Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
If someone says you look anemic, glance at yourself in a
mirror. Are you, tired, listless, and weak--and look it? Do the
linings of your lower eyelids look pale? Maybe you are anemic.
But what does that mean?
Strictly speaking, anemia refers to a deficiency of either red
blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein)
in the red blood cells circulating in your blood vessels.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. In
the United States, 20 percent of all women of childbearing age
have iron deficiency anemia (compared to 2 percent of adult men).
The primary cause is blood lost during menstruation. But eating
too few iron-rich foods--or not adequately absorbing iron--can
compound the problem. (The recommended daily allowance for iron
ranges from 6 milligrams for infants to over 30 milligrams for
pregnant women. Yet one government source found that females
between 12 and 50 years old--those at highest risk for iron
deficiency anemia--get about half that much.) Pregnancy,
breastfeeding a baby, and blood loss from the gastrointestinal
tract (either due to ulcers or cancer) can also deplete iron
Folic acid deficiency anemia occurs when folic acid levels are
low, usually due to inadequate dietary intake or faulty
absorption. The need for this vitamin more than doubles during
Other, less common forms of anemia include pernicious anemia
(inability of the body to properly absorb vitamin B12), sickle
cell anemia (an inherited disorder discussed in Tip 75 in chapter
2, Major Medical Conditions: Prevention, Detection, and
Treatment), and thalassemia anemia (also inherited).
The first step in treating iron deficiency anemia is to
pinpoint the cause. If it's due to a poor diet, you're in luck:
Iron deficiency anemia is not only the most common form of
anemia, it's the easiest to correct if it's due to being female
or taking in inadequate amounts of certain foods. Folic Acid
vitamin supplements may also be necessary. Your doctor may
recommend that you:
Eat more food
sources of iron. Concentrate on green, leafy vegetables, red
meat, beef liver,
poultry, fish, wheat
germ, oysters, fruit, and iron-fortified cereal.
Boost your iron
absorption. (Foods high in vitamin C--like citrus fruit,
tomatoes, and strawberries--
help your body absorb
iron from food. And red meat not only supplies a goodly amount of
it also increases
absorption of iron from other food sources.)
Don't drink a lot
of tea--it contains tannins, substances that can inhibit iron
absorption. (Herbal tea
is okay, though.)
Take an iron
supplement. (Consult your physician before taking an iron
supplement and for proper
dosage.) While iron is
best absorbed when taken on an empty stomach, it can upset your
Taking iron with meals
is less upsetting to the stomach.