Iron deficiency is a common problem for many IBD patients,who have a hard time absorbing and storing iron. However, iron supplements are not allowed when practicing SCD as a diet therapy, since iron in a supplement form is harsh on a sensitive gut. Research also suggests that iron supplements can alter the bacterial balance in the gut of people with IBD
When adhering to the Specific Carbohydrates Diet, there are several alternatives to the use of iron supplements. While mentoring SCD families I have seen people that managed to restore their iron levels shortly after starting SCD. As their gut was healing their absorption of iron from foods sources was sufficient to normalize lab results of iron levels. At the same time, some other people struggle to restore iron levels even while on SCD, and must try different methods to supplement their iron until they find a good fit that their body absorbs well. Listed below are various methods that are in compliance, or minimally interfere with SCD.
Absorbing iron from food
Eat iron reach foods such as liver, spinach and apricots. If the thought of eating liver is unappealing, ‘hide’ it in burgers or meatloaf. Try to find good quality responsibly feed beef or chicken livers. For example, Us Wellness has beef liverwurst that is SCD legal.
Vitamin C aids in iron absorption. Eat your iron rich foods alongside foods rich in vitamin C, such as freshly squeezed orange juice.
When cooking in Iron skillets, the food will absorb iron from the skillet. A 2006 study published in the “Journal of Food Science” found that cooking in cast-iron pans increased the iron content of foods.
Desiccated liver pills
This is a food based iron supplement that is SCD legal and works very well for many kids and adults.
It is important to choose a reliable brand that sources liver from responsibly raised animals and has no additives. Here are a few examples of recommended brands:
Liquid iron supplements
Floradix is illegal on SCD, but the company makes a gluten free, yeast free version, which may be safer if iron supplements are absolutely needed. It is liquid, which is easier to absorb than pills. It is plant based iron, and very gentle on the gut, with good absorption.
Iron injections and intravenous iron therapy
Blood transfusions bypass the gut, which is very advantageous for IBD patients. Iron transfusions are very helpful, with an almost immediate positive effect on energy levels. They must be done at a hospital or a trusted and reputable naturopath’s office. A small percentage of people may have an adverse reaction, and will require Benadryl immediately.
Compounded topical iron cream
Some pharmacists observe that topical iron creams are not easily absorbed into the blood, and do not recommend topical iron creams. However, I know people that cannot ingest supplements and reported that their iron levels went up with the help of iron creams. Be aware of the cream formulation, and if possible ask for SCD legal ingredients, even for topical products. Some people have had an adverse reaction to iron cream that was formulated with wheat germ oil. Iron cream can be ordered at some, but not all, compounding pharmacies.