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Anemia is actually a sign of a disease process rather than being a disease itself. It literally means “ without blood” or blood shortage. Anemia happens when there is a decreased number of circulating red blood cells in the body. Anemia is a common blood disorder that many people develop at some point in their lives. There are more than 1.5 million cases per year (Nigeria)
It is usually classified as either Chronic or Acute. Chronic anemia occurs over a long period of time. Acute anemia occurs quickly this is usually as result of heavy bleeding.
The most common and significant forms of anemia are those related to diet. Anaemia results from a lack of red blood cells or dysfunctional red blood cells in the body. This leads to reduced oxygen flow to the body’s organs.
If you have anemia, your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. The most common cause of anemia is not having enough iron. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives the red color to blood. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
Your doctor will diagnose anemia with a physical examination and blood tests. Treatment depends on the kind of anemia you have.
Anemia has three main causes: blood loss, lack of red blood cell production, and high rates of red blood cell destruction.Anemia happens when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells. The condition is mainly caused by blood loss, the destruction of red blood cells, or your body’s inability to create enough red blood cells.
There are many types of anemia. The most common type is iron deficiency anemia. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is full of iron. Without sufficient iron, your body can’t make the hemoglobin it needs to create enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
A lack of folate and vitamin B-12 may also impact your body’s ability to made red blood cells. If your body can’t process B-12 properly, you may develop pernicious anemia. Conditions that may lead to anemia include,heavy periods,pregnancy ulcers,colon polyps or colon cancer,inherited disorders,a diet that does not have enough iron, folic acid or vitamin B12.blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, or cancer,aplastic anemia, a condition that can be inherited or acquired,G6PD deficiency, a metabolic disorder.
When the number of red blood cells or your hemoglobin level is too low, your body doesn’t get all of the oxygen it needs, and that can make you feel very tired. You may also have other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, irritable, loss of sexual drive headaches, pale skin, or cold hands and feet. The most common type of anemia occurs when your body lacks iron. This condition is called iron-deficiency anemia, and it often arises if you don’t have enough iron in your diet. Your body needs iron and other nutrients to make hemoglobin and healthy red blood cells. So it’s important to get a regular supply of iron as well as vitamin B12, folate, and protein. You can get these nutrients by eating a balanced diet or taking dietary supplements.
Another common cause of iron-deficiency anemia is blood loss, which might arise from injury, childbirth, or surgery. Women of child-bearing age are at risk for iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss from menstrual periods. Women also need extra iron during pregnancy. Many people living with anemia may not realize they have it. They might have mild symptoms or none at all.People who are deficient in iron may experience an intense urge to eat strange things like ice, clay, dirt, or starch. This behavior is called pica. This is alarming as low levels of this mineral can significantly negatively affect the development of the brain so it is very important to diagnose and treat the disease early.
A doctor can determine whether you have anemia by a simple blood test. Anemia is typically diagnosed on a complete blood count. Apart from reporting the number of red blood cells and the hemoglobin level, the automatic counters also measure the size of the red blood cells by flow cytometry, which is an important tool in distinguishing between the causes of anemia. Examination of a stained blood smear using a microscope can also be helpful, and it is sometimes a necessity in regions of the world where automated analysis is less accessible.
In addition to a complete blood count CBC, the doctor will take a complete personal and family health history and perform an exam to determine the status of a patient. The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs to assess heart rate and breathing. The doctor may check the size of the liver and spleen and assess for any tenderness.
THE 3 TYPES
In general, there are 3 major types of anemia, classified according to the size of the red blood cells:
(1) If the red blood cells are smaller than normal, this is called microcytic anemia. The major causes of this type are iron deficiency (low level iron) anemia and thalassemia (inherited disorders of hemoglobin).
(2) If the red blood cells size are normal in size (but low in number), this is called normocytic anemia, such as anemia that accompanies chronic disease or anemia related to kidney disease.
(3) If red blood cells are larger than normal, then it is called macrocytic anemia. Major causes of this type are pernicious anemia and anemia related to alcoholism.
HOW TO TREAT IT
Common types of anemia can be prevented and treated by eating iron-rich foods. The best diet plan for anemia includes foods rich in iron and other vitamins essential to hemoglobin and red blood cell production. It should also include foods that help your body absorb iron better.
The best sources are red meat (especially beef and liver), poultry, fish, and shellfish. Other foods high in iron include peas, lentils, beans, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dried fruits such as prunes and raisins, and iron-fortified cereals and breads.
If you don’t get enough iron from your food, ask your doctor about taking iron dietary supplements. The body absorbs iron from meat and fish better than that from vegetables. If you’re a vegetarian, consult a health care provider to make sure you’re getting enough iron.
Making healthy lifestyle choices, including a nutritious, iron-rich diet, can help prevent common types of anemia so you can have more energy and feel your best.
Some types can be treated with medicines. Severe cases may require blood transfusions or surgery.
No one food will cure anemia. But eating an overall healthy diet rich in dark, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, seafood, meat, and beans can help you get the iron you need to manage anemia.
ANEMIA TREATMENT PLANS
Often include dietary changes. The best diet plan for anemia includes foods rich in iron and other vitamins essential to hemoglobin and red blood cell production. It should also include foods that help your body absorb iron better. To prevent or treat iron-deficiency anemia:Eat foods rich in iron and B vitamins,Eat fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron.
Ask your doctor about iron supplements if you don’t get enough iron in your diet.There are two types of iron in foods: heme iron and nonheme iron.Heme iron is found in meat, poultry, and seafood. Nonheme iron is found in plant foods and foods fortified with iron. Your body can absorb both types, but it absorbs heme iron more easily.
Although anemia treatment plans are individualized, most require150 to 200 milligrams of iron daily. It’s hard to get these levels through diet alone. You may also need to take prescription iron or an over-the-counter iron supplement until your levels are replenished.
Add these foods to your diet to get more iron and help fight iron deficiency anemia:
(1) LEAFY GREENS
Leafy greens, especially dark ones, are among the best sources of nonheme iron. They include: spinach, green onions, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce, collard greens ,dandelion greens. These leafy greens such and collard greens also contain folate. A diet low in folate may cause folate-deficiency anemia. Citrus fruits, beans, and whole grains are good sources of folate.
When eating dark, leafy greens for iron, there’s a catch. Some greens that are high in iron, such as spinach are also high in oxalates. Oxalates are compounds that prevent the absorption of nonheme iron. So, while it’s beneficial to eat your greens as part of an overall anemia diet, don’t depend on them solely to treat the condition.
Vitamin C helps your stomach absorb iron. Eating leafy greens with foods that contain vitamin C such as oranges, red peppers, and strawberries, may increase iron absorption. Some greens are good sources of both iron and vitamin C, such as collard greens.
(2) MEAT AND POULTRY
All meat and poultry contain heme iron. Red meat, lamb, and venison are the best sources. Poultry and chicken have lower amounts. Eating meat or poultry with nonheme iron foods, such as leafy greens, can increase iron absorption.
Many people shy away from organ meats, but they’re a great source of iron. Liver is arguably the most popular organ meat. It’s rich in iron and folate. Some other iron-rich organ meats are heart, kidney, and beef tongue.
Some seafood provides heme iron. Shellfish such as oysters, clams, and shrimp are good sources. Most fish contain iron. Fish high in iron include: sardines, canned in oil, canned or fresh tuna ,fresh salmon Although both fresh and canned salmon are good sources of iron, canned salmon is high in calcium. Calcium binds with iron and reduces its absorption. Foods high in calcium shouldn’t be eaten at the same time as iron-rich foods. Other examples of calcium-rich foods include: raw milk ,yogurt ,cheesesardines ,broccoli.
(5) FORTIFIED FOODS
Many foods are fortified with iron. Add these foods to your diet if you’re a vegetarian or struggle to eat other sources of iron: fortified orange juice fortified, ready-to-eat cereals foods made from fortified refined flour such as white bread fortified pasta ,foods made from fortified cornmeal fortified white rice.
Beans are good sources of iron for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. They’re also inexpensive and versatile. Some iron-rich options are: kidney beans, chickpeas ,soybeans black-eyed peas pinto beans black beans peas, lima beans.
(7) NUTS AND SEEDS
Many types of nuts and seeds are good sources of iron. They taste great on their own or sprinkled on salads or yogurt. When choosing nuts and seeds, choose raw varieties whenever possible. Some nuts and seeds that contain iron are: pumpkin seeds ,cashews pine nuts sunflower seeds .Almonds are also a good source of iron. They’re great as part of a healthy eating plan, but since they’re also high in calcium, they may not increase your iron levels that much.
There are also various medicinal plants that are very useful in management of anemia.
Determining whether anemia has been present for a long time or whether it is something new, assists doctors in finding the cause. This also helps predict how severe the symptoms of anemia may be. In chronic anemia, symptoms typically begin slowly and progress gradually; whereas in acute anemia symptoms can be abrupt and more distressing.
If an underlying illness is responsible for your symptoms, treating and managing the underlying condition should help keep anemia symptoms at bay. Cancer, kidney disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, or other illnesses may be to blame.
Work with your health care consultant to determine the underlying cause and treat it to prevent future bouts of low iron. Self medication through excessive consumption of blood Toni leads to extreme iron overdose which is quite dangerous and can lead to a condition known as siderosis resulting in damage of liver, pancreas, and the heart and cause a form of arthritis.
Treating the underlying cause of a deficiency may help prevent future bouts. If a medication is contributing, ask the doctor about switching to something else that does not have unwanted side effects. Many conditions may have an effect on the blood. Treating and controlling the primary disease may help prevent future bouts of deficiency.
Get checked every year or 2 if you’re a woman of child-bearing age who has heavy menstrual periods or a previous diagnosis of anemia.
Effective diagnosis is essential for proper management of every health condition. Please consult the experts.
DR. BUNMI OMOSEYINDEMI MBBS Lagos MA Ibadan FNANM