Given the frenetic pace of modern Western life, it can seem almost normal to feel fatigued, weak, or short of breath. But these symptoms are never normal; they always point to a disorder of some kind. For millions of Americans, that disorder is anemia.
Every cell in the human body gets a large portion of its energy from oxygen. In a healthy person, cells receive an adequate supply of oxygen, thanks to a substance called hemoglobin, which transports oxygen through the blood. Without sufficient hemoglobin, the cells don't get enough oxygen; without enough oxygen, the brain, the muscles, and all the other tissues begin to slow down. The anemic person feels weak and tired at first and then may experience several other symptoms, including headaches, difficulty concentrating, and a series of illnesses that are the result of a suppressed immune system.
The body needs iron to produce the necessary amount of hemoglobin, and the vast majority of anemia cases are caused by a deficiency of this mineral. Iron deficiency most often results from a poor diet, especially one that's high in junk food, or from long-term or repeated dieting. There are many other ways a person can end up with a deficiency of iron, however. Blood loss for any reason, including surgery, trauma, gum disease, hemorrhoids, polyps, cancer of the colon, bleeding ulcers, and heavy menstrual periods, can produce an anemic state. So can an increase in the body's need for iron, which usually happens during pregnancy. Iron deficiency can also be caused by an inability to absorb certain nutrients, as can happen with folic acid and vitamin B12. In rarer cases, deficiencies of vitamins A, B2, B6, and C, as well as of copper, may lead to anemia. The elderly often lose their ability to absorb these nutrients, as do people with certain digestive disorders like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Usually, iron deficiency is caused by a combination of these factors.
In rare cases, anemia is the result of a hereditary blood disorder, in which red blood cells are destroyed prematurely. Thalassemia, sickle-cell disease, and spherocytosis are all very serious and sometimes fatal forms of anemia; people with these diseases must be under lifelong medical care. Anemia can also be caused by an inability to absorb and vitamin B12 at all. This condition can easily be treated with sublingual B12, with regular injections of vitamin B12, or by improving stomach acid levels.
If you suspect that you have anemia, it's likely that you can be cured with simple home treatments and supplementation. It's important, however, that you see a doctor for an official diagnosis. The symptoms of anemia can mimic those of other disorders, so you'll need to get a thorough physical examination. If you are diagnosed with anemia, don't let your doctor stop there. Make sure he or she explains the specific cause of your problem so that you'll know how to address any underlying disorders and prevent a recurrence.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements have shown to help Anemia:
Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Super Prescription # 1 Iron - LifeSource Products
Take 50 to 100 mg of a well-absorbed form of iron, such as iron citrate, gluconate, glycinate, or fumarate, one to two times daily. Also, labels that state iron chelate are generally well absorbed. Avoid the use of iron sulfate (ferrous sulfate), which is poorly absorbed and can cause digestive upset. Note: Supplement iron only if you have iron-deficiency anemia.
Super Prescription # 2 Vitamin B12 - LifeSource Products Take 1,000 to 2,000 mcg of B12 daily, preferably in the methylcobalamin form. Sublingual is very absorbable, or your doctor may use the injection form to start. Note: Supplement this higher dose of B12 if your doctor has diagnosed a B12 deficiency.
Super Prescription # 3 Folic Acid - LifeSource Products Take 800 to 1,200 mcg of folic acid daily. Sublingual is very absorbable, or your doctor may use the injection form to start. Note: Supplement this higher dose of folic acid if your doctor has diagnosed a folic acid deficiency.
Super Prescription # 4 Spirulina - LifeSource Product
Take 2,000 mg daily, as it has been shown to help improve anemia by stimulating the bone marrow production of red blood cells.
Super Prescription # 5 Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)
Take 1 capsule or 20 drops of the tincture form with each meal. It contains iron and improves iron absorption.
Super Prescription # 6 Vitamin C - LifeSource Products - See All of our Vitamin C Products. Take 250 to 500 mg with each dose of iron. It provides an acidic environment for enhanced iron absorption. See all of our Vitamin C products in the Vit C link above.
- Shortness of breath after mild exertion
- Dizziness or fainting
- Difficulty concentrating
- Pale skin, lips, and nail beds
- Cold extremities
- Frequent illnesses
- Cessation of menstruation
- A poor diet, especially one that's deficient in iron, folic acid, or vitamin B12. This category includes eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
- Acute blood loss (most often from menstruation, surgery, or injury)
- Chronic blood loss (commonly from bleeding ulcers, colon disorders, gum disease, or bleeding hemorrhoids)
- Inherited blood disorders
- An inability to absorb vitamin B12 or folic acid
- Poor digestion and absorption-particularly, low stomach acid
Dietary changes are of utmost importance for the anemic person. If you adhere to the following suggestions for several weeks but still feel tired, consult your doctor. There may be an underlying disorder at work, or you may have something other than anemia.
Plan your meals so that you get plenty of iron. The best source of this mineral is organic calf's liver. Green leafy vegetables (except for spinach), leeks, cashews, cherries, strawberries, dried fruits, figs, kelp, and eggs are all excellent sources as well. If you're a vegetarian and can't eat calf's liver, include one or two servings of green leafy vegetables at every meal.
Blackstrap molasses is also rich in iron, so take a spoonful of it every day. Blackstrap molasses can usually be found next to the pancake syrup at your grocery store. Make sure to read the label carefully, as you don't want molasses that's been sulfured.
Brewer's yeast is a good source of iron, folic acid, and B12, so add 1 tablespoon to cereals, salads, or juices daily.< br /> Vitamin C will help your body absorb and retain iron. When you're eating foods that are high in iron, have some citrus fruits alongside them or take supplemental vitamin C.
Cook your food in cast-iron pots and pans. The food will absorb some of the mineral from the cookware. This strategy is especially helpful for vegetarians, who have difficulty meeting iron requirements.
If you have a digestive disorder that prevents you from absorbing food properly, juice the vegetables that are suggested here and drink several glasses daily. Juices don't require much digestive work from the stomach and the intestines, and their nutrients are easily passed into the bloodstream.
Foods to Avoid
Do not eat spinach, rhubarb, tomatoes, or chocolate. These food are high in oxalic acid, a substance that inhibits your body's ability to absorb iron.
Sodas, dairy products, coffee, and black tea are other iron-blockers. Eliminate them from your diet.
Iron is removed from your body through the bowels, so ear your fiber or take fiber supplements separately from iron sources. Avoid raw wheat bran entirely: it's a strong laxative that could well deplete an entire day's supply of iron.
Avoid cow's milk, which may cause hidden bleeding in the intestinal tract. This is particularly true with children.
Many young women-and, increasingly, men-become anemic as a result of following fad diets. If you truly need to lose weight, don't starve yourself; instead, restrict your consumption of fats and sugars, while eating lots of foods with high nutritional density, such as vegetables, fruits, soy products, and whole grains.
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