Anemia is probably one of the most over-used medical terms today. Or is it?
If you are constantly feeling exhausted doctors will tell you that you might have anemia. Anemia can be a tough diagnosis though. Some people are anemic without any symptoms and others have all the symptoms without being anemic. Symptoms or not, most people with anemia tend to have simple iron deficiency anemia.
Your body uses iron to manufacture red blood cells. If your iron levels drop, then your body loses its ability to manufacture red blood cells. The lower the number of red blood cells, the lower the amount hemoglobin. As hemoglobin drops, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen drops. In other words, with too little iron, you have less hemoglobin, less oxygen and less energy. In other words, you have tired blood. Besides overall fatigue, other symptoms of anemia include shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness and fainting, plus apathy (lack of interest), poor resistance to colds or other infections.
Anemia can occur in males or females, however, it is more common in females. The most common cause of iron deficiency anemia in women is menstrual blood loss. Pregnancy and breast feeding also drain iron stores, contributing to anemia in women. Low dietary intake (or poor iron absorption) also plays a part.
If a blood test shows that you have mild anemia, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter supplements that provide up to 18 milligrams of iron daily. If your anemia is more severe, your doctor will likely prescribe high-dose iron supplements of up to 180 milligrams a day. Be careful though, as too much iron can be toxic.
If you are taking iron supplements, take them correctly. Iron supplements work best when taken with foods or beverages rich in vitamin C, as they enhance iron absorption.
If you prefer to enrich your iron levels with foods, instead, be aware that the best sources of iron are red meats, especially organ meats such as liver. Organ meats contain heme iron, the form most completely absorbed by the body. Since organ meats are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease an alternative might be lean cuts of steak and extra-lean ground beef.
No matter what your chosen treatment, it is important that you do not look for changes overnight. Although many people feel better in weeks, most people take between 6 months to a year to improve their iron levels in the bone marrow.