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Anaemia

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The term anaemia relates to several blood conditions involving a deficiency of red blood cells or haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body. The most common type is iron-deficiency anaemia.

Symptoms

Iron-deficiency anaemia is more common in women than men  and is associated with:

  • Fatigue  
  • Lethargy 
  • Dizziness 
  • Pale skin, lips, gums, nail beds and eyelid linings   
  • Nails may become brittle, ridged and develop a spoon shape   
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Shortness of breath (especially when exercising)   
  • Cognitive problems , such as poor concentration 
  • Headache   
  • Increased susceptibility to cold ; coldness of the hands and feet 
  • Reduced resistance to infection   
  • Cracks in the corners of the mouth 
  • Cravings for dirt, ice or other unusual substances (pica) 
  • Chest-pain may occur, especially in older people

Causes

Iron plays a vital role in haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body in the red blood cells. The symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia arise because without enough iron, there is insufficient haemoglobin to carry oxygen to the tissues. 

Iron deficiency is usually related to inadequate dietary intake of iron.

Women are more prone to iron-deficiency anaemia than men due to their monthly blood loss during menstruation. In addition, many women develop anaemia during pregnancy, as their iron stores are diverted to the developing baby.

Vegetarians and vegans are at increased risk of iron deficiency since the iron from meat and other animal products (called haem iron) is more easily absorbed than iron from vegetarian sources. Vegetarians and vegans are also at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as this nutrient is only found in animal products.  

People who have suffered blood loss due to accident, surgery, chronic disease (e.g. bowel disease), or adverse effects of medications (e.g. aspirin) are also at risk of developing iron-deficiency anaemia. Digestive problems that interfere with the absorption of iron and other nutrients may also be involved (e.g. coeliac disease). 

Diet and lifestyle

  • Eat iron-rich foods such as lean meat, fish and whole grains regularly. 
  • Iron from vegetarian sources is not as easily absorbed as iron from meat sources.  Spinach and other leafy green vegetables, legumes and whole grains are important vegetarian sources of iron, along with enriched breads and cereals.  
  • Always combine iron-containing foods with foods rich in vitamin C (such as citrus and other fruit, capsicum and broccoli ) in order to improve your body's absorption of iron. 
  • Iron foods or supplements should be taken at different times than foods and medicines known to decrease absorption, such as carbonated drinks, coffee, tea, calcium and zinc supplements and antacids and other drugs designed to inhibit gastric acid secretions (e.g. proton-pump inhibitors) .

Important notes

  • Anaemia has many different causes, so if you suspect that you are anaemic or deficient in iron, it is important that you consult your healthcare professional who can arrange for the appropriate investigations to be performed.
  • Keep iron supplements out of reach of children. Always follow the dosage recommendations for iron supplements, as iron is extremely toxic in excessive quantities.  Symptoms may include vomiting and bloody diarrhoea.  If you suspect someone has taken an iron overdose seek emergency medical advice.
  • Do not take iron supplements if you suffer from haemochromatosis, haemosiderosis or an iron-loading form of anaemia (e.g. thalassaemia).

References available on request

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Thank you once again for your helpful information.I was unable to donate blood this morning as my blood levels were too low,i have read your information on iron deficienies and will follow your advice and hope you a better reading next time.Lenore.
Anonymous
Anonymous 15 Sep 2014
Hi Farzana, due to the nature of the symptoms that you are experiencing I think that it is important that you consult your healthcare professional for further advice. I assume that it was your doctor who said that you are anaemic, so I recommend you talk to the doctor about feeling dizzy and possibly treatment that is appropriate. If you would like to discuss this further please contact Blackmores Naturopathic Advisory Service on 1800 803 760. All the best, thanks Danielle
Hi,I have been told that I have iron deficiency. I eat vegetables and meat but I have bad dizziness and my thumb is getting bruised. So what should I do with my dizziness as it bothers me and I can't study well. Please help me thanks
Anonymous
Anonymous 15 Jul 2014
I have been told that I am Iron deficient and have been ordered ferro-grad plus vitamin C is there anything else I can do to help my feeling run down and cold, tired and irritable.
Anonymous
Anonymous 07 Jul 2014
Hello Jaqueline,
Many thanks for your message.
I was not aware of any other medications apart from iron supplements that help increase your iron levels. Along with iron supplementation found within our product range at leading healthfood stores and chemists iron-rich foods can also assist in boosting your iron levels such as red meat, egg yolks, dark leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale), dried fruit (prunes, raisins), oysters, clams, scallops, turkey or chicken, beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans, liver and artichokes. If you eat iron-rich foods along with foods that provide plenty of vitamin C (such as kiwi fruits and oranges), your body can better absorb the iron. I hope this information will be useful. If you have any other queries, please contact our Naturopathic Advisory service at 1800 803 760 or email advice@blackmores.com.au Kind regards, Kellie (Blackmores Naturopath)
Hi
I have been diagnosed with anemia and was put on iron tablets for three months. i then had another blood test which showed the iron levels were within the correct level. i then come off the iron tablets and the iron level dropped again. my doctor wants me to go on medication but i believe that is not the right thing to do . can yo suggest anything?
Anonymous
Anonymous 28 Feb 2014
Hello Pauline, thank you for sharing your health concerns with us. Before taking any supplemental form of iron, it would be advisable to discuss this with your GP or healthcare practitioner and possibly have your iron levels checked through a blood test. This is the only way of knowing whether your symptoms are caused by low iron levels or something else. For your information, iron-rich foods are: red meat, egg yolks, dark leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale), dried fruit (prunes, raisins), molluscs (oysters, clams, scallops), turkey or chicken giblets, beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans, liver and artichokes. If you eat iron-rich foods along with foods that provide plenty of vitamin C (such as kiwi fruits and oranges), your body can better absorb the iron. I hope this information will be useful, Pauline. If you have any other queries, please contact our Naturopathic Advisory service at 1800 803 760 or email advice@blackmores.com.au. Kind regards, Rosaria (Blackmores Naturopath)
what foods are high in iron
Anonymous
Anonymous 25 Oct 2013