My Mom’s Journey with Natural Iron Supplementation

My mom has struggled with an iron deficiency for most of her life. It started when she was a teenager. She’d recount the dozens of times her anemia caused her to faint – at school, during a piano recital, at a soccer game. I think she was the only 18 year old with a medical alert system. But her experiences helped me develop a holistic dietary practice, one that involves naturally supplementing essential nutrients. I thought she’d developed a similar approach, but, as it turns out, she hadn’t. She’d relied on standard, over-the-counter ferrous sulfate – the most common iron supplement for people to take.

My mom takes her supplements with a religious devotion. Every other day, right when she wakes up, she pops a 65mg iron pill into her mouth and drinks a full cup of water. It seemed like that was doing the trick – she hadn’t fainted in years, and her energy levels were stable. But, over the course of a few weeks, I saw the color drain from her face and her lips turn blue. She continued with the iron supplements, but the nutrient deficiency was clearly back. We scheduled an appointment with a doctor to see what was happening, but that was a month away. Then, she had an accident. Thank God for that medical alert system.

I wasn’t there when it happened, but here’s how she tells it. She was feeling a little woozy but needed to make herself some lunch. She stood up from the chair in her living room, and everything went white. This is normal for people with iron deficiency anemia, and it usually passes after a couple of seconds. But, for the first time in years, everything suddenly went black. When she opened her eyes, she was on the floor with a throbbing pain in her wrist. Then, she heard a voice. Disoriented and in pain, it took her a few moments to discern where it was coming from. Then she realized: her medical alert system fall detection had kicked in, and it automatically called for help.

Now, the speaker across the room was talking to her, asking her what had happened. She told the operator that she had fallen and possibly hurt her wrist. It didn’t feel like enough of an emergency to call for an ambulance, so together, they decided that calling me was the best option. I remember getting the call from the alert service and freaking out, but the operator assured me that my mom was in good condition. After hanging up, I gunned it to her house. She was in good spirits when I arrived, having stayed on the line with the medical alert operator while I was driving. We decided to go to the urgent care center nearby; a couple of hours later, we emerged with a wrist splint.

The medical alert system was so important in that moment, but I wish it hadn’t been. I wish my mom’s iron supplements had done what they were supposed to do. At the doctor’s appointment, we didn’t get much help. My mom’s iron levels were just slightly below average, and the doctor suggested upping her iron dose to 85mg per day. But we wanted to try something else. That’s how we discovered blood builders.

A blood builder is a supplement made with whole foods, not synthetic vitamins and minerals. It’s now the only iron supplement my mom feels safe taking. Her body absorbs it like it would a food, which means she doesn’t have iron supplement side effects. These natural supplements also include a variety of other vitamins and minerals that aid in iron absorption, like Vitamin C and B-12. Since she’s started on blood builders, she has a bit more pep in her step. She’ll always keep the medical alert system with her, but she feels a lot better now that she switched supplements. I might just start taking them myself.