This term is not often heard in allopathic medicine but spend anytime talking health practitioners and it very well may come up.
Why do we need to 'blood build'?
Our iron stores are frequently already low due to things like poor absorption, inadequate intake in diet, excessive intake of calcium rich foods
Menstruation further depletes our already inadequate level
Pregnancy increases the demand for iron.
Post baby, the body often loses significant amounts of blood. Not just during delivery, blood loss continues for weeks postpartum along with the loss of the placenta.
So yeah - it's completely reasonable to assume we are deficient after carrying a baby. The thing is this often goes unseen with symptoms starting subtly. The truth is we may breeze by it in recovery discussions but a thoughtful, purposeful approach serves our birth-givers better.
What could this translate to.?
Chronic Anemia, Postpartum Anemia
Being anemic in your postpartum days adds another layer to an already challenging time. This affects about 27% of women postpartum but is often called a silent illness because it starts asymptotic and goes undetected. Lab work is one way of mitigating this.
There are 3 stages:⠀
1. Levels drop in bone marrow lowering the overall iron levels in the blood. There specific symptoms are usually noticed at this stage⠀
2. Levels can be detected in a blood test as hemoglobin production is affected. Symptoms like general fatigue and headaches.⠀
3. Severe anemia has even lower hemoglobin. Extreme tired, exhaustion, feeling “sick”.
Lab work gives a clearer picture of what might be happening but many practitioners aren't inclined to routinely order. This is one of those moments - advocate, advocate, advocate. Getting your H and H levels is great but it is literally the minimum. A full iron panel would be beneficial along with a CBC, of course.
How we blood build:
Regardless of lab work or symptoms, there is physiological need for the postpartum body to build blood. Replacing the lost blood volume from delivery and continued postpartum bleeding means we need to consider how we can offset our depleted bodies. As with most things (w)holistic, it's worth the effort for a multifaceted approach with foods, herbs, cooking techniques, and often, supplementation
It might be helpful to remember there are two types of iron as they absorbed differently in the body.More than 95% of functional iron in the human body is in the form of heme as in non-heme isn't as easily absorbed.
Heme: Heme iron can be found in protein of animal origin.
Non-heme: Non-heme is also in animal protein including dairy products but is mostly in plant based food and herbs friends.
The best way to increase blood (plasma) is good old fashioned (and clean) proteins using a both meat and plants. Here is a little listy loo for you.... .
Dark leafy greens: Spinach, kale, swiss chard, dandelion greens (not raw)
Seeds & Nuts: Almond, Cashew, Hazelnut, Hemp, Sunflower, Sesame
Soaked Dried Fruit including Dates, Prunes, and Cherries.
Black Strap Molasses
Grains & Beans: Quinoa, Steel Cut Oats, Lentils, Red Beans
Herbs + Spices: Nettle Leaf, Yellow Dock, Dandelion, Ashwagandha, Alfalfa, Parsley, Coriander,
Veggies: Beets, Potato, some Mushroom
Fruits: Pomegranate, Apples
Pasture Raised Eggs
Organ Meats, Seafood (especially shellfish), Poultry
Increasing Bioavailability + other important notes on iron + blood building.
🌱 Making your foods in cast iron as often as possible. It's my number one pan!
🌱 Consuming Vitamin C (250mg) as it increases the absorption of the iron.
🌱"Coffee, tea (and caffeine) with meals impeded absorption. Drinking coffee and tea with meals can reduce iron absorption by 50-90% (77). "One study found that drinking a cup of coffee with a hamburger meal reduced iron absorption by 39%. Drinking tea, a known inhibitor of iron absorption, with the same meal reduced iron absorption by a whopping 64%"
.🌱 B12 and B9 are both needed to form Red Blood Cells.
🌱 Bone Broth to help aid absorption in the digestion.
🌱 Lucky Iron Fish (same principle as a Cast Iron pan)
🌱 Calcium inhibits the uptake of iron. A good rule of thumb would be to space out a heavy dairy snactk two hours from an iron rich meal.
🌱 Leafy grains are a wonderful source of iron. COOKED leafy greens - we avoid raw foods early on in postpartum to keep digestion moving and it's more bioavailable when the greens are cooked.
🌱 Consume lysine-rich foods: Consuming plant foods like legumes and quinoa that are rich in the amino acid lysine together with your iron-rich meals may increase iron absorption (80)." ~Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)
🌱Soak, sprout and ferment: Soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains and legumes can improve iron absorption by lowering the amount of phytates naturally present in these foods (78).
Vitamin c works synergistically with iron.