Anemia is a blood disorder that affects billions of people worldwide. It’s the result of having insufficient amount of RBCs. Or you may have enough RBCs but they’re not functioning properly.
How to diagnose anemia?
Your doctor may request a CBC (complete blood count). The said test will include hemoglobin value, which is used to diagnose anemia.
Normal results for adults: 13.8 to 17.2 gm/dl for men and 12.1 to 15.1 gm/dl for women
If your result falls below the normal values according to your gender, then you’re suffering from anemia. But the only person who can conclude that is your doctor.
Symptoms of anemia
There are many factors that affect your CBC result. If you have anemia, you may experience weakness, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, headache, and/or pale skin.
Who are at risk?
We’re all at risk of suffering from this condition. But your risk is higher if you’re not eating the right food or if you have chronic diseases, like intestinal disorders, kidney disease, cancer, infections, etc.
The risk of having this disease becomes high as we age.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of anemia are often overlooked.
What can you do?
Since anemia is usually caused by poor diet, there are specific foods that you must eat to fight against this disease.
Foods high in vitamin B12
If you supply your body with little amount of this vitamin, then you’re at risk of developing pernicious anemia. This is especially true if you’re a vegetarian.
Vitamin B12 is high in animal products, like red meat, fish, shellfish cheese and eggs. Although this vitamin is still present in some vegetables, the amount is not enough.
Talk to your doctor. He/she may advise you of taking vitamin B12 supplements. RDA for this vitamin is 2.4 mcg. Eating 200 grams of lean meat will help you obtain that number.
To make hemoglobin, your body requires iron. The iron that the body can absorb best is haem, which is found in lean red meat. Although liver is a great source, it’s rich in cholesterol. Thus, it’s not ideal for patients with hypertension.
Other sources of iron will include lentils, raisins and tofu.
What to aim for? The RDA for menstruating women is 8 mg of iron. Postmenopausal women and adult men should take 6 mg of it.
The daily requirement for iron won’t correct anemia. However, it can help in maintaining balanced levels of iron in the blood.
In a 200-gram lean red meat, you’ll get approximately 4 mg of iron.
Eating 6 oysters can give you 4 mg of iron while consuming ½ cup of raisins can provide you 2 mg of this mineral.
Iron helps in making hemoglobin while vitamin C assists in the proper absorption of iron. Thus, it’s highly recommended that you pair lemon juice with an iron-fortified breakfast.
Consuming vitamin C-rich foods with high-phytate foods can increase absorption of iron in the body.
To get the right amount of vitamin C to fight against anemia, you need at least a cup of foods rich in this vitamin every day.
Folate is a type of B vitamin that helps the RBCs in dividing rapidly. This is essential to quickly replace oxygen carriers in the body.
If you have trouble absorbing folate, however, your doctor may recommend an oral or intravenous treatment of folic-acid supplements.
Then again, consuming folate from diets is more effective than supplements.
The required daily allowance for folate is 400 mcg.
To get it, you may need to eat half a cup of spinach, which includes 85 mcg of folate. Then, consume ½ cup of lentils. This provides you 20 mcg of said vitamin. Make sure that you consume them in their cooked forms.
What you shouldn’t be eating or drinking when you have anemia?
When you have a diagnosed anemia, it’s best to avoid teas.
Why? The tannins found in any type of teas block absorption of iron when they combine with iron. However, if you couldn’t get rid of your tea habit, then you should drink tea alone. Don’t drink it with meals so they won’t block iron absorption in the body.
Foods that are rich in oxalates are also a no-no when you have anemia. Rhubarb and celery are just two examples of oxalate-rich foods that bind with iron and calcium. As a result, your body will have a hard time absorbing them.
You don’t have to eliminate them entirely from your diet. But for your anemia, you must avoid them temporarily, until your RBC count is back to normal.
Instead, focus on those foods mentioned above to help you fight against the symptoms of anemia. When your CBC results return to normal, you can go back to drinking tea and eating oxalate-rich foods.
Nutritional supplements to fight anemia
They are necessary if you can’t get the right amount of those vitamins and minerals through your diet. Your doctor may recommend getting these supplements.
For women experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, an iron supplement is needed in addition to her iron-rich food. Your doctor may also recommend an iron IV treatment to help maintain healthy levels of this mineral. An iron infusion cost depends on your location and whether insurance covers it, but is ultimately less than the cost of leaving low iron levels untreated.
If you have a condition that results in blood loss, then supplements are highly recommended. But you must only take iron supplements when your doctor recommends them.
To properly absorb iron, you may need to take vitamin C and iron supplements each day. Consume between 200 and 500 mg of vitamin C with meals for proper absorption of iron. However, if you experience diarrhea, you need to lower its dose.
Vitamin B12 may also be recommended by your doctor. The dosage will depend on your condition. Oftentimes, 1000 mcg of this vitamin is taken along with 400 mcg of folic acid. But these supplements must be placed under the tongue for proper absorption.
You may also need folic acid supplements as they’re better absorbed by the body than the folate found in foods. However, you should not exceed folic acid’s upper limit. Else, you’ll be experiencing vitamin B12 deficiency. Thus, it’s needed that you take folic acid along with vitamin B12 supplements in order to avoid deficiency in the other.
As always, consult your doctor before you start taking nutritional supplements for anemia.