Anemia is a common blood disorder that occurs when the number of healthy red blood cells in the body decreases. About 10 percent of North American women develop iron deficient anemia during their childbearing years. Many children and senior citizens also are diagnosed with anemia each year.
Although there are over 400 types of anemia, three kinds are most common and include iron deficient anemia, Vitamin B12 deficient anemia, and folic acid deficient anemia. Complications from anemia range from feeling tired to coma and even death. The major cause of anemia is poor diet.
Eating iron rich foods such as liver, figs, seafood, molasses, beets, brown rice, whole grains, poultry, eggs, grapes, raisons, yams, almonds, and beans can help. Avoid drinking coffee, tea, beer, or cola with meals as these drinks inhibit the absorption of iron. Manganese rich foods including whole grains, greens, legumes, nuts, pineapple, and eggs help increase iron uptake into the system.
Potassium rich foods including broccoli, bananas, sunflower seeds, vegetables, whole grains, kiwi, and dried fruits should be eaten regularly. Adding cultured foods like yogurt to the diet helps replace friendly bacteria that is needed for good digestion.
Vitamin C rich foods are needed for iron absorption. Citrus, tomato, green pepper, and chives can be of significant benefit to anyone with anemia. Some types of anemia benefit from folic acid rich foods including fresh green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, lima beans, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans.
There are many symptoms of anemia including weakness, fainting, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lack of libido, ulcers, slow healing, fatigue, skin pallor, violent mood swings, irritability, confusion, depression, and seeing spots before the eyes. Secondary signs include vision problems, apathy, brittle nails, poor appetite, hair loss, yellowish skin, headaches, dark urine, and poor memory.
There are other causes of anemia besides poor diet. Low immunity, mineral deficiency, pregnancy, rapid growth in childhood, lupus, blood loss, parasites, excessive menstruation, infection, some hereditary conditions, thyroid disease, lead toxicity, and alcoholism are directly related to many cases of anemia. The frequent use of aspirin, ibuprofen, or other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs may also cause anemia.
Green drinks and aloe-vera juice are two herbal remedies for anemia. Iron enhancing herbs include yellow dock, red raspberry leaf, gentian, yellowroot, turmeric, mullein, nettle, parsley, ginseng, watercress, and dandelion. Many times beet root powder, beet juice, bee pollen, and kelp powder can help.
Anemic individuals should avoid all pesticides and fluorescent lighting. Minimizing exposure to lead and other toxic metals such as aluminum, cadmium and mercury is also important.
Foods and supplements that prevent iron absorption include almonds, cashews, chocolate, kale, rhubarb, sorrel, spinach, Swiss chard, calcium, vitamin E, and zinc. Avoid in cases of iron deficient anemia. Antacids also inhibit iron absorption and should be taken with caution.
*Iron is extremely toxic in large quantities. Do not take theraputic amounts of ginseng or goldenseal when pregnant. Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal remedy or iron supplement.
Question from Lisa: Hi Janice, I just read your very informative listing regarding anemia. I do appreciate the info. There’s one thing I wasn’t clear on regarding almonds. In one place you mention almonds as iron enriched and they can help. Then later you mention that almonds can prevent iron absorption.
Jan's Answer: I am not clear on it either so decided to do some more research after receiving your email. According to this Livestrong article, almonds contain iron, but they also contain a compound that inhibits iron from being absorbed. This seems like a contradiction, but remember, everyone is different, our bodies all react differently, and there are various types of iron (and different types of anemia). I guess there is still more research to be done!
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