Anemia is a common condition where the body does not have adequate Red Blood Cells (RBC). Anemia can be a result of blood loss, poor RBC production or rapid destruction of RBCs. Some of the most common symptoms of anemia include:
- Constant fatigue and sluggishness
- Poor focus/concentration
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent headaches
While these symptoms may be attributed to other conditions, if you experience one of more of these, it is important to have your blood assessed.
Anemia is typically a mild and short-lasting condition, which is easily treatable or avoided. When left untreated, it can create more serious complication in the body.
Poor blood cell production can arise due to several factors. The most common causes are a deficiency of iron, or a deficiency of vitamin B12.
A Naturopathic approach to resolving anemia always looks at the cause and tries to modify it, in order to prevent future episodes of low blood cell count. If insufficient intake is the cause, dietary modifications can often go a long way in improving iron and/or B12 status, resulting in improved blood cell production. If high RBC destruction is the cause, modification of exercise regimes can be helpful. Distance running, for example, can lead to high RBC destruction with cells being crushed each time a foot makes contact with the hard ground. Decreasing distance, or modifying running surface can sometimes help. If chronic blood loss is the issue, uncovering the source is critical. Certain pharmaceutical drugs, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and hormonal imbalances leading to heavy menstruation are all very common causes of excess blood loss.
Occasionally, food sensitivities can irritate the GUT lining and interfere with proper vitamin and mineral absorption. Removing an offending food for a period of weeks to months can be helpful.
For those who are consuming inadequate amounts of blood-building nutrients, consuming high-iron or high-B12 foods at least 3 times per week is important.
The following lists the highest food sources of Vitamin B12:
- Organ meats (when a pure source is available) provide the highest levels of Vitamin B12
- Shellfish (oyster, clam, mussels)
- Fish (Salmon, trout, herring, mackerel)
*Fruit, vegetables and non-fortified grains do not provide vitamin B12.
The following lists the highest food sources of iron.
Note that animal-sourced iron is naturally in a more bioavailable form than vegetable-based iron.
- Organ meats (when a pure source is available)
- Whole Grains
- Soy beans
- Black strap molasses
- Sesame paste
When dietary measures are not sufficient, brief periods of supplementation can be helpful.