Many suffer from “high blood” which is actually high blood pressure or hypertension. Many more suffer from “low blood” as others refer to it, but actually refers to anemia hence not the opposite of “high blood.”
Anemia can be due to several causes such as blood destruction, severe blood loss as in hemorrhage or profuse bleeding, parasitism or insufficiency of nutrients such as iron, folate or B12. Iron-deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most common nutritional anemia. IDA affects many Filipino babies, young children, adults and pregnant women.
Iron is needed in many of the activities happening in the body cells – release of energy, making of amino acids or protein, collagen, hormones and neurotransmitters. Most of the body’s iron is found in red blood and muscle cells where iron helps accept, carry and release oxygen.
When the iron stores in the body are severely depleted, iron-deficiency anemia occurs. The production of hemoglobin slows down resulting in red blood cells that are pale and small and which cannot carry enough oxygen to body cells. Consequences include malabsorption, nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, weakness, headaches, vertigo, apathy, poor resistance to cold, paleness, cognitive impairment. Performance in work or daily activities decline as the person becomes easily tired.
Meat, especially pork liver, fish, poultry and dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of iron. Iron from animal-based foods are mostly heme iron and more absorbable compared with the non-heme which is the form of iron abundant in plants. More iron is absorbed with meat-fish-protein (MFP) factor, vitamin C and gastric acid. Oxalates in green leafy vegetables, tea, beans, nuts and beets; phytates or phytic acid in whole grains, seeds, legumes and some nuts; polyphenols and tannin in tea and coffee; calcium in milk and small fishes; as do some drugs such as antacids, proton-pump inhibitors – can decrease absorption of iron in the body.
Those who are deficient, or iron may need to take iron supplements but only when prescribed by the doctor. Ferrous sulfate is better absorbed than other supplements and when taken between meals, at bedtime on an empty stomach. Side effects may be constipation, heartburn, nausea, loss of appetite. Not to be taken in conditions of iron overload (e.g. hemosiderosis) and with other vitamin and mineral supplements containing iron to prevent overdose.