Very commonly, no cause for iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are found: no gastrointestinal bleeding, no excessive menstrual blood loss, no hemolysis (red blood cell destruction). Your doctor tells you that there is no identifiable cause and you are therefore resigned to taking iron supplements, prescription iron, injectable iron, or even blood transfusions while the anemia often does not respond or does so only temporarily.
Here are two situations in which iron deficiency develops that are rarely addressed by doctors, but YOU can:
- The phytates of wheat and grains—Modern wheat, in particular, has been selected by farmers and agricultural scientists to have greater phytate content, as phytates are pest-resistant and protect the wheat plant against fungi, mold, insects, and others. But wheat phytates also bind most of the iron you obtain through diet, supplements, or prescription iron and makes it unavailable for absorption. Iron deficiency anemia caused by wheat phytates can be profound and largely unresponsive to “treatment” but reverses promptly when all wheat and related grains are eliminated from the diet.
- Autoimmune gastritis—The gliadin protein of wheat and related grains triggers an autoimmune response against the parietal cells of the stomach that produce stomach acid. Over time, cumulative destruction of the parietal cells causes insufficient stomach acid production, or hypochlorhydria, and eventually achlorhydria in which no stomach acid is produced. Hypo- and achlorhydria lead, in turn, to iron deficiency anemia, since acid is required to extract iron from food. Hypo- and achlorhydria also lead to vitamin B12 absorption, since the loss of parietal cells means that the “intrinsic factor” required for B12 absorption is no longer being produced. To make matters worse, lack of stomach acid sets you up for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, as well as stomach cancer.
You can appreciate that, if you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia, it is extremely unwise to not pursue the above two issues.
You can find a more extended discussion of these issues and steps you can take to address them in our Undoctored Inner Circle.