Anemia is the reduction of either the number of red blood cells, or the amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. This results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen that the blood is able to carry.
Anemia reduces the amount of oxygen available in the cells of the body. As a result, you have less energy available to perform 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.
What causes anemia?
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.
Drug use, hormonal disorders, chronic inflammation of the body, surgery, infections, peptic ulcers, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, heavy menstrual bleeding, liver damage, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, bone marrow disease and dietary deficiencies (especially deficiencies of iron, folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12) can all lead to anemia. There are also a number of hereditary disorders, such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia, which cause anemia. Pernicious anemia is a severe form of anemia that is due to vitamins B12 deficiency. Persons with this disorder cannot absorb any form of vitamins B12 from the gastrointestinal tract.
The most common cause
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 to all the cells of the body. Red blood cells exist only for this reason and they 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 cause by insufficient iron intake and/or absorption, or by significant blood loss. Significant blood loss is common with women who suffer from heavy blood flow during their menstrual period, which is often due to a hormonal imbalance, fibroid tumors, or uterine cancer. Women who use 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.
Fungal infections are also known to be a problem.
Signs and symptoms of Anemia
The first signs of developing anemia maybe loss of appetite, constipation, headaches, irritability, and or difficulty in concentrating. Established anemia can produce such symptoms as weakness, fatigue, coldness of extremities, depression, dizziness, pallor (most notable pale and brittle nails, lips, and eyelids), soreness in the mouth, and in women, cessation of menstruation.
Anemia can be a symptom of an underlying disease such as arthritis, infection and other major illness. It should therefore be investigated to see find what inflammation is lurking in the body.
Anemia caused peripheral neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
A diet that lacks iron, folic acid (folate), or vitamin B12 can prevent your body from making enough red blood cells. A deficiency of iron can effect nerve conduction. A lack of B12 damages the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerves. Without this protection, nerves cease to function properly and conditions such as peripheral neuropathy occur. Even B12 deficiency that is relatively mild may affect the nervous system and the proper functioning of the brain. The nerve damage caused by a lack of B12 may become permanently debilitating, if the underlying condition is not treated. Go to Neuropathy (nerve damage) for more information.
What to do for anemia?
Iron is an essential mineral. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. Hemoglobin contains almost two-thirds of the iron level in your body. Becoming deficient in iron will cause anemia.
Iron absorption refers to the amount of dietary iron that the body obtains from food. Healthy adults absorb about 15% of the iron in their diet, but actual absorption is influenced by the body’s iron stores, the type of iron in the diet, and by other dietary factors that either help or hinder iron absorption.
It is most important to include foods that enhance iron absorption when total daily iron intake is insufficient, when iron losses are exceptionally high, or when no iron is usually consumed.
Foods: Include in your diet apples, apricots, asparagus, banana, broccoli, egg yolks, kelp, leafy green, okra, parsley, peas, plums, prunes, purpose grapes, raisins, rice brand, squash, turnip greens, whole grains and yams. Also eat foods high in vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.
Eat food high in oxalic acid in moderation or eliminate them as oxalic acid interferes with iron absorption. Foods high in oxalic acid include almonds, cashews, chocolate, cocoa, kale, rhubarb, soda, sorrel, spinach, Swiss chard, and most nuts and beans.
Avoid: beer, candy bars, dairy products, ice cream, and soft drinks. They interfere with iron absorption as does coffee and tea. Avoid smoking.
If you are taking iron supplements, do not take calcium, vitamin E, zinc or antacids as the same time as you take your supplements. They interfere with iron absorption.
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Omega 3 Fish Oil - Omega 3 essential fatty acids will protect the cells and is recommended when someone has anemia.
Getting on a good healthy diet is the key to health and under cutting all your health conditions – What is a Healthy Diet?
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