What is anemia?
Anemia develops when your body lacks enough healthy red blood cells(RBC).
RBC are the transporters of oxygen to the organs. Iron is needed for this transport to occur. So when the body is not getting enough oxygen, anemia develops.
How do I know I am anemic?
To diagnose anemia, your doctor should:
1- Take your medical history
2- Ask you to do a blood test
3- Check the laboratory test
Blood tests include:
– Complete blood count known as CBC, which determines the number, the size, the volume and hemoglobin content of red blood cells.
– Folate and Vitamin B12
– Serum ferritin level,
– blood iron level
the serum ferritin level and the blood iron level are the best indicators of your body’s total iron stores
For anemic people, the serum ferritin will be low, the iron level will be below 6 umol\L
Why am I anemic?
–Decrease in size and number of RBC’s so they don’t work properly anymore
–Iron deficiency: Iron level in blood is very low because of:
a- inadequate iron intake
b- inadequate iron absorption by the body resulting from diarrhea
c- menstruation and hemorrhage from injury
d- poor and vegetarian diets that lack the Vitamin B6 and B12, the 2 dietary forms of iron.
-Folic Acid deficiency: This comes from inadequate intake of folic acid, a vitamin found in green leafy vegetables.
Symptoms of Anemia
– Pale skin
– Thin finger nails
– Rapid breathing
– Pink eyelid
– Weight loss
Check your blood tests if you feel 2 of these symptoms
Management and treatment
If you are suffering from slight anemia, I always recommend to start a dietetic treatment instead of directly go for supplements which might interfere with other medications and cause constipation. But ask your doctor first, it’s a must!
Only Iron deficiency anemia and Folic Acid Anemia can be treated by diet.
Treatment will depend upon whether a person is not getting enough Iron due to poor absorption because of surgical condition (infections in stomach or intestine or tumors) or due to poor diets.
In my post I will only consider Anemia caused by poor diets
A- Absorption of Iron from food is influenced by the form of Iron, and we have 2 forms:
1- HEME IRON: FOUND IN ANIMAL SOURCES:
Pork liver, chicken liver, beef liver, shrimps, kidneys, sardines, turkey, oysters, clams.
HEME IRON IS HIGHLY AVAILABLE FOR ABSORPTION, SO IT IS THE BEST FORM TO BE TAKEN.
2- NON-HEME IRON: FOUND IN VEGETABLES SOURCES:
Enriched breakfast cereals, enriched pastas, cooked beans and lentils, pumpkin seeds, baked potato with skin, asparagus, dried fruits.
Pregnant women should not consume liver because of its high content of Vitamin A that can be harmful for the baby.
If your cholesterol level is high, liver and meat should not be consumed more than twice a week.
B- The absorption of non-heme iron can be doubled when sources of heme iron are consumed at the same time.
For example: Meat steak with one baked potato with skin
C- Some food items can enhance Iron absorption, and some food can inhibit it.
Here is the list, avoid eating them with Iron rich food to maximize the absorption.
1- Iron absorption enhancers:
– Oranges, strawberries, pineapples, grapefruit: These fruits are good sources of Vitamin C
– Broccolis, tomatoes, tomato juice, red peppers
– White wine.
2- Iron absorption inhibitors:
– Coffee, tea
– Red wine
Long time ago people used to think that eating spinach will cure anemia because of its high content of Iron, but unfortunately the figure was wrong and the decimal point was placed in the wrong place. Spinach contains oxalic acid which binds to Iron and inhibits its absorption.
Popeye has been eating spinach for nothing!!
How much do I need?
Pre- menopausal women: 18 mg\day
Post-menopausal women: 8 mg\day
Pregnant women: 27 mg\day
Men: 6 mg\day
Anemic diet for 1 day:
1 cup of low fat milk ( without tea or Nescafe)
1 cup ( portion size) of enriched cereals
150 g of meat steak or chicken breast
1 plate of salad ( cabbage, tomato, red pepper, beans, carrots)
1 orange juice
2 handful of pumpkin seeds
1 pineapple juice
2 cups of cooked lentils
1 green salad ( Roca, tomato, carrot, asparagus)