Anemia is one of the most common blood problems. This occurs when there is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBCs) in the blood. A complete blood count (CDC) is done to determine if a person has anemia or not. Anemia can lead to several health problems since the red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues of the body. Stress on bodily organs and fatigue are just two of the many complications that this blood ailment can bring.
Three primary bodily mechanisms cause anemia.
- excessive destruction of red blood cells
- insufficient production of red blood cells
- blood loss
Apart from these, it can also be caused by:
- inherited disorders
- nutritional deficiency (especially iron or vitamin deficiency)
- exposure to drug or toxin
- some forms of cancer
- prolonged menstrual periods: Women who have heavy and prolonged menstrual periods are prone to anemia. That's because their body cannot replace the blood being lost as quickly as it should. The body needs the mineral iron to manufacture new blood cells. Experts say that the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 18 mg. It may be necessary to increase intake to 20 mg a day to make up for the lost blood.
The best source of iron is diet. Sure, there are dietary supplements out there that you can take to ensure that you adequately take in iron as recommended. But that's why they are called supplements. They only serve as supplements for the food that you eat.
Foods that are rich in iron include:
- red meat
- green leafy vegetables
- beef liver
- lean beef
- green peas
- enriched wheat bread
- iron-enriched cereals
How you cook the food also has an effect. You can choose to cook in iron cookware that can add small amounts of iron into the food you're cooking.
If you do your best in eating iron-rich foods but you think this is still not enough, consider taking a nonprescription iron supplement or a multivitamin that contains iron. Keep in mind however that taking iron supplements can cause constipation.
This side effect can be countered by:
- increasing dietary fiber
- eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- drinking at least 2 to 4 extra glasses of water every day
Aside from iron, you also need to take in sufficient vitamin C, as this improves the body's ability to absorb iron. It's a must to include 250 mg of vitamin C in your diet a day.
Excellent sources of vitamin C are:
- orange juice
- red pepper
On top of these, you should also take in sufficient amounts of folate and vitamin B-12 every day. Folate is actually folic acid but in synthetic form.
Folic acid/folate can be found in foods like:
- fortified breads
- dark green leafy veggies
Vitamin B-12 is naturally found in dairy products and milk. Often, it's also added to soy products and cereals.