There are many symptoms of anaemia:
– difficulty in performing physical tasks
– diminished intellectual performance
– abnormal pallor
– concentration problems
– dizzy spells
– shortness of breath
– reduced resistance to infection
Anaemia is caused by a lack of haemoglobin (the main constituent of red blood cells), which prevents the blood from carrying enough oxygen to tissues.
Causes may include a lack of folic acid, iron or Vitamin B12, all of which are essential for the production of red blood cells.
A third of women between puberty and menopause suffer from a lack of folic acid (Vitamin B9, one of the B-complex vitamins). This substance is essential for the production of nucleic acids (DNA, RNA, the basis of the genetic material stored in all cells), as well certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Your organism absorbs only about half the folic acid it consumes.
Because all green vegetables are rich in folic acid, you should be eating more of these foods if you suspect you are anaemic. Other food sources include corn, almonds, pumpkin, peanuts, bran, rye and whole wheat.
You should also know that cooking destroys about two thirds of the folic acid contained in foods, so it’s best to eat green vegetables and other sources of Vitamin B9 raw.
Copper also destroys folic acid: cut down on oleaginous fruits, since they are very rich in copper, if you are anaemic.
A lack of Vitamin B12 can, over the long term, cause a condition known as pernicious anaemia, characterized by the following symptoms:
– appetite loss
– excessive weight loss
– extreme fatigue
– alternating diarrhea and constipation
– memory loss
Vegetarians and elderly persons often lack Vitamin B12, since its only food source is meat and other animal products.
Eat more meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and shellfish. Liver contains more B12 than any other food. Calves liver contains 1 milligram of B12 per gram. A single serving of calves liver will provide you with all the B12 you need for a period of about two weeks.
The most frequent cause of anemia is a lack of iron. The problem affects about 20% of people worldwide. It is especially prevalent in developing countries, but is also widespread among certain groups in industrialized countries: 29% of children under 2 years old, and 20% to 30% of pregnant women, especially towards the end of term. Other persons who risk developing an iron deficiency include vegetarians and persons who go on frequent weight-loss diets.
Women are especially vulnerable. Between puberty and menopause, women require almost twice as much iron as men. The reason is simple: women lose about 30 milligrams of iron a month, while menstruating. One out of three women do not have enough iron stored in their body, and one out of six suffers from a serious deficiency. Adolescents, and women with back-to-back pregnancies are also more likely to develop an iron deficiency.
Pregnant women need a lot more iron than most people: between 2.5 and 5 milligrams per day. The extra iron is needed for the formation of the placenta, and to fulfill the needs of the fetus.
The need for iron increases dramatically during the final months of pregnancy, and while breast-feeding. Without supplements, women are very likely to develop a deficiency.
Elderly persons often do not produce enough gastric acid, which makes the absorption of iron more difficult.
Foods most rich in iron include liver and other organs, eggs (especially yolks), cocoa, dried legumes, dried fruit (apricots, figs), oleaginous fruit, grains with bran, some enriched baby cereals, meat, fish, shellfish and seafood.
Dairy products and most fruit and green vegetables contain very little iron.
More Vitamin C
If eaten at the same time, foods rich in Vitamin C multiply the absorption of iron from vegetable sources by two or three.
– Eat more Vitamin C-rich fruit: kiwis, oranges, grapefruit, lemons.
– You will assimilate more of the iron in salads by seasoning with lemon juice instead of vinegar.
– Drink fruit juice rich in Vitamin C to enhance the absorption of both iron and folic acid.
– Drink a glass of orange juice mixed with a raw egg. The Vitamin C in the orange juice reduces the iron in the egg, making it easier to absorb. This is especially effective for women during the week of menstruation.
– Combining the right foods can enhance iron absorption. Combining the wrong foods does exactly the opposite – it inhibits iron absorption. As we said, Vitamin C increases iron absorption, so try to combine foods that are rich in C and iron. Calcium and tannin inhibit iron absorption – foods containing them should not be combined with iron-rich foods if possible.
– Drink less tea and coffee: tannin (in tea) and caffeine both inhibit iron absorption.
– liver, kidney, blood pudding, red meat and poultry
– fish, seafood, shellfish
– apricots, figs, dates (dried and fresh)
– almonds, peanuts, walnuts
– pineapple, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, kiwis, melon
– clay (a teaspoon of nutritional clay in a glass of water)
– asparagus, eggplant, beets, rhubarb, leek
– whole wheat, bran, rye
– dried legumes
– dairy products
– green vegetables
Foods to avoid
Note: Persons who don’t like to exercise may be pleased to learn that too much physical exercise actually inhibits iron absorption.