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Anemia and What to Do About It
Anything that causes a deficiency in the formation or production of red blood cells, or that leads to the too-rapid destruction of red blood cells, can result in anemia.
Some things that can lead to anemia:
* Drug use
* Hormonal disorders
* Chronic inflammation in the body
* Peptic ulcers
* Diverticular disease
* Heavy menstrual bleeding
* Repeated pregnancies
* Liver damage
* Thyroid disorders
* Rheumatoid arthritis
* Bone marrow disease
* Dietary deficiencies (especially deficiencies of iron, folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12)
There are also a number of hereditary disorders, such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia, that cause anemia.
Pernicious anemia is a severe form of anemia that is due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Persons with this disorder cannot absorb any form of vitamin B12 from the gastrointestinal tract.
Millions of Americans suffer from anemia, a reduction in either the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. The results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen that the blood is able to carry.
Anemia reduces the amount of oxygen available to the cells of the body. As a result, they have less energy available to perform their normal functions.
Important processes, such as muscular activity and cell building and repair, slow down and become less efficient. When the brain lacks oxygen, dizziness may result, and mental faculties are less sharp.
The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. Iron is an important factor in anemia because this mineral is used to make hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that attaches to oxygen and transports it.
Red blood cells exist only to oxygenate the body, and have a life span of about 120 days. If a person lacks sufficient iron, the formation of red blood cells is impaired.
Iron-deficiency anemia can be caused by insufficient iron intake and/or absorption, or by significant blood loss. The latter is commonly seen in women who suffer from menorrhagia (heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding), which in turn may be caused by a hormonal imbalance, fibroid tumors, or uterine cancer.
Women who use intrauterine devices for contraception are also at a higher risk of blood loss, as are those who overuse anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause blood loss through irritation of the digestive tract. Excessive aspirin usage, particularly by elderly people, may cause internal bleeding.
Of those suffering from anemia, 20 percent are women and 50 percent are children. It is often a hidden disease, because the symptoms can easily go unrecognized. The first signs of developing anemia may be:
* Loss of appetite
* Irritability, and/or difficulty in concentrating
Established anemia can produce such symptoms as:
* Coldness of extremities
* Overall pallor
* Most noticeable in pale and brittle nails
* Pale lips and eye lids
* Soreness in the mouth
* In women, cessation of menstruation
Herbs that are good for anemia:
* Grape skins
* Hawthorn berry
* Oregon grape root
* Pau d’arco
* Red raspberry
* Shepherd’s purse
* Yellow dock
Include the following in your diet:
* Egg yolks
* Leafy greens
* Purple grapes
* Rice bran
* Turnip greens
* Whole grains
Also eat foods high in vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.
Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron and essential B vitamins. Consume at least 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses twice daily (for a child, use 1 teaspoon in a glass of milk or formula twice daily).
Avoid beer, candy bars, dairy products, ice cream, and soft drinks. Additives in these foods interfere with iron absorption. For the same reason, avoid coffee (which contains polyphenols) and tea (which contains tannins).
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