What is Anemia?

There are 2 main types of anemia — iron deficiency, where the red blood cells are too small to “magnetize” sufficient oxygen to the cells, and so-called pernicious anemia, where the red blood cells are too big to fit through the capillaries, our tiniest blood vessels.  Iron-deficiency anemia is more common, particularly in younger people.  If you are a woman with iron-deficiency anemia, I would suspect you have heavy periods, which is a major source of chronic blood loss for women.  If you have iron-deficiency anemia but do not have heavy menstrual periods, you need to get a work-up to figure out where the bleeding is coming from: start by checking your urine and stool for microscopic amounts of blood (any ND or other healthcare provider in your area can help you with this).

Tannins bind iron, so if you like to drink tea, especially black tea, make sure you do not take your iron supplements or iron containing foods within 2 hours of drinking black tea.  Meat and seafoods are the best dietary sources of iron.  If you prefer to not eat meat, blackstrap molasses and many greens,  especially nettles and spinach, are a good source of iron and other important minerals.  Take 1 tsp of molasses daily, and at least one serving of steamed dark leafy greens daily.

Make sure to check your hematocrit (red blood cell concentration of iron) every 3 months until the value is optimal.  If your iron levels stay low, you can also find a food-based iron supplement: look for the ferrous succinate (not sulfate, which tends to be constipating) form of iron, and take 25-50 mg daily.  Make sure to work with a healthcare provider until your anemia is resolved.