What is Anaemia?
The blood in our bodies is composed of three types of cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) that circulate throughout the body.
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin (Hb), a red, iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s muscles and organs. Oxygen provides the energy the body needs for all of its normal activities.
Anaemia occurs when the number of red blood cells (or the Hb in them) falls below normal and the body gets less oxygen and therefore has less energy than it needs to function properly.
Signs & Symptoms
It is common for people to ignore symptoms of anaemia or attribute them to other causes.
Anaemia can make it hard to find the energy to enjoy hobbies or other leisure activities, or even to complete basic tasks at home or at work.
Major symptoms of anaemia include:
Because the symptoms of anaemia are easily confused with the symptoms of other conditions, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation if you are experiencing significant fatigue or other signs and symptoms listed above, or if you already have a serious disease.
Anaemia may become worse if it is not treated, and it can lead to potentially serious, even life-threatening complications. When the number of red blood cells decreases, the heart works harder, pumping more blood to send more oxygen throughout the body.
If the heart works too hard, it can develop a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), and/or another serious condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), an enlargement of the heart muscle that in turn can lead to heart failure.
Anaemia occurs when the body produces too few red blood cells, loses too many of them, or if red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced.
Anaemia can have many causes, including:
- Dietary deficiency – lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid in the diet.
- Malabsorption – where the body is not able to use the nutrients in the diet, caused by conditions such as celiac disease.
- Inherited disorders – such as thalassemia or sickle cell disease.
- Autoimmune disorders – such as autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, where the immune cells attack the red blood cells and decrease their life span.
- Chronic diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
- Hormone disorders – such as hypothyroidism.
- Bone marrow disorders – such as cancer or infection.
- Blood loss – due to trauma, surgery, cancer, peptic ulcer, heavy menstruation, bowel cancer or frequent blood donations.
- Drugs and medications – including alcohol, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or anticoagulant medications.
- Infection – such as malaria and septicemia, which reduce the life span of red blood cells.
- Periods of rapid growth or high energy requirements – such as puberty or pregnancy.
The treatment of anaemia varies greatly depending on the type. Your physician will help you determine the best treatment options, such as diet modification, or nutritional supplements, or medication, if needed.
Dietary Guidelines for Anaemia
Vitamin c helps in better absorption of iron, include sweet lime, orange, Indian gooseberry [amla], guava, lime, strawberries, papaya, pomegranate, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers.
You also need folic acid to assist in preventing anaemia. Folic acid is mainly found in green leafy vegetables, and you can also obtain a supplement if necessary.
Heme iron, which makes up 40 per cent of iron the diet includes lean meat & seafood are well absorbed. Non-heme iron, 60 per cent of the iron in animal tissue & all the iron in plants includes beans, nuts, vegetables & fortified grain products are less absorbed.
Broccoli is one of the vegetables which is high in iron & also in Vitamin C which can be very well absorbed.
Using iron-based utensils for cooking will also act as one of the media of incorporating iron in the diet.
Anaemia can be caused by unnecessary dieting and over-exercise. Also, excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine causes the body to absorb iron poorly. Avoid over-consumption of these substances.
This is a guest post by Khyati Rupani, an accomplished dietitian and founder of Balance Nutrition.