There are over 400 different forms of anaemia. Dr Rita Louise focuses on the most common forms and tells you what to do about them.
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 haemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that gives it its red colour. 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, destroy them before they are replaced or produce cells that are unhealthy, you can end up experiencing symptoms of anaemia.
Symptoms can include fatigue, chest pain, angina, shortness of breath, irritability, dizziness, lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, numbness or coldness in extremities, headaches or pale skin.
Anemia can result from inherited disorders, nutritional problems (such as iron or vitamin deficiency) infections, some kinds of cancer, exposure to drugs or toxins.
In fact there are over 400 different forms of anaemia; however, in this article, we will focus on the most common forms, iron deficiency anaemia, B12 deficiency and folate deficiency.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when the amount of iron in the body is too low, thus affecting haemoglobin 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, haemorrhoids, 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 iron.
In addition to iron, the body needs vitamin B12 and folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in these nutrients are prone to anaemia as well.
There are a few reasons why someone may suffer from B12 anaemia. 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.
Similar in the cause to B12 Anemia is folate deficiency. Folate or folic acid is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables.
Over the years, cases of folate deficiency in the US 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 spinal cord of the fetus.
Recommendations For Wellness
In treating anaemia 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 anaemia you may have.
Excessive iron can be toxic to the body, so do not take iron supplements without first talking to your healthcare 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 molasses. Panax ginseng can be used to help counteract the fatigue experienced by those who suffer from anaemia.
If your anaemia 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.
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