Anemia (iron deficiency)

Symptoms   Causes   Nutrients   Nutritional discussion

Anemia is diagnosed when levels of red blood cells are too low. Red blood cells which carry oxygen to the body depend on hemoglobin, their red pigment, for proper functioning. Characteristically, the cells are unusually small and pale and the condition is called iron-deficiency anemia. Such a deficiency is identified by the number of red blood cells, the amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, and the volume of red blood cells after being centrifuged (hematocrit).

Self Help &
Complementary Care

  • Iron: Medical professionals usually prescribe iron supplementation, since it is essential for iron-deficiency anemia however those who are not diagnosed with iron deficiency should not take iron supplements. Taking iron when it isn't needed does no good and may do some harm. Because iron extracts are a frequent cause of childhood fatal poisonings, be sure to keep any iron supplements well out of reach.
  • Liver extracts: Bovine liver extracts are an excellent natural source of iron and other vitamins and minerals for non-vegetarians.
Other nutritional supplements that may be helpful
  • Vitamin A 10,000 IU per day is often recommended along with iron for better absorption.
  • Vitamin C (500 mg per day, taken along with iron for better absorption.

Dietary changes that may be helpful

Iron deficiency is identified by a blood test measuring iron in the body. The condition may have many causes unrelated to nutrition such as bleeding ulcers, excessive menstrual bleeding, hemorrhoids, gastrointestinal bleeding caused by drugs, colon cancer, or in undeveloped countries, parasitic worms, malaria and vitamin A deficiency.

There are also forms of anemia with plenty of iron in the blood, but it is not properly absorbed for utilization by the red blood cells.

Symptoms

Some common symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue, weakness, lethargy, poor immune system functioning, and poor concentration.
  • Pica a peculiar symptom is the desire to consume strange things such clay, paint, or cardboard.
  • Serious anemia can give rise to headaches, lightheadedness, tinnitus, pale skin, irritability, restless legs syndrome, and too readily being out of breath.

Causes

Anemia occurs when the body produces too few red blood cells, loses too many of them, or if red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced.

There are close to 100 different types of anemia with many causes, including:

  • Serious disease
  • Vitamin or iron deficiencies
  • Blood loss
  • Genetic or acquired defects or disease
  • Side effects of medication

Conventional Treatment

In order to treat both the cause of iron deficiency and the lack of iron itself, your medical professional drugs and supplements such as ferrous sulfate, fumarate and gluconate, and polysaccharide-iron complex. There are side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and nausea. Iron may also be delivery via injections if oral consumption is not tolerated.

Studies

See research on which this discussion is based.