What Is Anaemia?

Anaemia is a fairly common issue that affects around two billion people; more than 30% of the general population.1 However it is stated that anaemia is not a diagnosis or an illness but rather a symptom or presentation of an underlying condition.2

This is due to anaemia being described as a reduction in the proportion of red blood cells in one’s body so the causes of this happening depend on which type of anaemia an individual suffers with.

The Types of Anaemia

There are several types of anaemia and these in turn dictate the underlying issue in each individual that is suffering. There are a few telltale symptoms that indicate to the individual that they are usually lacking iron.

This is why the most common type of anaemia is iron-deficiency anaemia and is usually what is being referred to when anaemia is spoken of.

Iron Deficiency Anaemia

As previously mentioned, this is the most common kind of anaemia. It is recorded to account for around 30-50% of anaemia in children and other groups.3 those who suffer from this usually report the following symptoms:4

  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Weakness 
  • Pale skin 
  • Chest pain 
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness 
  • Light-headedness 
  • Cold hands and feet 
  • Inflammation or soreness of the tongue 
  • Brittle nails 
  • Unusual cravings such as ice and dirt 
  • Poor appetite

If you have experienced any of the above symptoms please speak to your doctor for a diagnosis and medical advice before attempting to supplement on your own. This is because overloading the body with iron is just as dangerous as the body is low in iron.5

Pernicious Anaemia

This type of anaemia comes about when an individual cannot absorb vitamin B12. This in turn means that the body cannot produce healthy red blood cells, which is also a presenting issue in folic acid deficiency.6.

So, there is no actual deficiency within the individual which is why it’s always best to see a doctor before supplementing something to help with a presumed deficiency. 

Vegetarian And Vegan Anaemia

This term has been spoken about quite a lot in the health and wellness community over the past few years, primarily due to the rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets.

It states that those following these diets often don’t get enough iron due to the fact that a lot of individuals get their iron from meat and seafood. However, there are plenty of ways to increase iron intake while on a plant-based diet.7

This doesn’t discount that this is a fairly common occurrence while starting a plant-based diet, you can become deficient in iron and vitamin B12, so it is usually best to supplement them.

As always, it's always best to speak to your doctor before making changes to your diet and when considering using supplements.

Ways To Increase B12 And Iron

Here at the Gut Co, we believe that prevention is always better than cure, that’s why we have so many resources available here on the Gut Hub so that your diet can fix your gut before you have to introduce any supplements into your diet.

This applies to iron deficiency anaemia. So here are some foods you can add to your diet to make sure you’re hitting your iron and B12 intake the majority of the time.

Leafy Greens 

Spinach, Kale and Chard are great sources of vitamins and are also high in prebiotics. However, there is a catch when it comes to leafy greens. Spinach and Kale despite being high in iron are also high in oxalates, which bind with iron and partially prevent the absorption.

The good news is that vitamin C can help with this due to it helping your stomach absorb iron, so when there are greens on your plate it's best to have oranges, red peppers or strawberries soon after or before.

Chard on the other hand is high in iron and vitamin c. Making it the best choice for boosting iron regularly.8

Beans

Beans are surprisingly high in iron as well as other nutrients such as calcium, and magnesium. As well as dietary fibre which in turn are good for your gut health. Some of the best beans for iron content include kidney beans, black beans, soya beans and butterbeans.

However, studies have concluded that white beans contain more bioavailable iron than their red counterparts.9 This means beans on toast are quite a good choice for your lunch or dinner as well as being extremely budget-friendly. 

Cast Iron Pots And Pans

Cast iron pans are not food. However, they do increase the iron content of the food which is cooked in them.

A study concluded that there was an increase in the iron content of food cooked in a cast iron pan of 16.2% when compared to non-stick pans, and after using cast iron for four months there was a 7.9% iron increase in the haemoglobin of children.10

Not only is cast iron a good investment for your health but it will also last you a lifetime when looked after correctly! 

Conclusion

Health is precious and that’s why it’s best to always enjoy a varied and balanced diet the majority of the time. We do recommend going for regular check-ups with your doctor to ensure that you are functioning the best you can.

The doctor’s opinion is always the best opinion to go by but it’s great to take a personal interest in what you consume. A good rule of thumb is to try and always eat the rainbow in a day (lots of colourful fruit and veg).

References

  1. Clinic C. Anemia: Symptoms, Types, Causes, Risks, Treatment & Management. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/3929-anemia. Published 2022. 
  2. Turner, J., Parsi, M., & Badireddy, M. (2022). Anemia. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
  3. Miller JL. Iron deficiency anemia: a common and curable disease. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2013;3(7):a011866. Published 2013 Jul 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a011866
  4. Clinic M. Iron deficiency anemia - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034. Published 2022. 
  5. McDowell LA, Kudaravalli P, Sticco KL. Iron Overload. [Updated 2022 Apr 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526131/
  6. Rodriguez NM, Shackelford K. Pernicious Anemia. [Updated 2021 Jul 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK540989/
  7. Larpin, C., Wozniak, H., Genton, L., & Serratrice, J. (2019). Alimentations végétariennes et véganes: quelles conséquences sur la santé? [Vegetarian and vegan diets and their impact on health]. Revue medicale suisse15(667), 1849–1853.
  8. McDermott A, Warwick K. Anemia: Best Diet Plan. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/best-diet-plan-for-anemia#leafy-greens. Published 2020. 
  9. Tako, E., & Glahn, R. P. (2010). White beans provide more bioavailable iron than red beans: studies in poultry (Gallus gallus) and an in vitro digestion/Caco-2 model. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur
  10. Kulkarni, S. A., Ekbote, V. H., Sonawane, A., Jeyakumar, A., Chiplonkar, S. A., & Khadilkar, A. V. (2013). Beneficial effect of iron pot cooking on iron status. Indian journal of pediatrics80(12), 985–989. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12098-013-1066-z

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