Anaemia is when there are a reduced number of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood.
As a result, there is a reduced amount of oxygen available to the cells of the body. This means that with less oxygen, the body cannot carry out its normal everyday functions i.e. breaking down and re-building muscle. A person with anaemia might also feel dizzy or light headed due to the reduced amount of oxygen to the brain. Tiredness is also a common symptom.
Anaemia comes about as a result of anything that causes a reduction in the production of red blood cells. This can include vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor absorption due to digestive issues, thyroid disorders, inflammation, infections or other illnesses and heavy menstrual bleeding. Anaemia can cause heavy periods and heavy period’s leads to anaemia - it’s a vicious cycle. Anaemia can also be hereditary. Other symptoms to look out for are headaches, irritability and difficulties concentrating. Because anaemia can go unnoticed, it is only really diagnosed via a routine health screen.
So what causes it? In a nutshell, a lack of iron in the blood. A basic check to see if you might have anaemia is to look inside the lower part of your eye lids, the part known as eye bags! The colour should be heavy pink to red. If it is pale, there is a chance you might be iron deficient. To confirm this, get a check up from your GP.
The great thing about anaemia is that it is easy to rectify as most of the time, it is mainly due to nutrient intake or absorption problems. The best and easiest way to increase iron intake is through what you eat. Prescription iron supplements can cause constipation and because the iron contained within them is inorganic (artificial), it just passes straight through the body. Our bodies only recognise what is natural, which is why it is so important to feed ourselves with nutrient dense, unadulterated food and drink.
To reverse anaemia, fix your digestion and eat foods and herbs high in iron:
Nettle. Contains vitamin C which aids iron absorption, apricots, bananas, whole grains and green leafy vegetables are also good sources.
Before supplementing, get a blood test first. If tests show you are seriously anaemic, then a liquid supplement for the short term (3-4 months) would be a wise idea. The aim is to get most of your nutrients from high quality nutrient dense foods, which is why a healthy digestive system is so important. For vegetarians and particularly vegans, it is important to supplement with vitamin B12 to prevent another form of anaemia known as pernicious anaemia, which carries a greater neurological risk.
Other foods rich in iron include:
- Read meat
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruit
Highly refined foods, carbonated drinks, alcohol and tea and coffee are bested avoided as they rob the body of nutrients.