Anemia

Anemia affects many people at some time in their lives.it is most common in people who smoke, in women who have heavy periods, people who have an eating disorder such as anorexia, elderly people with poor appetites, people who suffer from intestinal bleeding and those with malabsorption conditions such as Crohn’s and coeliac disease. It is defined as a Reduction below the norm of the blood concentration of a protein called hemoglobin which enables the red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.

There are many different sorts of anemia: Including folate deficiency and pernicious anemia but the most common form is iron deficiency anemia. It is believed to affect between fifteen and twenty per cent of women in their child bearing years and between six and nice per cent of elderly people. It is also becoming increasingly common in young children.

One of the reasons why the incidence of iron deficiency anemia is on the increase is that people are eating less red meat, which is one of the richest Sources of iron. Their motivations Are varied. Some people are frightened about the health risks associated with the consumption of red meat, such as the increased risk of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Some people find that eating red meat aggravates their irritable bowel symptoms, another condition that is becoming more prevalent Others are apprehensive about the risk of ‘mad cow disease or BSE, the way that meat is produced and the conditions in which animals are reared are also a growing concern the symptoms of anemia includes tiredness.

irritability, Loss of appetite. pallor and a general feeling of being run down Severe iron deficiency anemia can lead to breathlessness. headaches and an inability to complete even simple tasks. One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is lack of iron in their diet.

If you have any of these symptoms, it is wise to go to your doctor in order that he or she can check the cause it is important to establish which sort of anemia you have before you embark on any self-help programmed – don’t just diagnose yourself or your child. Irun deficiency anemia is relatively easy to correct through changing the foods you eat and your general lifestyle. but the other sorts of anemia are a little trickier Iron deficiency anemia can usually be attributed to one of four factors.

YOU HAVE AN INCREASED DEMAND FOR TRON

The body may at certain times start to require a little more iron than it previously needed. In childhood the body rapidly uses iron as it builds the body, which is why you need to make sure your child has an iron-rich diet. Your demand for iron is drastically increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when extra iron is needed to satisfy both the baby’s growth requirements and the blood loss you experience at childbirth The body also needs increased Iron if you are being physically active. for example, training for a serious athletic event, when your muscles, heart and lungs are pet under greater strain.

LOSS OF BLOOD

For many women this occurs when they are experiencing heavy or lengthy menstrual periods. Other causes include intestinal bleeding, such as a burst ulcer or piles. The strong anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can erode areas of the stomach lining, which also causes internal bleeding.

FOODS AND DRINKS THAT INHIBIT THE ABSORPTION OF IRON

The chief culprits are tannins and caffeine, found chiefly in coffee, tea and cola based soft drinks, Chocolate contains oxalates which also inhibit iron absorption.

INSUFFICIENT VITAMIN C

Vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron within the food. If you lack vitamin C the iron will stay in the gut and won’t be absorbed. People who either don’t eat many fruits or vegetables that contain vitamin C or who smoke, are particularly susceptible to developing iron deficiency anemia People often make the mistake of boosting their iron intake but forgetting about vitamin C.

Dietary solutions

For the majority of people iron deficiency anemia is a question of negative iron and vitamin C balances, you retain less than you lose through menstruation or through internal bleeding or you fail to absorb efficiently the iron from your die These negative balances mean that you do not have enough iron to form sufficient hemoglobin to carry the oxygen needed for energy creation and tissue formation.

The usual response of people who are diagnosed anemic is to buy a supplement, but it is much healthier to look at your diet and explore the reasons why it has occurred, and work through the practical ways in which you can use foods to correct and prevent it from reappearing Supplements have their place, but only when other issues have been explored. It is important once you have embarked on an anemia correcting eating plan to keep in touch with your doctor.

ANAEMIA IN INFANCY

Babies born at full term have laid down stores of iron that will last them for four to six months. Pre – term babies, however, have not always had the chance to acquire sufficient stores of iron and because of this can easily become anemic. For this reason, pre term babies are usually given extra iron and folic acid and may in certain cases be given top – ups of fresh donor blood. Breast milk contains very little iron, so if you have not weaned your baby on to formula by the age of six months, it is important to talk to your doctor about the possibility of either iron supplements or providing sources of iron through baby’s first foods.

BOOST YOUR IRON INTAKE

There are two sorts of iron in food. Haim iron, found in animal foods such as lean red meat, liver and other offal, is easily absorbed by the body. Non – harem iron is derived mainly from non – animal foods, such as dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli. Savoy cabbage, curly kale, watercress), pulses and nuts sources of iron). The exception to the animal link with harem iron is eggs, which are considered in the same way as vegetable sources. Non – harem iron foods contain substances that hinder the absorption of iron. meaning that your body cannot absorb the iron from these sources as efficiently as it can from foods containing harem iron. You therefore need to eat a lot more of them to derive sufficient iron.

As with all nutrients, iron relies on a healthy gut to absorb it. Some people with digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, can have slightly disrupted iron absorption. If you have a specific bowel problem see your dietitian or doctor for advice a change in your diet could trigger the condition to relapse.

Generally, however, to prevent or correct anemia I suggest you eat a rich source of iron two or three times a week. If you are not inspired by a chop or a steak. what about spaghetti bolognaise, beef Stroganoff grilled calves’ liver, lamb, venison and other game meats such as grouse and pheasant? These are all rich in iron. Pregnant women should avoid offal, as its vitamin A content is very high, which can lead to problems during pregnancy. Children may say they don’t like the texture of meat – it’s too chewy ‘ – but can be coaxed to eat it in lasagna, homemade hamburgers or shepherd’s pie. Meat dishes can be frozen. as long as you have begun with fresh meat, and not frozen.

In addition to red meat, you should eat plenty of non – harem sources of iron most days – a substantial portion of green leafy vegetables, or eggs, or a lentil. bean or nut – based main course. A surprising source of non – harem iron is black treacle, which can be deliciously made into parkin or ginger biscuits – perfect mid – afternoon iron boosts! Dried fruits such as apricots and figs also contain good levels of iron; include them in muesli for breakfast and fruit compotes for snacks and desserts. If you are a vegetarian or just don’t like red meat, it is essential that you eat some of these foods every day.

BOOST YOUR VITAMIN C INTAKE

In addition to looking at the iron content of foods, it is also important to address the vitamin C issue. You need to concentrate on having plenty of oranges, grape fruits, kiwi fruits, cranberries and other berries, and potatoes. Dark green leafy vegetables contain vitamin C as well as iron.

Aim to have a source of vitamin C with every meal, perhaps a glass of freshly squeezed juice or a fresh fruit salad to finish. (The only exception here is for people with high blood fat levels, who should wait until lunchtime before they drink fresh fruit juice, as fresh juice on an empty stomach in the morning can increase production of blood fats. If you cannot eat citrus fruits (perhaps because of an allergy) you should include some green vegetables with each of your main meals this could be in the form of a soup, a salad or a lightly cooked vegetable accompaniment.

Freshly squeezed juices are the best. Some cartons of drink labelled ‘ fresh will have very little vitamin C left by the time you drink them, because the vitamin C content diminishes with time. Others can be quite high in vitamin C because artificial vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is added. Although some fruit squashes contain added vitamin C, their sugar contents are so high that they can cause extreme mood swings, tooth decay and excess weight.

There is very little difference between the vitamin C content in raw versus cooked foods, as long as you don’t overcook them. Experiment with vegetables stir – fried, steamed, baked, or boiled for a very short time, so they retain a lot of their crisp texture. There can also be a lot of vitamin C in frozen and tinned fruits and vegetables, but organic or home – grown produce is the ideal.

CHOOSE ALCOHOLIC DRINKS WITH CARE

One of the great myths is that stout contains a lot of iron. A more accurate statement would be that it contains a small amount of iron, not enough to have magical, health – giving properties, and not enough to make you drink it if you don’t particularly like it. Champagne is relatively high in iron because of the limestone soil in the Champagne region of France. Wines grown in the lime stone areas of southern Britain are rich in iron for the same reasons. Some red wines are even higher in iron, containing virtually twenty times as much iron as champagne. I am not suggesting you down pints of champagne, but a glass or two of champagne or red wine can do wonders for your iron levels.

AVOID FOODS AND DRINKS THAT INHIBIT THE ABSORPTION OF IRON

The worst offenders are coffee, tea and cola – based drinks. Also remember that chocolate contains caffeine and other substances that hinder iron, so don’t over indulge, especially if you are feeling tired. A healthier energy boost would be a fruit shake, a bowl of fruit compote or a piece of fresh fruit. Keep your tea, coffee and cola drinks intake down to a maximum of two or three cups a day and allow at least one hour between drinking tea or coffee before or after meal. This elapse of time should allow your gut to absorb the iron from the food more efficiently Other hot drinks to try include herbal or fruit teas, mugs of warm milk, hot water with slices of lemon, or the drinks.

 KEEP THE BULK DOWN While

you are trying to boost your iron and vitamin C intakes, try to keep the amount of cereal fiber such as wholegrain cereals and wholegrain bread low. This is because oxalates and aphyllies, two substances that naturally occur within these high fiber foods, can inhibit the absorption of iron. This is especially important for growing children and people with small appetites, as the last thing you want is fill them up with fiber and stop their body from absorbing the iron, I don’t mean that you should cut fiber out completely, but try not to hide the red meat or vegetable source of iron in mounds of cereal fiber,

IRON SUPPLEMENTS

If you are unable to eat as much iron as you need, perhaps because your iron status is too low to be corrected by diet alone, you may need to take a supplement. I recommend that you discuss the issue with your doctor or dietitian. There are plenty of supplements on the market; some contain just iron; others contain iron with vitamin C and / or folate. It is generally a good idea to choose a supplement that incorporates vitamin C.

The majority of women should be fine on a supplement that provides 15 mg iron along with 500-1000 mg vitamin C: men need mg iron a day. Children need 7 mg a day up to the age of six, 9 mg a day until ten and then they join the adult requirement. Herbal iron supplements contain an easily absorbed source of iron. Some iron supplements can cause indigestion, diarrhea or constipation. Avoid taking them on an empty stomach as this can make the problem worse. If you experience any of these symptoms, use the information in the Digestion. If nothing seems to do the trick, ask your doctor or pharmacist about changing the supplement. Some supplements are better tolerated than others.

Lifestyle considerations

In order to help your body replenish its store of iron and produce healthy blood cells, it is also important to make changes in your day – to – day life. I commonly see people who receive a diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia, take an iron supplement and expect their body to recover overnight. It cannot happen this way. Your body needs time to recover, and I usually estimate three to four weeks to make any substantial improvements.

Get plenty of rest and try to reduce the amount of stress you are under. If your lifestyle normally demands a lot of physical exertion, you should try to cut this down. While a little gentle exercise helps keep the mood high and the heart going, strenuous exercise will make you feel lousy, because you won’t have sufficient oxygen to feed your muscles. If you have anemia, you need to slow down