Are you one who easily gets tired, seemingly lacking of interest, enthusiasm or concern without any obvious reason? Having pale skin and nailbeds? Experiencing shortness of breath, loss of appetite and poor temperature regulation such as cold extremities? Have you noticed any decrease in your physical and/or mental capacity? With some or all of these signs and symptoms, consider anemia. Consult a doctor who may recommend blood analysis. Low hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are the most tests to confirm anemia.
The type of anemia depends on the cause – lack of nutrients like vitamin B12, folate or iron; red blood cells are destruction by the body itself (hemolytic anemia); stoppage of blood cell production (aplastic anemia) or an inherited disorder (sickle cell anemia). The most common type of anemia worldwide affecting all ages, is iron deficiency anemia (IDA).
Iron is among the many nutrients we need in very small quantities. It is needed in the production of hemoglobin which carries oxygen from the lungs to all other body parts. It also binds oxygen to the muscles. It is needed to produce some hormones, and needed for growth and development. When lacking in the body, the red blood cells will be smaller in size and pale in color. In effect, there will be less hemoglobin thus less oxygen supplied to body cells. Then there’ll be undesirable changes in many bodily processes such as those involving energy and in the production of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.
The deficiency starts with iron storage (ferritin) being less though red blood cell production remains normal. If deficiency continues, the iron being transported in the blood (transferrin) and the hemoglobin in the red blood cell are reduced. Activities of enzymes requiring iron becomes limited. At the 3rd and final stage, the clinical manifestations as enumerated above to include glossitis, angular stomatitis, irritability, headaches, numbness, tingling, brittle, ridged and spoon-shaped nails begin to manifest.
It is then important to eat enough and eat varied foods to include iron-rich foods such as lean meat, seafoods and poultry; dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts, iron-fortified foods and some dried fruits such as raisin. Heme iron which comes from meat fish and poultry (MFP) is more absorbable. Together with plant foods and fortified products, MFP also provides the non-heme iron which is less absorbable by the body. More iron is absorbed if the iron-rich food is eaten with iron-enhancers such as vitamin C; foods that contain citric acid like citrus fruits, strawberries, sweet peppers, tomatoes and broccoli; or foods with lactic acid like pickles, sour dough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce, miso, beer and wine included. In contrast, some however contain iron inhibitors hence not to be eaten simultaneously with iron-rich foods, if possible – calcium in milk, cheese, small fishes; phosphate in unleavened or unrefined bread, soybeans; tannic acid and polyphenols in tea; oxalates in beets, cocoa powder; and ethyl-diamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA) which is used in soft drinks, canned meat and fish, some alcoholic beverages, some grain products. Don’t worry much, if diet is varied and iron-rich foods are always included, the recommended intakes maybe met even with inhibitors present.