Anemia Diet & Nutrition Discussion

Anemia   Vegetarians   Coffee   Fiber   Iron   Liver   Vitamin A   Vitamin C   Vitamin D   Stomach acid

Anemia is not generally due to lacking iron in the diet even though not enough iron in one's diet is frequently an issue, so good iron from natural food consumption is important.

The "heme" molecule, an important component of hemoglobin (pigment in red blood cells), forms a readily absorbable type of digestible iron and is found in poultry, meat, and fish. "Non-heme" iron is in these meat foods, but also in plant, especially molasses, dried fruit, leafy greens and wine. In addition acid-based foods such as tomato sauce simmering in an iron kettle, leech iron into the food and so contribute iron to the diet.

Vegetarians' iron consumption is of the less absorbable non-heme form and consequently they are more likely to be iron deficient2 and should pay attention to keeping iron-rich foods in their diet, and even supplementing with iron.

Coffee limits iron absorption3 although moderate coffee consumption (4 cups a day!) doesn't increase iron-deficiency risk if the diet has enough vitamin C4 and iron.

Black tea, however markedly limits non-heme iron absorption due to its tannins. Therefore those who are iron-deficient of avoid or limit black tea consumption.

Fiber can also weaken iron absorption, especially bran fiber,6 but fiber is an important food component for good health. So it's a good idea, if you need iron supplements, to not take them with meals containing a lot of fiber.

Discussion: Nutritional Supplement Treatment Options

Iron deficiency must be properly diagnosed before being treated because a number of conditions can result in the symptoms.

Iron Supplementation

When and if your medical professional does determine that you have iron deficiency, then supplementing with iron essential, and you should follow their recommended dosage. In such cases the iron-deficiency symptoms may be relieved quickly but supplementation must continue for 6-12 months. A test for iron in the blood, the ferritin test, is the only valid indicator of normal iron levels. In addition some people, especially women before menopause, may need to continue such supplementation. Again, the dosage should be determined by your health professional.

Caution: People who are not diagnosed with iron deficiency should not supplement iron, because taking iron when it isn't needed does no good and may do some harm. Be sure to keep all iron supplements out of the reach of children.

Liver extracts

Beef liver extracts are an often-recommended source of iron as well as other vitamins and minerals, and it provides the readily absorbable heme form of iron and other nutrients that are important for healthy blood. This includes folic acid and vitamin B12.

Vitamin A & Iron

It has been reported that supplementing with iron along with vitamin A is more efficient than supplementing with iron alone.7 Some medical professionals suggest 10,000 IU/daily.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C enhances non-heme absorption.8 Some medical professional recommend that those who are iron-deficient additionally take vitamin C (typically 100-500 mg) with their supplemental iron.9

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been connected to iron deficiency in Asian children12 and the U.K where anemia was identified as a risk for D deficiency.13 These reports indicate that childhood iron-deficiency is an indicator for vitamin D deficiency screening as well.

Stomach Acids

The stomach creates hydrochloric acid for digestion. This digestive acid also helps with non-heme iron absorption.10-11 Some professionals suggest supplementing with hydrochloric acid for patients with anemia.


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