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fatigue, nutrition | December 19, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Circulatory system, minerals


Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, using a protein called haemoglobin.  The term anaemia suggests that either the level of red blood cells is too low or the level of haemoglobin is too low.

Anaemia is a very common blood disorder found particularly in females. Estimates suggest that one in five menstruating women and half of all pregnant women are anaemic.

What are Red Blood Cells?

What are Red Blood Cells?Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. Certain nutrients are required in the diet to make and maintain red blood cells at an adequate level. Each red blood cell contains a protein called haemoglobin which gives red blood cells their colour.

Oxygen molecules attach themselves to haemoglobin which is required in order for the body’s cells to live and perform various duties.

The bone marrow needs enough dietary iron and some vitamins to manufacture haemoglobin.
If somebody doesn’t have enough iron in their diet, the body will draw on the small reserves of iron stored in the liver. Once this reservoir is depleted, the red blood cells will not be able to carry oxygen around the body effectively and anaemia develops.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaemia

  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Tiring easily
  • Breathlessness
  • Drop in blood pressure when standing from a sitting or lying position
  • Frequent headaches
  • Racing heart or palpitations
  • Becoming irritated easily
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Cracked or reddened tongue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Strange food cravings

What are the Causes of Anaemia?

Periods of rapid growth or high energy requirements: These include puberty or pregnancy

What are the Causes of Anaemia?Dietary deficiency: Lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid in the diet. This can happen if an individual doesn’t eat enough in general, follows a restrictive diet, or if somebody is a vegetarian/vegan who avoids animal products. Your body needs adequate iron, vitamin 12, folate and other nutrients from the foods you eat in order to produce healthy amounts of haemoglobin and red blood cells. 
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Malabsorption: The body is not able to use the nutrients in the diet, caused by conditions such as coeliac disease.
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Inherited disorders: these include thalassaemia or sickle cell disease.
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Autoimmune disorders: These include autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, where the immune cells attack the red blood cells and decrease their life span.

Chronic diseases: Rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
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Drugs and medications: These include alcohol, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulant medications.

Hormone disorders: Hypothyroidism.

Bone marrow disorders: Cancer or infection.

Blood loss: This may be due to trauma, surgery, cancer, peptic ulcer, heavy menstruation, bowel cancer or frequent blood donations.

Infection: Malaria and septicaemia, which reduce the life span of red blood cells.

Who is at Risk of Developing Anaemia?

  • Menstruating women
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Babies, especially if premature
  • Children going through puberty
  • Vegetarians
  • People with cancer, stomach ulcers and some chronic diseases
  • Athletes

Prevention of anaemia Through Diet

Some forms of anaemia cannot be prevented as they are caused by a breakdown in the red blood cell-making process. Anaemia caused by dietary deficiency can be prevented by making sure foods rich in iron are consumed on a regular basis. 

The richest source of ‘heme’ iron (the more absorbable form) in the diet includes lean meat and seafood. The best quality meat is organic, grass-fed beef and lamb.
Dietary sources of non-heme iron include nuts, beans and vegetables such as spinach, kale and chard.

Getting enough iron and B vitamins in the diet is imperative to help the body make adequate levels of haemoglobin and reduce the risk of anaemia. 

On the other hand it is just as important to exclude foods and drinks from the diet that may ultimately interfere with iron absorption and result in anaemia.

Firstly the removal of processed food and junk food is very important. Consuming lots of empty calories such as refined grains, fast food, synthetic ingredients or excess sugar, can contribute to deficiencies in essential nutrients, fatigue, weight gain, weakness and also inflammatory bowel disease or candida.

Foods to Avoid in Cases of Anaemia:

  • Added sugar/sweeteners
  • Processed grains
  • Chocolate.  It contains a substance that removes iron from the body, so it is best to avoid it when iron levels are trying to be increased.
  • Bran. Bran is high in insoluble fibre that traps and removes iron during digestion.
  • Dairy. Calcium binds with iron in foods and can lead to poor absorption.
  • Soft drinks. These are high in sugar, non-existent in nutrients and they block iron absorption.
  • Coffee and black tea. Excessive coffee intake can block iron absorption.

Foods to Include for Anaemia and Anaemia Prevention:

  • Liver: Beef liver is very high in iron and vitamin B12 and a variety of other important minerals. Make sure the cow is grass-fed and organic.
  • Brewer’s yeast: High in folic acid, vitamin 12, and iron. Add to cereal, salad or juice.
  • Foods high in vitamin C: Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. If the meal contains a high-iron food then try to include a source of vitamin C at that same meal such as tomatoes, peppers or strawberries.
  • Green leafy vegetables: These provide a significant amount of iron and folic acid. Raw spinach is high in oxalic acid, which can reduce iron absorption; however, steaming spinach will reduce this acid.  Other green leafy vegetables to include are steamed kale and broccoli.
  • Probiotic-rich foods can be added to the diet such as homemade yogurt, goat milk kefir and sauerkraut.

Supplements for Anaemia


Gut health is crucial for the absorption of nutrients so maintaining optimal gut health with probiotics is essential for anaemia. A good quality probiotic should be taken with each meal to restore gut health initially and then the dosage can be reduced once iron levels have increased. Dosage should be between 50 billion to 100 billion IUs daily.


Use an organic iron supplement that it is gentle on the stomach, rich in iron that is easily recognised by the body and therefore better absorbed and also reduces the chance of constipation. A good quality iron supplement will have essential added nutrients to aid in iron absorption such as vitamin c and b vitamins.
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B Vitamins

Good quality vitamin supplements contain nutrients such as folate and vitamin B12 which are essential in the production of red blood cells.

Digestive enzymes

To maximize the benefit of an iron supplement in those individuals with poor digestion, a digestive enzyme can be taken. Anaemia that has resulted due to a vitamin B12 deficiency is commonly found in those with too little stomach acid, heartburn, and those who are on antacid medication. A hydrochloric acid supplement that is equipped with enzymes to break down protein can ease the digestive burden on the stomach and help to restore the proper pH of gastric juices and in turn help with iron and B12 absorption.
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