How to Increase Your Iron Levels Without an Iron Supplement

Iron supplements receive a lot of criticism and most people are familiar with the commonly associated gastrointestinal complaints including constipation. When it comes to Ferro-grad C and Maltofer, I believe the criticism is rightly so. I do however, use iron supplementation with clients who require additional support, however in general I use lower doses, an alternate dosage regime and appropriate cofactors (e.g. lactoferrin, vitamin A, prebiotics). 

One of my favourite ways to increase iron levels either with or without an iron supplement (a decision which should be pathology dependant) is with the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (LP299v).

While the underlying mechanisms are still being studied, LP299v has been shown to:

  1. Increase levels of a ferric reductase, DYCTB, in human intestinal cells. Due to both the location and strong regulation by iron, DYCTB is considered to play an important role in iron absorption;
  2. Increase the amount of ferric iron in digested meals and drinks in vitro;
  3. Assist with non-heme iron absorption through several mechanisms including the suppression of hepcidin, the master regulator of systemic iron homeostasis (suppressed hepcidin enhances iron bioavailability), the production of a microbial by-product that promotes ferric iron to the more bioavailable ferrous form, and enhanced mucin production at the intestinal surface, promoting iron uptake.

Together these offer a potential explanation as to the the positive effect on iron absorption and status.

Does anyone else find this as fascinating as me? Using the right probiotic can be the difference between health and deficiency or illness. I have used LP299v for years in clinic for digestive issues and in particular constipation, and more recently for iron issues with great success.

Please note: in clinic I use Metagenics Ultra Flora GI Soothe and this particular product is only available via a practitioner, so please contact my team to learn more about how we can help.


Nordström EA, Teixeira C, Montelius C, Jeppsson B, Larsson N. Lactiplantibacillus plantarum 299v (LP299V®): three decades of research. Benef Microbes. 2021;12(5):441-465. doi:10.3920/BM2020.0191

Sandberg AS, Önning G, Engström N, Scheers N. Iron Supplements Containing Lactobacillus plantarum 299v Increase Ferric Iron and Up-regulate the Ferric Reductase DCYTB in Human Caco-2/HT29 MTX Co-Cultures. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1949. Published 2018 Dec 8. doi:10.3390/nu10121949

Vonderheid SC, Tussing-Humphreys L, Park C, et al. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Probiotic Species on Iron Absorption and Iron Status. Nutrients. 2019;11(12):2938. Published 2019 Dec 3. doi:10.3390/nu11122938

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