Anemia has a very simple definition but can cause a complicated collection of signs and symptoms.
It all starts with your red blood cells (RBC) which are responsible for delivering oxygen from the lungs to every cell, tissue and organ in your body. A decrease in the ability of your red blood cells to carry oxygen, whatever the reason, is called anemia.
A decrease in the ability to carry oxygen can be caused by either not having enough red blood cells, in general, or a problem with the hemoglobin itself; the iron-containing protein that transports the oxygen. Not having enough red blood cells can be caused by a lack of RBC production or high rates of RBC destruction, either through an acquired or inherited condition.
Anemia can leave you feeling tired, short of breath and headachy because your heart has to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood through your body. The good news is many types of anemia are mild, short term and easily treated with dietary changes, supplements, prescription medications or simple procedures.
In this month’s article, we’ll have a look at a general overview of anemia, the signs and symptoms of this condition and a few natural health solutions such as lifestyle changes and supplements that can help reverse the mild form of anemia.
Overview of Anemia
It All Starts With The Blood
Among all of the body’s tissues, blood is unique: It is the only fluid tissue. Although blood appears to be a thick, homogeneous liquid, the microscope reveals it has both solid and liquid components. Essentially, blood is a complex connective tissue in which living blood cells, the “formed elements”, are suspended in a nonliving fluid matrix called “plasma”.1
The most important, and most numerous, formed element in plasma is the red blood cell. Red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes, deliver oxygen from the lungs to all other parts of the body and carry away carbon dioxide from the body’s cells.
Hemoglobin is the functional unit of a red blood cell, containing an iron pigment called heme (hence, the red coloration of the cell) and a protein call globin. It is this hemoglobin that binds with oxygen in the lungs, only to release it in the tissues. Hemoglobin then binds with carbon dioxide in the tissues and carries it back to the lungs.
Causes of Anemia
Anemia is the resulting condition in the body that is caused by another condition. For instance, anemia can arise from active bleeding, thereby decreasing the amount of red blood cells in your body.
Iron deficiency anemia arises when dietary iron intake is limited or inadequate to supply the bone marrow with enough iron to properly create functional red blood cells with structurally correct hemoglobin molecules (remember, heme is iron). Stomach ulcers or other sources of slow, chronic bleeding (colon cancer, intestinal polyps, hemorrhoids, etc.) can also cause iron deficiency anemia. Improper diets, high in processed foods and sugars and low in animal proteins, vitamins and minerals, can cause an iron deficiency. Pernicious anemia arises when problems with absorption occurs in the stomach or the intestines, leading to a decline in the amount of vitamins, especially B12, that can be absorbed from food.
Anemia of chronic disease –愀渀礀 氀漀渀最ⴀ琀攀爀洀 洀攀搀椀挀愀氀 挀漀渀搀椀琀椀漀渀 挀漀甀氀搀 氀攀愀搀 琀漀 愀渀攀洀椀愀⸀ 䄀渀攀洀椀愀 爀攀氀愀琀攀搀 琀漀 挀栀爀漀渀椀挀 欀椀搀渀攀礀 搀椀猀攀愀猀攀 漀挀挀甀爀猀 眀栀攀渀 瀀爀漀搀甀挀琀椀漀渀 漀昀 攀爀礀琀栀爀漀瀀漀椀攀琀椀渀Ⰰ 愀 栀漀爀洀漀渀攀 爀攀氀攀愀猀攀搀 戀礀 琀栀攀 欀椀搀渀攀礀猀 琀栀愀琀 栀攀氀瀀猀 戀漀渀攀 洀愀爀爀漀眀 洀愀欀攀 爀攀搀 戀氀漀漀搀 挀攀氀氀猀Ⰰ 椀猀 爀攀搀甀挀攀搀⸀ 㰀戀爀㸀㰀戀爀㸀伀琀栀攀爀 挀漀渀搀椀琀椀漀渀猀 琀栀愀琀 挀漀甀氀搀 氀攀愀搀 琀漀 愀渀攀洀椀愀 椀渀挀氀甀搀攀㨀㰀唀䰀㸀㰀䰀䤀㸀匀椀挀欀氀攀 挀攀氀氀 愀渀攀洀椀愀 ጀ abnormal production of hemoglobin molecules.
- Thalassemia –愀氀猀漀 栀攀洀漀最氀漀戀椀渀 爀攀氀愀琀攀搀⸀㰀䰀䤀㸀䄀氀挀漀栀漀氀椀猀洀 ጀ poor nutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
- Bone marrow-related anemia –愀氀琀攀爀猀 琀栀攀 瀀爀漀搀甀挀琀椀漀渀 漀昀 刀䈀䌀✀猀⸀ 㰀䰀䤀㸀䄀瀀氀愀猀琀椀挀 愀渀攀洀椀愀 ጀ caused by a viral infection.
- Hemolytic anemia –刀䈀䌀✀猀 爀甀瀀琀甀爀攀 愀渀搀 戀攀挀漀洀攀 搀礀猀昀甀渀挀琀椀漀渀愀氀⸀㰀䰀䤀㸀䄀渀攀洀椀愀 爀攀氀愀琀攀搀 琀漀 洀攀搀椀挀愀琀椀漀渀猀⸀㰀䰀䤀㸀 嘀愀爀椀漀甀猀 漀琀栀攀爀 挀愀甀猀攀猀 ጀ thyroid problems, cancers, liver disease, autoimmune diseases, lead poisoning, AIDS, viral hepatitis, mononucleosis, parasitic infections and insecticide exposure, to note just a few. Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Fatigue, decreased energy
- Shortness of breath, rapid breathing
- Palpitations and/or rapid heart rate
- Pallor (paleness or pasty appearance of the skin), cold-to-the-touch skin
- Chest pain, angina, heart murmur
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- Low blood pressure
Natural Health Solutions
Nutrition plays a huge part in decreasing the probability of anemia. A solid, well-balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods will give your body its best chance to make all the red blood cells it needs.
Vitamins, minerals, proteins and dark green leafy vegetables are all important elements to an iron-rich diet. Popeye was “strong to the finishck cuz he ates his spinachck”; spinach is a great source of iron.
Other great nutritional sources include eggs, fish, liver, poultry, whole grains and molasses.
Exercise, fresh air and a moderate exposure to sunshine are all important elements of helping your body stay fit and healthy. Avoiding alcohol and seeing your primary health care provider on a regular basis are also other ways to help prevent anemia. If anemia has occurred because of medications you’re taking, do not stop taking the medication unless your primary health care provider has advised you to do so.
Nutter’s Can Suggest
Sometimes it’s difficult to get the proper nutrition when our days get rushed. Your back-up plan should always include a quality, once-a-day multi-vitamin supplement.
The benefits of broad-spectrum nutritional supplementation are only now starting to appear in scientific studies. A multiple vitamin and mineral supplement may close the nutritional gaps in our daily diet and may stimulate our immune system to ward off diseases. From these studies it is becoming clear that taking a multiple vitamin and mineral may prevent many chronic degenerative diseases including heart disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease as well as help boost immune function and increase brain function.
Every day your body requires the necessary building blocks of nutrition. It is virtually impossible to get everything that your body requires from diet alone. In this era of modern living, you simply cannot afford not to take a high quality multiple vitamin and mineral formula. Stress, environmental pollution, second-hand cigarette smoke, and many other factors increase nutrient requirements, especially for antioxidant nutrients like vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenes. Furthermore, there is evidence that when we take optimal levels of essential nutrients it enhances the body’s healing mechanisms and overall physiological functions.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for energy production; for nervous system function as it is needed to produce myelin, the fatty substance that forms a protective sheath around nerves; for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps with memory and learning; for the synthesis of red blood cells; for producing the genetic materials, DNA and RNA. It can help depression and give you energy. Most vitamin B12 comes from animal source foods and is deficient in strict vegetarian diets.
1. Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology, 7th Edition, Elaine N. Marieb
2. National Institutes of Health, U.S.A.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
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