View Full Version : Iron


Nonzens
08-28-13, 01:01 AM
What are your experiences? Has taking iron supplements ever increased your ability to concentrate, and has becoming anemic or vegan/vegetarian been associated with decline in ability to concentrate?

So I've read a number of times that iron may affect ADHD symptoms. Specifically, it affects the dopamine system, among other things.

Over a year ago, I was in the hospital for an infection. They took my blood and then mentioned in passing that I was low in iron. That's all they said.

I started taking an iron supplement after that, but didn't take it very regularly... then I got a physical a few months later and was told that my iron level was fine, but my cell size indicated that I was either recovering from anemia or on the verge of becoming anemic.

I also tried taking a multivitamin with iron to save money because I'm poor, but the multi was in the form of a gigantic pill with a taste that made me gag almost every single time I took it... and sometimes nauseous afterward. So I only ended up taking it once or twice a week at best, and usually far less often than that. When I got a follow-up physical, my cells were looking slightly better and iron still good.

Here's the thing.. My ADD symptoms began to dramatically worsen at almost the exact same time that I became vegetarian and then vegan. I have always thought that there were equally plausible reasons for this unrelated to nutrition... after all, the same pattern happened to my older brother - dramatically losing ability to concentrate on school as a young adult. And my dad also had inability to finish school or keep a job. So I'm still pretty sure I have ADD either way. But the iron could be contributing to ADD at least a little.

So I recently finally started taking iron supplements regularly (150% DV once every 2-3 days for two weeks). I could name some equally plausible reasons related to other meds and life, but the last couple days I've been more focused than normal. Not super focused as if I were on an effective stimulant, but a tad more focused at home and a lot more focused when it comes to running errands. Maybe it's the iron + my red blood cells finally reaching normal levels/size. Maybe it's the fact that I got a new bike and could FINALLY run a bunch of errands. Maybe it's the excitement from getting my Focalin script that will be filled by tomorrow or Thursday. Maybe it's excitement from finally getting approved for food stamps - which I desperately need. Maybe it's a combination of all of these things.

In the future, perhaps I'll experiment with the iron to see if it affects my concentration - but for now, I just want to be able to concentrate for once in my life, so I'm going to keep taking the iron and hope the Focalin does wonders... The mixture of the two will again make it difficult to say which is the cause.

This article mentions a study that found that a whopping 82% of kids diagnosed with ADHD had lower than normal iron levels, and iron supplements decreased symptoms for these kids.
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/3993.html

I find it kind of mind-blowing and horrifying to think that I've spent the last 3-4 years going through utter hell and ruining my educational/life prospects in no small part due to iron deficiency / veganism. I mean, I've always had major attention/procrastination/motivation problems, but it rapidly deteriorated to the point I couldn't finish my schoolwork at all, no matter how hard I tried. After I graduated valedictorian of a class of 184.... not that that was the strict beginning of losing focus, as I think it had been an ongoing process... but the timing is definitely food for thought.

dvdnvwls
09-18-13, 04:27 AM
My personal opinion: ADHD + vegan/vegetarian = very little hope for health.

What I've written here is not directed at you personally - it's a general rant about ADHD and eating.

Eating well without meat requires organization, perseverance, planning, calculation, and vigilance. We're missing a lot of that stuff.

I'm afraid vegetarian ADHDers will end up eating mostly starch, instead of eating mostly vegetables.

Vegetarianism is a topic that requires understanding to make it work - a person can't just stop eating meat and say "I'm a vegetarian now".

If we all acted like smart well-informed vegetarians who really eat vegetables and not just a lot of spaghetti rice and potatoes, and we all also ate a large piece of meat or fish twice a week, I think we'd be fine.

But the reality is, if you're going to be on an irresponsible lazy diet, then you absolutely need meat.

Fuzzy12
09-18-13, 05:17 AM
My personal opinion: ADHD + vegan/vegetarian = very little hope for health.

What I've written here is not directed at you personally - it's a general rant about ADHD and eating.

Eating well without meat requires organization, perseverance, planning, calculation, and vigilance. We're missing a lot of that stuff.

I'm afraid vegetarian ADHDers will end up eating mostly starch, instead of eating mostly vegetables.

Vegetarianism is a topic that requires understanding to make it work - a person can't just stop eating meat and say "I'm a vegetarian now".

If we all acted like smart well-informed vegetarians who really eat vegetables and not just a lot of spaghetti rice and potatoes, and we all also ate a large piece of meat or fish twice a week, I think we'd be fine.

But the reality is, if you're going to be on an irresponsible lazy diet, then you absolutely need meat.

I'm a vegetarian and I wonder sometimes if a lack of protein (or maybe iron?) is causing my ADHD like symptoms.

I do eat mainly vegetables and fruits but the bulk of my intake would still be mainly carbs. I try to eat lots of pulses and beans. I've just started trying to eat more eggs, but I'm not very fond of them.

dvdnvwls
09-18-13, 02:18 PM
I'm a vegetarian and I wonder sometimes if a lack of protein (or maybe iron?) is causing my ADHD like symptoms.

I do eat mainly vegetables and fruits but the bulk of my intake would still be mainly carbs. I try to eat lots of pulses and beans. I've just started trying to eat more eggs, but I'm not very fond of them.
Women vegetarians have to be more vigilant about iron than just about anyone else.

Tell your GP that you're a vegetarian and you're concerned you may have become anemic. It's a standard easy blood test to find out.

Nonzens
09-18-13, 03:15 PM
I'm a vegetarian and I wonder sometimes if a lack of protein (or maybe iron?) is causing my ADHD like symptoms.

I do eat mainly vegetables and fruits but the bulk of my intake would still be mainly carbs. I try to eat lots of pulses and beans. I've just started trying to eat more eggs, but I'm not very fond of them.

Try increasing your protein and decreasing your carbs. In fact, try this: just eat protein like eggs or tofu or lentils in the morning and then eat whatever you want later. But see if that helps.

I am finding that not only iron, but protein has a massive impact on my focus. Dopamine is made of protein, and iron is necessary to make dopamine from protein. I started eating a lot of protein and less carbs, combined with my medication, and the results have been wild.

Nonzens
09-18-13, 03:22 PM
My personal opinion: ADHD + vegan/vegetarian = very little hope for health.

What I've written here is not directed at you personally - it's a general rant about ADHD and eating.

Eating well without meat requires organization, perseverance, planning, calculation, and vigilance. We're missing a lot of that stuff.

I'm afraid vegetarian ADHDers will end up eating mostly starch, instead of eating mostly vegetables.

Vegetarianism is a topic that requires understanding to make it work - a person can't just stop eating meat and say "I'm a vegetarian now".

If we all acted like smart well-informed vegetarians who really eat vegetables and not just a lot of spaghetti rice and potatoes, and we all also ate a large piece of meat or fish twice a week, I think we'd be fine.

But the reality is, if you're going to be on an irresponsible lazy diet, then you absolutely need meat.

I think that's a bit of a vague statement to use the word "absolutely." Let's just say, it's important to get enough protein and iron and B vitamins, and that eating too much of carbs prevents us from getting enough protein. It's harder to be vegetarian in our society because our society is designed for people who eat a LOT of meat and also a lot of junk foods that are loaded with carbs. That limits the options of what we can eat.

If you're going to be on an irresponsible, lazy diet, you're screwed regardless of whether you're vegetarian or vegan or omnivorous... but you're probably even more screwed as a vegan or vegetarian, just because it's harder to get healthy vegan/vegetarian foods. I ate poorly before, too... I was kind of bulimic and would binge on fast food and crackers and donuts and chips. And I grew up eating a lot of crap thanks to my parents, so it was hard to get into the habit of eating good vegetarian stuff frequently. I've always craved lots of carbs because that's what I grew up on... it was my comfort food.

But now my diet is going to be much better since I realized the importance of protein. It has such a huge impact that I can't imagine myself going back to eating the way I used to... it's like the difference between taking my meds and not taking them. I've never had a lot of self-control over food, but that's definitely changing in light of this. Also I'm on food stamps now which helps me to eat more healthily because I'm not limiting the amount I spend on food to save for rent and other things.

Instead of telling people not to become vegetarian/vegan, we should be keeping them informed about how iron/protein/B12/carbs affect them not only with regard to muscles but also concentration and motivation. I really dislike people trying to tell people they shouldn't be vegetarian/vegan because it's kind of condescending and won't get anyone to listen to you. I know, because I've been on the receiving end of that. I became vegan for very serious ethical reasons, and it's gonna take more than looking down on the viability of a vegetarian/vegan diet to get vegans/vegetarians to eat more healthily.

I'm going to start eating eggs again, but only from the Farmer's Market because I still think factory farming is awful.

dvdnvwls
09-18-13, 03:24 PM
If you're going to be on an irresponsible, lazy diet, you're screwed regardless of whether you're vegetarian or vegan or omnivorous... but you're probably even more screwed as a vegan or vegetarian, just because it's harder to get healthy vegan/vegetarian foods.
I think that's closer to what I should have said.

I believe humans are omnivorous for a reason, that we go against that reason at our own peril, and I'll leave it at that.

Nonzens
10-06-13, 10:45 PM
Well, each person is unique, but in general, I agree. Some people are actually healthier on a vegetarian/vegan diet. They absorb nutrients better from plants. Other people are healthier on a carnivorous diet. I heard of one guy who literally ate nothing but raw meat for years because he found his body could not absorb nutrients from plants at all... and his girlfriend is vegan, funnily enough. He buys all his meat from small farms or slaughter the animals himself so he knows it's ethical.

Anyway, I'm finding perils of eating too much protein... it definitely causes me muscle spasms, and I also ready that it can leech calcium from bones for some reason... 99% positive that's also been happening to me. I looked this up almost as soon as I started this high protein diet and have been very conscious of it... the muscle spasms are VERY directly correlated with level of protein intake. Now that my overall protein level is so high, I get spasms almost every time I eat protein.

Being a procrastinator and also a totally broke cheapskate, I put off starting on a calcium supplement. I know I only get a little calcium from food. I also take a multivitamin once every 2-3 days, that I'm starting to take more often... but it only contains like 10% calcium. The foods I eat contain at most 10% calcium per serving (cereal), usually only like 2-4% if anything. So today I finally got around to the calcium supplement. I had one I bought ages ago but only tried once - chewables, but they are totally gross... it's like eating chalk. I pulled that out from storage and cut one up today and tossed small pieces into my cereal. even that was a bit gross.

Today I bought new calcium supplement - chewable, but flavored, and contains more complementary nutrients than the nasty one magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, Vitamin D. I was afraid I wasted the money and it'd be nearly as gross, but it's actually totally acceptable. So I'm gonna start taking 2 of those a day - 1200mg - and see how I fair.

Symptoms of calcium loss that I experienced were getting really evident the past few days - like every time I bump into something close to a bone, it hurts like 2-3x as much as normal.

I read that a high protein diet can increase calcium absorption, but you must be also on a high calcium diet.

I am also eating lots of potassium because I read that it also is important when on a high protein diet to prevent muscle fatigue. Mostly in the form of bananas, fruit juice, and pumpkin curry (free at work).

Also not sure if my level of iron is high enough now because high protein diet means I am using more iron to turn the protein into dopamine. So I am now combining multivitamin with 100% iron with also an iron supplement of 150% DV.

Need to get another physical ASAP, but so busy these days with actually being productive for once and looking for a new/better job, that I've been postponing it. I really should schedule that ASAP bc I will have to schedule it weeks in advance anyway. With all these dietary changes happening one right after another, it'll be very important to know of any adverse changes in my nutrient levels. Hard to keep track of them all. Am I getting too much potassium? Depleting my iron too fast? B12? Etc.

As you can see, I am taking this nutrition stuff way more seriously than I was before. Now I look up potential adverse affects for every major dietary change. I'm a little afraid to talk to a professional about the extent of my dietary changes because I know they might tell me I need to cut back on the protein. But I'd like to explore other options first: increase other nutrients to accommodate a high protein diet, increase exercise to balance out protein used for muscles+bones and protein used for brain function.

I also really, really want to be able to have a high concentration level. I'm really actually afraid of this not being sustainable in terms of actually improving my concentration/motivation/energy. I mean, at least in having it all at a level that would really thoroughly change my life. It's really hard to find the right balance of all these things. So complicated!!! Diet is so f-ing complicated - there is so much debate about diet, let alone about ADHD medications and dietary factors related to ADHD symptoms. One reason I never studied nutrition much as a vegan is because I kept reading so much conflicting information... some of it pop science myths and some pop vegan myths. Radical vegans are always trying to tell everyone that a vegan diet is the best thing for everyone, which is stupid and I never really bought into that, at least.

If nothing else, I want this high protein diet to get me through the next few weeks until I find a better job because I'm going to need all the concentration I can get to succeed at getting a nice, upwardly mobile job in the next few weeks... especially living in D.C. during this stupid shutdown.

After that, and if the calcium supplement + exercise aren't doing it, I'll consider cutting back on the protein. (I'm actually trying to cut back a little already.)

Other effects of high protein and/or high potassium and/or sufficient iron diet include: 1. my muscles are obviously recovering MUCH faster than they were for the past 1.75 years, 2. my muscles generally seem to have more energy and feel like they are craving exercise (which I've been failing to give them!), 3. mentally I feel more fatigued when I wake up due perhaps to overuse of mental energy and/or poorer sleep.

I know calcium will solve the bone problem, but wondering what to do about the muscle cramps? Exercise is the only thing I can think of, but I have such a hard time motivating myself to exercise regularly. When my concentration is good, all I wanna do is focus on job applications and ignore EVERYTHING ELSE, literally.

dvdnvwls
10-07-13, 12:19 AM
Calcium and magnesium relate to each other and need to be in balance in your body. Lack of magnesium is one contributing factor in muscle cramps. You can get combined calcium/magnesium formulas, or you can buy them separately. I don't know the reasoning or the validity behind this next bit, but I was advised "When choosing magnesium for normal use, don't get the plain magnesium oxide - the other formulas (citrate, others as well) are better suited."