Understanding Anemia And The Sources Of Iron

What is anemia and how is it prevented? Find out how to treat it, causes of it and how to add good sources of iron to your diet.

There are many reasons to be exhausted. Work can be tough. The kids can drive you crazy. Sometimes it seems there aren't enough hours in the day to finish everything that needs to be done. However, you should make enough time to get checked out by a doctor. If the exhaustion gets to be a constant thing, you may have anemia.

What is anemia?

Anemia is one of the more well-known blood disorders and is defined by the fact that the number of healthy red blood cells decrease in the body. These red blood cells contain hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a unique molecule or protein that transports oxygen to the body's tissues. It is needed to provide oxygen to very important organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs.

There are two ways that anemia can be caused. Sometimes, it's found that anemia has been inherited. In other cases it is caused by an environmental factor, such as an infection, nutritional issue, a drug or exposure to a hazardous bacteria.

Anemia can happen three ways:

*Red blood cells are being lost.

*The body is producing the red blood cells at a decreased rate.

*Or, they are being destroyed in the body.

Each of the above causes is linked to a specific type of anemia.

Anemia Caused By Blood Loss

This can happen due to a variety of reasons: injury, surgery, a problem with your blood's clotting mechanism, or menstrual periods. When the blood loss is slower and more long term, such as with Intestinal bleeding, this develops into what's called inflammatory bowel disease. It can cause anemia. Any of these can require the intake of iron. Iron can make new red blood cells.

Anemia Caused by Inadequate RBC Production

This form of anemia is called homolytic anemia and is caused when red blood cells are being terminated. In this instance the bone marrow does not keep up with the demand for the our bodies have to produce new cells. Sometimes medications or infections are the cause of this. Another form of this anemia is called autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Basically what happens there is, the immune system confuses red blood cells for foreign particals or invaders and begins to kill them. Other forms of autoimmune hemolytic anemia are sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency.

Sickle Cell Anemia

With this form of anemia, the hemoglobin takes on a rod-like shape as it gives up its oxygen. The stretching of the blood cell into the sickle shape is what has created its name and is also what causes the destruction of the red blood cells. This disease affects mostly people of African American descent. This is not to say that this disease does not affect other ethnicities and cultures (such as Caucasian, Indian, Mediterranean or Saudi Arabian). It does but in a very limited percentage.


Thalassemia major, also called Cooley's anemia is when red blood cells are very quickly destroyed and iron is deposited into the skin. It is a severe form of anemia that affects mostly, the Mediterranean, African, and Southeast Asian populations.

Thalassemia minor is a mild form of this anemia that causes minimal cell changes.

Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency

Simply, the red blood cells of the people with this condition do not make enough of the enzyme G6PD. If they do make enough of the enzyme, whatever is produced is abnormal and does not work well. This form of anemia affects mostly men of African American descent.

Pernicious anemia

This is a type of anemia that occurs when someone does not produce a substance that is mandatory to the task of absorbing and processing vitamin B12. This form of anemia is rarely found in babies and young children.

Aplastic Anemia occurs where the bone marrow is not able to produce enough blood cells. This form is usually caused by a viral infection or being exposed to certain harmful chemicals, radiation, or medications. Some forms of cancer can cause anemia of this type. A disease of another organ in the body can cause anemia, such as the thyroid gland. If a disease should fall upon the thyroid gland, it would get in the way of producing hormones, which are responsible in aiding the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.

It's a good idea to get iron into your diet.

Sources of Iron

The are two types of digestible iron in food.

*Hemo iron, found in red meat, fish (seafood) and chicken

*Non-hemo iron found in breads, fruits, breakfast cereals, vegetable, legumes, nuts and eggs.

Hemo iron foods are not only rich in iron but are easily absorbed by the body. The key to a healthy iron rich diet is to eat a combination of iron rich foods, high in both hemo and non-hemo iron. Incorporating Vitamin C in your diet is a good way to aid in the absorption of iron.

Iron pills or vitamin supplements may be the best way to go in order to alleviate the symptoms of anemia. However, as usual, be careful. It's best to take those supplements on a full stomach. Drink plenty of fluids and visit your doctor regularly to give you a more accurate picture of health.

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