Information, Diet Suggestions, and Resources

what is Anemia?

Anemia occurs when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. This occurs when either: a) there are not enough red blood cells being produced by the body; b) the red blood cells that are produced do not contain enough hemoglobin, or; c) there has been a loss of red blood cells because of bleeding.  Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to and carbon dioxide from the body. If you do not have enough oxygen in your blood, you will often feel fatigued.

There are many different causes of anemia. The most common cause of anemia in children to young adults is iron-deficiency anemia. The iron deficiency can stem from several factors, including a diet poor in iron (such as a vegetarian diet), blood loss (such as during heavy menstrual bleeding), or breastfeeding. Pernicious Anemia and Megaloblastic Anemia involve a reduction in absorption of vitamin B12 and/or folate as a result of autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Thyroid disease as well as other chronic disorders such as chronic kidney disease can lead to decreased production of red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Other less common but prevalent anemias include thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.

The most common symptoms of anemia are fatigue and weakness. With iron- deficiency anemia there may also be a feeling of restlessness in the legs. In vitamin-b12 deficiency anemia there may be confusion or other changes in mental status or in coordination.

The Diet

Recommendations for changes in diet and the addition of supplements for patients will depend on the type of the anemia that the individual has. Iron deficiency anemia can often be treated with dietary modifications. Other anemias often require supplements or other forms of medical interventions.

Individuals with an iron deficiency should increase the amount of lean cuts of beef, chicken and fish, white beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, and peas in their diet. If you are following a vegetarian diet, choose fortified grains or beans and eat a diet high in vitamin C, such as dark, leafy greens and citrus fruits). Limit coffee and tea with these meals.


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