How to overcome anemia

At certain stages of life or due to illness or poor diet, we may find that our blood carries less oxygen than usual, increasing our feeling of tiredness and fatigue. In most cases, by means of a personalized diet we will be able to overcome anemia.

Anemia is a situation in which the hemoglobin concentration or oxygen-carrying capacity of circulating blood is lower than usual. Hemoglobin deficiency may be due to a reduction of erythrocytes or a decrease of hemoglobin within the erythrocytes.

Incidence and types according to their origin

Anemia affects 24.8% of the world’s population. The two groups with the highest incidence are preschool children and non-pregnant women. Depending on its origin, there are several types of anemia:

– Caused by blood loss

– Caused by excessive destruction of erythrocytes.

– Due to alteration of the erythrocyte production mechanism: deficiency of substances such as iron, vitamin B12, folic acid or vitamin C, among others.

– Anemia secondary to other diseases (infections, cancer, cirrhosis…).

– I am going to focus on the so-called “nutritional anemias” whose origin is an inadequate intake of substances such as iron, vitamin B12 or some vitamins or minerals.

Iron deficiency anemia: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

In this type of anemia, iron deposits are low due to an imbalance between iron requirements and intake. Some of the situations that can cause it are menstruation, multiple pregnancies or gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers.

Cases of iron deficiency anemia may occur in children due to an excessive demand for iron during periods of growth. Symptoms: tiredness, pallor, dyspnea on exertion, as well as pale skin, nails and mucous membranes.  The best diagnosis is the evaluation of the levels of:

Hemoglobin: this contains 65% of total body iron.

Ferritin: this is the main iron deposit in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. We speak of deficiency when levels are below 12-15ng/ml in men and 10ng/ml in women.

Serum iron and iron binding capacity: this iron is bound to transferrin and decreases before the menstrual cycle. Levels are slightly higher in men than in women.

Transferrin: It comes from hepatic synthesis.

The treatment of iron deficiency anemia is based on oral administration of iron, although not all the iron ingested is absorbed. Substances such as ascorbic acid help in its absorption. The problem with this type of treatment is the consequences such as diarrhea, nausea or constipation. With a few days of treatment the hemoglobin concentration increases, but it is advisable to maintain it for several months.

Folic acid deficiency anemia

It occurs mainly in pregnant women and infants. Dialysis, liver disease or the administration of oral contraceptives may cause it. If the diet is not correct, folic acid levels are depleted in the course of 2 to 4 months. Symptoms: fatigue, dyspnea, diarrhea or irritability among others. Oral folate treatment is recommended for a few weeks.

Due to vitamin B12 deficiency

Also known as pernicious anemia. The lack of this vitamin is usually due to the absence of a protein in the gastric juice necessary for its absorption. Symptoms affect the digestive tract, central and peripheral nervous system. Tingling in feet and hands or lack of memory, decreased appetite and tiredness may appear.

Relationship with food

In problems such as anemia, it is very important to keep in mind that a varied and balanced diet can improve and even reverse the situation without the need for pharmacological treatment. The degree of iron absorption depends on the initial levels that the person has, the lower the deposits, the greater the absorption. Here are some tips that you can put into practice if you suffer from anemia:

First of all, it is important to know how to distinguish heme iron, provided by foods of animal origin (meat, fish, poultry and seafood) and non-heme iron of vegetable origin (grains, vegetables and fruits), since the absorption capacity of the latter is worse.

Encourage the consumption of foods such as nuts and seeds, red meat, egg yolk or seafood among others. See annexes.

Keep in mind that there are components that favor iron absorption such as vitamin C, fructose, citric acid, proteins (especially amino acids such as lysine, histidine, cystine or methionine).

Avoid or reduce the consumption of foods containing oxalic acid (spinach), tannins (coffee, tea), phytates (cereal wrapping fiber), or situations of deficiency of certain vitamins, excess of certain minerals or insufficient protein.

hole grains have more iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid than refined ones, but due to their phytate content it is recommended not to abuse them.

Among the ideal desserts are citrus fruits for their contribution of vitamin C or dairy products as they improve the absorption of folic acid.

When consuming legumes it is good to add some potato or rice to improve the quality of the protein and bell pepper or orange juice / kiwi for dessert for its vitamin C.