Anaemia & Iron Deficiency

Anaemia & Iron Deficiency

Oxygen is transported around the body via the red blood cells, where it is a component of haemoglobin. Iron is vital to this process, and inadequate dietary intake of iron is one of several factors that can result in anaemia, a state in which levels of either haemoglobin or the blood cells themselves are abnormally low.

Symptoms

  • The symptoms of anaemia and iron deficiency reflect the reduced levels of oxygen that are available to the body when haemoglobin levels are low:
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Low blood pressure, tendency to feel faint or dizzy
  • Paleness of the skin, gums, and the blood vessels of the eyes
  • Tongue may be cracked or red
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Shortness of breath with even minor exertion
  • Palpitations
  • Poor IMMUNITY and increased susceptibility to infection
  • Circulatory problems, including cold hands and feet

Causes

  • Inadequate dietary intake and/or absorption of iron or other nutrients involved in the production of healthy blood cells, such as vitamin B12 and folic acid
  • Vegetarians and vegans are at increased risk of iron deficiency, because iron from plant sources is not as readily absorbed as that from meat and animal products. They are also at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as this nutrient is only found in animal products
  • Pregnancy increases the need for iron, and consequently deficiency is common among pregnant women
  • Blood loss from any cause, including menstruation
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • In some cases, anaemia may be symptomatic of an underlying disease process

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • For optimal absorption, choose an iron supplement that also contains nutrients that work with iron in the body and enhance its absorption, most importantly vitamin C, vitamin B12 and folic acid. Iron supplements from organic sources like ferrous fumarate are less likely than those from inorganic sources (like ferrous sulfate) to cause digestive upset and other side effects
  • Extra vitamin B12 may be beneficial for vegetarians and some older people. Since vitamin B12 can be difficult to absorb through the digestive tract, look for a high potency supplement (1 mg per tablet) that dissolves in the mouth, where it can be absorbed directly into the blood vessels

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Blood tests and other investigations may be required to determine the cause of your anaemia or iron deficiency - consult your healthcare professional for more information
  • Animal products such as red meat, poultry and fish all contain iron in an easily absorbed form, and also supply vitamin B12
  • Vegetarian iron sources include dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, watercress and parsley), whole grains, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Enhance the absorption of iron from vegetarian sources by eating foods containing vitamin C (e.g. citrus, tomatoes, red capsicum) at the same meal
  • The iron from beans and grains is easier to absorb when they are soaked in water for 24 hours and then rinsed well before cooking
  • Avoid consuming substances that inhibit iron absorption at the same time as iron supplements or iron-rich foods. These include caffeine and tannin-containing drinks (e.g. tea, coffee, cocoa), calcium supplements, antacids and carbonated beverages
  • Aside from other detrimental effects, smoking further exacerbates CIRCULATORY PROBLEMS and should be avoided by people with anaemia or iron deficiency

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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