Anemia is a medical condition that is characterized by a deficiency of hemoglobin in red blood cells. When there is not enough hemoglobin, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues, and to remove carbon dioxide from the lungs diminishes. Anemia is very common in the United States. That’s a little surprising, being that a lot of foods are fortified with iron. However, iron deficiency is only one of the many possible causes of anemia. There are about three major causes of anemia. First, it can be from acute or chronic blood loss.
Chronic blood loss can come from a wide variety of conditions, including hemorrhoids, cancer, menstruation, and peptic ulcers. Another cause of anemia is excessive destruction of the red blood cells, the condition that exists when the destruction of old cells exceeds the production of new ones. This condition can occur as a result of defective hemoglobin synthesis or trauma inside the arteries. The last cause of anemia is a deficiency of important nutrients that our body needs. Some of those would be iron, vitamin B12, or folic acid, are the most common. Some of the symptoms are paleness, weakness, and fatigue. You should always go check yourself out if you suspect you may have anemia. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show.
Getting enough iron is very important during the growth spurts of infancy and adolescence, while women may need extra supplements during pregnancy and lactation. Iron deficiency anemia is common in children under the age of two, and teenagers. Children who eat foods with poor nutritional value, or do not include enough variety in their diets, are the most at risk. Often teenagers develop a habit of eating junk food, which does not satisfy their development needs. Sometimes supplements do not help either because many people have difficulty absorbing iron due to a lack of hydrochloric acid, which allows the stomach to properly assimilate the mineral. Iron deficiency is especially common in the elderly people, those who do not produce the needed amounts of stomach acid, and in people who suffer from chronic diarrhea.
A deficiency in the vitamin B-12 is usually a result of defects in the absorption process. After food consumption, B-12 is freed by hydrochloric acid and is bound to another chemical manufactured by the stomach, called intrinsic factor. The problem comes in when a person does not secrete the necessary amounts of hydrochloric acid or intrinsic factor, because the person may not then be able to properly absorb the B-12 stored in food. Some children that are brought up on strict vegetarian diets may experience B-12 anemia if their parents do not give them supplements of the vitamin.
B-12 anemia is often accompanied by folic acid anemia. One of the reasons folic acid is important is that it helps healthy prenatal development. It aids in the prevention of birth defects. It is also very important for proper cell production in the growing fetus. Folic acid is easily consumed by heat, yet diets that consist mostly of cooked foods, with few raw foods included, often result in this type of deficiency. Also, young children may develop a folic acid deficiency if they are given goat’s milk. Goat’s milk does not have any folic acid in it. Teenagers and adults who are vegetarians may also get this type of anemia if they don’t carefully balance their diets. Also folic acid anemia can come from alcoholism, which completely drains the body of this nutrient, and also by the consumption of certain prescription drugs, such as oral contraceptives and anticancer drugs.
An insufficient amount of protein in our body is another possible cause of anemia. A deficiency of protein can be responsible for a decrease in the body’s red blood cell count. Actually, most people in the United States eat an excessive amount of protein, and so they pretty much don’t get this condition. However, protein deficiency can affect those vegetarians whose diets consist of a multitude of refined foods, and few or no whole grains, legumes, nuts , seeds, and soy products. Malabsorption syndrome is another possible cause of protein deficiency anemia, one that commonly affects older people who do not produce the necessary amount of protease, an enzyme that aids in the breakdown of protein. Although sufficient protein is being eaten, the lack of protease means that the system is not getting enough.
As far as diet goes, children should be encouraged to eat a wide variety of whole foods, especially leafy, green vegetables, and legumes. At about six months of age parents should begin to feed their infants beets, broccoli, carrots, applesauce, blackberries, blueberries, and cherries. Not all at once though, because new foods should be given one at a time so the baby can get used to it. These foods are hypoallergenic and rich in photochemical and antioxidants.
Iron rich vegetable juice can be made from a combination of beet juice, parsley, beet greens and watercress. Green juices should be given in small quantities, because a quarter of a cup daily can improve a chills condition in a short period of time.
Vegetarians need to supplement their diet with B-12 daily to prevent a deficiency. Although the condition takes about three or four years to develop, it can become serious and potentially lead to nerve damage. Supplementing is especially important for pregnant mothers who expect to raise vegetarian children. Injections of B-12 are used for people with pernicious anemia, the form that’s more common in older people and caused by a deficiency of the intrinsic factor needed to properly process the vitamin.
If a nursing child is iron-deficient, the mother should take a chelated form of the supplement so that her milk will become enriched with the mineral. Breast fed babies usually do not develop an iron deficiency unless the mother suffers from the deficiency.
Anemia can be caused by a lot of different things, you should always go to the doctor if you suspect you may have anemia, especially if your skin color is pale and you feel weak. Depending on which type of anemia you have, the doctor will treat you accordingly.