Anemia is another name for low (or a reduction in) red-blood-cell count, or low hemoglobin in the blood. Millions of Americans suffer from anemia, and it is estimated one in three women is anemic. The body’s iron stores can be depleted either through insufficient intake or excessive loss. The most common symptoms of anemia are fatigue and low energy, mainly due to a reduction in the oxygen available to the cells in the body. Other symptoms include weakness, paleness, low blood pressure, drowsiness, palpitations, light-headedness, depression, ringing in the ears, chest pain, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, headaches, difficulty in concentrating, swelling of the ankles, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
Anemia is not one disease but a symptom of various diseases. Anemia should also be investigated. If you are anemic and feel that you are healthy and have a good diet, the physician can run a simple ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) to deter inflammation in your body. If anemia is left untreated it can be very dangerous and even fatal.
Include the following foods in your diet: apples, apricots, broccoli, egg yolks, kelp, leafy greens, peas, plums, grapes, raisins, squash, rice bran, whole grains bananas, and yams. Foods high in vitamin C can help the absorption of iron. Liquid iron supplements derived from fruits and vegetables in a yeast base, and chelated irons do not cause constipation or heartburn. Most meats contain sufficient iron. Cow’s milk, however, has almost no iron. Some people consume 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses twice daily (1 teaspoon daily for a child.)
Some foods (that contain oxalic acid) interfere with the absorption of iron and should be eaten in moderation. Foods high in oxalic acid include almonds, cashews, cocoa, chocolate, soda, most nuts and beans. Avoid alcohol (especially beer), dairy products and refined carbohydrates.
There are many causes and factors associated with anemia. Menstrual disturbances are a common cause of iron-deficiency anemia. When periods become heavy and/or irregular, anemia may ensue. Anemia can occur if there is too little iron in the body and the iron reserves are exhausted. Anemia is sometimes first detected in patients with cancer, auto-immune diseases, arthritis, infection, or other major illnesses. Surgery, chronic inflammation, peptic ulcers, liver damage, thyroid disorders, hemorrhoids, drug use, and nutrient deficiency (especially when low in folic acid and vitamin B12), can lead to anemia. In pregnancy, anemia can be common, so the woman should increase her iron when expecting and after childbirth.
- IRON SUPPLEMENT
Iron is an obvious choice to supplement when needed. It can be taken in the form of ferrous sulfate (more likely to cause constipation), ferrous gluconate (less likely to cause constipation), ferrous picolinate (well-tolerated), iron citrate (well-tolerated), and ferrous fumarate. There are also natural supplements that have plant-based iron sources (Floradix Iron & Herb). Dosage: Ferrous sulfate contains 325 mg (which contains 60 mg of elemental iron). Take only as prescribed by a physician until blood levels return to normal.
- VITAMIN B12 (METHYLCOBALAMIN)
Vitamin B12 is essential in the production of red blood cells and to prepare and break down protein for use in the cells. B12 is used for pernicious anemia and via red blood cell production, helps to utilize iron in the body. The injection form of vitamin B12 is preferred. Strict vegans definitely need to supplement with extra B12. The oral dosage is 1,000-4,000 mcg daily. See a physician for the injection.
- FOLIC ACID
Folic acid is a critical B-complex vitamin needed for iron absorption, and more importantly, red blood cell formation. Folic acid has long been used in conjunction with vitamin B12 for the treatment of pernicious anemia. Dosage: 1,000-5,000 mcg daily.
- MULTI-VITAMIN/MINERAL FORMULA
Everyone needs a good, potent daily multi-vitamin-mineral formula. In the case of anemia, one should include a potent B-complex and additional anti-oxidant vitamins (especially vitamins A and E. B vitamins are important in red blood cell production and involved in cellular reproduction. Vitamin A is an important antioxidant, and vitamin E prolongs the life span of red blood cells. Dosage: As directed on the label.
- RAW LIVER EXTRACT
This extract contains all the elements needed for red blood cell production. It is best to use liver raised by organically raised beef. Dosage: 500 mg twice a day.
- VITAMIN C with BIOFLAVONOIDS
Vitamin C is important in iron absorption. In addition it neutralizes free-radicals which can exacerbate diseases states associated with anemia. Dosage: 500 mg daily for children; adults 1,000-5,000 mg daily.
- SPIRULINA, CHLOROPHYLL, and BLUE GREEN ALGAE
These are natural ‘super’ foods, naturally high in iron. Dosage: As directed on label.
- ZINC and COPPER
A Japanese study found that perhaps deficiencies of zinc, and not iron, is a major cause of anemia. Zinc and copper in addition to iron, helps to build red blood cells. Make sure zinc and cooper are balanced before supplementing with extra copper. Utilize a Hair Analysis test to determine zinc and copper levels. Dosage: Zinc 30-45 mg daily until levels are balanced. Copper 2-3 mg daily.
Supplementation of Boron to subjects who had previously had low levels showed increases in blood hemoglobin concentrations. Boron appears to be more effective when combined with folic acid. Dosage: 2 or more mg daily, as directed by a qualified practitioner.
- YELLOW DOCK ROOT and other HERBS
There is a healthy amount of iron in American Yellow Dock Root (a close relative of the Chinese He Shou Wu). The reason Yellow Dock has such high iron content lends toward its ability to attract it form the earth and assimilate it so well. Other herbs with iron binding abilities include Nettles, Chickweed, Astragalus, and Witharia. Dosage: As directed on label.
- COENZYME Q10
This antioxidant supports the immune system’s detoxification of free-radicals that may cause the destruction of red blood cells. Dosage: 50-100 mg a day.
EXCESSIVE IRON (HIGH FERRITIN LEVELS)
An initial suggestion to patients whose iron (ferritin) levels are high is to donate blood more often. This helps to bring the ferritin levels down and provides a service to the community. Also, taking lower doses of vitamin C may help, since vitamin C effectively improves iron absorption from food. Other beneficial supplements include milk thistle (100 mg 3 times a day), alpha-lipoic acid (300 mg twice a day), and two cups of green tea daily. These measures should improve the ferritin level.
Other integrative physicians have recommended DMSA and a-lipoic acid to reduce high levels of iron. Other supplements used with success have been SAMe and IP6. Also, it is suggested to have 250 ml of blood drawn every couple of months.
Balach, J. Letters to the Editor, Prescriptions for Healthy Living, May 2004, 3(5): 8.
Boron-Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review, December 2005. 9(4): 434-436.
Dean, W. Customers’ Corner, July 2005. www.vrp.com
DeMarco, C. Womanwise- Tired? Sad? You Could be Anemic. Alive #205. Nov. 1999.
Folic Acid Monograph, Alternative Medicine Review, 2005. 10(3): 222-226.
Mercola, D. How do you Know if You are Anemic? www.mercola.com
Zinc, Not Iron, May be the Answer to Anemia. Jrl of American College of Nutrition, June 1. 8(3): 261-267.
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