Anemia or iron-poor blood is a condition where there aren’t enough healthy red
blood cells in the body to carry sufficient amounts of oxygen to the tissues. Each
of our red blood cells contains hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that gives it its
red color. Hemoglobin is responsible for the transportation of oxygen from the lungs
to other parts of the body.
If you lose too many red blood cells before they are replaced, or produce cells that
are unhealthy, you can end up experiencing symptoms of anemia. Symptoms can include
fatigue, chest pain, angina, shortness of breath, irritability, dizziness, light
headedness, rapid heartbeat, numbness or coldness in extremities, headaches or pale
Anemia can result from inherited disorders, nutritional problems (such as iron
or vitamin deficiency) infections, some kinds of cancer or exposure to drugs or toxins.
In fact, there are more than 400 different forms of anemia. Here, I will focus on
the most common forms: iron deficiency anemia, B12 deficiency and folate deficiency:
Iron Deficiency Anemia – Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the amount of iron in
the body is too low, thus affecting hemoglobin production. It is most often found
where there is ongoing blood loss, such as in women with heavy menstrual periods,
as well as in individuals who suffer from conditions such as bleeding ulcers, gastroenteritis,
hemorrhoids, colon polyps or colon cancer. Other causes can include issues with absorption,
where the body is unable to absorb iron from the foods we eat, or eating a diet low
In addition to iron, the body needs vitamin B12 and folic acid to produce healthy
red blood cells. A diet lacking in these nutrients can contribute to anemia, as well.
B12 Anemia -There are a few reasons why someone may suffer from B12 anemia. They
include the inability of the body to absorb vitamin B12, such as those with intestinal
disorders, which affect absorption of nutrients. The individual may also suffer from
Pernicious Anemia where the body stops producing a substance called "intrinsic
factor," which is needed to absorb B12 from the diet. Another cause many of
us have heard of is a vegetarian diet which excludes eggs, dairy products, meat and
fish – all of which are sources of vitamin B12.
Folate Deficiency – Folate, or folic acid, is found in foods such as leafy green
vegetables. Over the years, cases of folate deficiency in the U.S. have declined,
since many of the grain product and cereals we eat are fortified with folic acid.
During pregnancy, however, increased levels of folic acid are necessary to prevent
defects of the brain and spiral cord of the fetus.
Recommendations for wellness
- In treating anemia it is important to know its cause, so talk to your doctor
and ask him/her to run a blood test to evaluate your health and help you to determine
what type of anemia you may have.
- Excessive iron can be toxic to the body, so do not take iron supplements without
first talking to your health care provider.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, which includes a variety of whole grains and fresh
fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea, beer or cola drinks with your meals. They can significantly
lower iron absorption. Instead, drink citrus juices or supplement with vitamin C.
Vitamin C has been shown to help support the body’s ability to absorb iron.
- Take a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement to support any nutritional
deficiencies that may be found in the body.
- Herbs such as dong quai, dandelion, barley greens and alfalfa are all great
sources of vitamins and minerals.
- The herb yellow dock is a natural and organic source of iron, as is blackstrap
- Panax ginseng can be used to help counteract the fatigue experienced by those
who suffer from anemia.
- If your anemia is associated with a B12 deficiency or folic acid deficiency,
supplement with a complex B vitamin. Folic acid needs the catalysts vitamins B12
and B6 to carry out its functions effectively.