Friday, December 30, 2011

How I beat postpartum anemia without iron pills

It's not uncommon to become anemic postpartum -- in fact I wonder how anyone could avoid it since a good deal of blood is lost during birth and in the few days following. I was no exception and even without knowing my iron levels (7.8 as it turned out) I knew I was going to have to do something about my yellowish skin, colorless fingernails, and fatigue!

My midwife recommended a prescription medication called Multigen and at first I fully intended to take it. She felt it would be well absorbed and would not cause digestive difficulties the way that most iron supplements do. However, the side effects listed on WebMD included black tarry stools and constipation which is pretty standard for iron supplements of any kind, along with a host of other unpleasant possibilities. This is likely due to the fact that a certain type of undesirable bacteria in the gut really LOVE iron supplements and proliferate rapidly when fed this preferred food.

I've worked SO hard (through the GAPS diet and taking probiotics) over the past 20 months or so to balance my gut flora that I was really reluctant to mess things up. I looked up the iron content of various foods online and decided that if I could aim for around 70 mg daily it might do the trick. (Multigen provides 120 mg in a daily dose, and the RDA for iron is 18 mg for the average person, though this goes up for pregnant women. Since iron supplements are generally not absorbed well at all, the way food is, I figured I didn't need 120 mg daily.) Of course, it IS difficult to get this quantity of iron through food alone, but I had a special tool in my arsenal, bentonite clay, which I had been taking during this pregnancy.

Here is what I decided to aim for, on a daily basis:
  • 4 oz chicken liver: 14.7 mg (turns out chicken liver is quite a bit higher in iron than beef liver)
  • 4 oz beef: 3.6 mg
  • 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses: 3.6 mg (I only took this once because the flavor was extremely unappealing for some reason)
  • 3 tsp bentonite clay: a whopping 51 mg!
Also, I planned to cook as much as possible in my iron skillet. I didn't bother worrying about plant sources of iron since those forms are not as absorbable as the iron found in animal foods.

To take bentonite clay (sold under the Redmond brand, as Redmond clay) I simply put about an ounce or two of filtered water in a small teacup (it really helps if the cup has a rounded bottom on the inside so you can mix the clay better), then add 1 tsp Redmond clay and whisk thoroughly with a small wire whisk. (It's important to wash the whisk right away so the clay doesn't become horribly stuck.) Last -- send it down the hatch and follow with a few sips of water or another beverage, or a bite of food. I generally refrain from breathing through my nose while taking the clay water so that I don't taste it as much; it has a rather unpleasant chalky, dirty taste. Despite the taste and the small hassle of preparing the water three times a day, it wasn't all that difficult to increase my daily dose of clay from 1 tsp to 3 tsp, particularly since I was really motivated to feel better!

As a side benefit to taking bentonite clay on a regular basis, not only are you getting an amazing natural mineral supplement, but you will also experience really great digestion. In the past, people in certain cultures would carry a ball of clay with them and take a little every day, to avoid dysentery and other illnesses associated with consuming food or water that may have been contaminated. The clay has a special ability to bind to toxins in the digestive tract and pull them out of the body. (Some people say it can have a constipating effect, though I haven't experienced this. If this happens you can just cut down on the dosage or take it with a little psyllium husk to ensure it keeps moving through the bowel easily.)

My next post will include my favorite recipe for chicken liver, which Oliver also loves. I'm happy to report that within a few days of my special regimen I was no longer pale and yellowish, and was feeling much better!

*Note added 3/2: my check-up blood work showed an excellent hemoglobin count, just as I thought it would! My pregnant friend, Julia, also boosted her hemoglobin and her energy levels in just a few days of taking clay.

**Note added 3/24: at this time I can really only recommend clay for remedying digestive issues (cleansing toxins from the body after food poisoning or something like that) and for anemia. I don't think you should continue taking it when you don't really need it due to the possible presence of very low amounts of aluminum (which can be in the ground).

Also, the clay does have the ability to bind to nutrients, not just toxins, so take it on an empty stomach not around the time you are eating. I now keep my little cup of clay water beside my bed (yes, with the tiny whisk alongside!) and take it in the middle of the night when I wake up to go to the bathroom. I take one tsp., and only every 3-4 days or so. It seems to provide me with digestive benefits (prevents stool from becoming hard). And because the clay has been sitting in the water for several hours it dissolves much better.


  1. i took liquid "floravital" (floradix), which is made from herbs and greens and is non-constipating. what's your take on that supplement? i found it to be an amazing help.

  2. I was actually surprised that Joan didn't recommend Floradix as she had suggested it while I was pregnant (before I upped my iron intake). If it is natural and worked for you, then I think that's great!

  3. Hi -- do you feel that mixing the clay with water is more effective than taking the capsules Redmond also sell? Thanks!

    1. I was unaware of the capsules, but as long as it's the same clay then it would probably be fine. You would likely have to take many, many capsules, though, to ingest the equivalent of 1 tbsp. daily while boosting your hemoglobin count. I would suspect the clay powder is much more economical. It may also work better to first dissolve it (more or less) in water.