron absorption from foods. A lack of iron in your diet can result in anemia.
Most people know the definition of anemia, but if you don’t, here it is: not enough red blood cells. Of course, there are a lot more scientific definitions using words like “hemoglobin”, but the simple explanation works for our purposes. Of course, the next question concerns why it’s not good to have a deficiency of red blood cells. The answer is that iron produces hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood stream. That oxygen is needed by every other system, organ and component in your body.
It doesn’t take long to realize that anemia can cause fatigue, headaches, and colorless skin. But anemia also causes an increase in your chance of contracting an infection. Also related to iron needs is the need for folate, which is a vitamin B, and Vitamin B12. So what does this have to do with gluten intolerance? Well, let me explain…..
When you have gluten intolerance and have been eating gluten for years, the intestinal villi are damaged first in the area where iron and folate are absorbed. If you don’t discover you have Celiac disease and the intestines get worse, the area where vitamin B12 is absorbed also is damaged. There are other gluten related reasons why vitamin B12 doesn’t get absorbed too. For example, too much bacteria in the intestine can result in the inability to absorb vitamin B12.
There are lots of symptoms related to anemia besides the ones mentioned earlier. They include ringing in the ears, sore tongue, irritability, muscle weakness and confusion.
When you have anemia due to gluten intolerance related malabsorption, eating a gluten free diet will put you on the path to health. As the villi heal and begin to work properly, your body will begin to absorb iron, folate and vitamin B12. Here’s another important point though. You won’t heal overnight. It takes up to 2 years for the body to overcome the effects of gluten intolerance if you adhere to a strict gluten free diet. So correcting your anemia problem needs a boost by including iron rich foods like red meat and specific fish like oysters and clams or from vegetables, fruits and grains.
The good news is that some of the gluten free flour substitutes are high in iron. For example, Amaranth and Quinoa are iron rich. Chickpea flour is loaded with folate. Chicken livers and clams have loads of Vitamin B12.
The point is that you can overcome anemia even if it developed as a result of gluten intolerance. You just need to do some careful meal planning and pick your foods wisely. If you do, then the result is your blood will be “pumping iron”.