The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Frequently Asked Questions

Iron Supplements

Elaine writes:
Pleeeeeze do not get vitamins with iron; they encourage all kinds of infections especially in the gut, and iron has had much research done on it re other diseases. No oral iron if you can help it. Just eat the liver pate and if you like liver, eat it at least once a week. Now, now, Marilyn and Colleen, no remarks.

Seth writes:
Iron levels and anemia is a tricky subject. Anemia can be caused by many factors, low iron levels being only one of them. Poor iron levels can be caused by a lot of different things as well. For one, the body sequesters iron and hides it when you have an infection. If the ideas behind BTVC are correct, and I think they are, then that means those of us with IBD have an ongoing infection. So low levels of iron may be from bleeding (which a lot of us IBDers suffer from), malabsorption, or in many cases the result of the body trying to hide the iron stores from infectious bacteria.

Taking oral iron, in my experience, is not a great idea. Iron supplement have always caused me GI problems, pain, cramping, etc. Iron can be very harsh on the gut and may catalyze oxidative reactions which can damage the surface of the intestines. Furthermore, many pathogens thrive on iron - and by taking oral iron you may be adding to the bacteria overgrowth problem that the SC Diet is trying to quell.

Iron shots (which I had when I was younger) are painful, but at least bypass the problem of iron on the gut.

There are certain supplements you can take to help absorb iron better. For one, Vitamin C binds to iron in food and helps facilitate the transportation of iron across the intestines into the bloodstream. Lactoferrin, a protein the body uses to bind to iron, can also be useful if taken by supplement. It binds tightly to iron, keeping it from catalyzing oxidative reactions, keeping it away from pathogenic bacteria, and also helps the body absorb the iron. Lactoferrin supplements can be expensive.

Finally, having low levels of iron, as long as it is not impacting your energy levels, is not a bad thing. High iron levels have been implicated in heart disease - whether this has anything to do with infections, which I think it does, is controversial. But nonetheless, having more iron is not good when it comes to heart disease. We have known that women seem to be protected from heart disease until they hit menopause. It was always thought that estrogen was the protecting factor. However, researchers recently found that this was not the case. Women on hormone therapy after menopause were not protected. Now the current thinking is that it is the menses that lead to lower levels of iron that protects woman from heart disease. So after menopause and the menses stop, iron levels build back up and woman are at risk again.

So my non-medical advice would be to not worry about iron supplementation unless it is causing anemia and interfering with your energy levels, etc.


"During an acute inflammatory response, serum iron levels decrease while levels of ferritin (the iron storage protein) increase, suggesting that sequestering iron from pathogens is an important host response to infection (16). Despite the critical functions of iron in the immune response, the nature of the relationship between iron deficiency and susceptibility to infection, especially with respect to malaria, remains controversial. High-dose iron supplementation of children residing in the tropics has been associated with increased risk of clinical malaria and other infections, such as pneumonia.

16. Beard, J.L. Iron biology in immune function, muscle metabolism, and neuronal functioning. Journal of Nutrition. 2001; volume 131: pages 568S-580S."

And.. if that isn't enough information, Ben has kindly forwarded this link to the list. If you scroll down, you'll come upon the sentence, "Use with caution in Inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease."

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"We must never forget that what the patient takes beyond his ability to digest does harm."
    Dr. Samuel Gee

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