Anemia: Recommendations and Considerations

Anemia Recommendations

❑ Anemia recommendations: Have a complete blood test to determine if you have an iron deficiency before taking iron supplements. Excess iron can damage the liver, heart, pancreas, and immune cell activity, and has been linked to cancer. Use iron supplements only under the supervision of a qualified health care provider. Include in your diet foods such as meats, poultry, fish, and enriched cereals.

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❑ Continue with regular blood testing to monitor the effect of iron. Taking too much or too little could be harmful.

❑ Also include the following in your diet: apples, apricots, asparagus, bananas, broccoli, egg yolks, kelp, leafy greens, okra, parsley, peas, plums, prunes, purple grapes, raisins, rice bran, squash, turnip greens, whole grains, and yams. Also eat foods high in vitamin C to enhance iron absorption. Anemia Recommendations.


❑ Consume at least 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses twice daily (for a child, use 1 teaspoon in a glass of milk or formula twice daily). Blackstrap molasses is a good source of iron and essential B vitamins.

❑ Eat foods containing oxalic acid in moderation or omit them from the diet. Oxalic acid interferes with iron absorption. Foods high in oxalic acid include almonds, cashews, chocolate, cocoa, kale, rhubarb, soda, sorrel, spinach, Swiss chard, and most nuts and beans.

❑ Avoid beer, candy bars, dairy products, ice cream, and soft drinks. Additives in these foods interfere with iron absorption. For the same reason, avoid coffee (which contains polyphenols) and tea (which contains tannins).

❑ Because iron is removed through the stool, do not eat foods high in iron and /or iron supplements at the same time as fiber. Avoid using bran as a source of fiber.

❑ If you are a strict vegetarian, watch your diet closely. Taking supplemental vitamin B12 is advised.

❑ Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke.

❑ Minimize your exposure to lead and other toxic metals.

❑ Do not take calcium, vitamin E, zinc, or antacids at the same time as iron supplements. These can interfere with iron absorption.

Considerations

❑ Iron from animals is in a heme form (from animals). All other foods containing iron are in a non-heme form (not from animals). As mammals, our bodies preferentially recognize and absorb the heme form better than the non-heme form. The fastest way to restore iron in the blood to normal is to consume meat (beef and poultry) and seafood and take an iron supplement as needed.

❑ The following foods are among the highest in iron content, with over 5 milligrams of iron per average serving: kidney beans, pinto beans, liver (eat only liver from organically raised animals), blackstrap molasses, rice bran, raw beet greens (not the beets), mustard greens, lentils, dried peaches, and prune juice. Foods with a moderately high iron content (3 to 5 milligrams per average serving) include cooked dried apricots, cooked beet greens, dates, lean meat (lamb, turkey, and veal), lima beans, chili, cooked spinach, and dry and fresh peas.

❑ Eating fish at the same time as vegetables containing iron increases iron absorption. Omitting all sugar from the diet increases iron absorption as well.

❑ Iron-deficiency anemia should disappear when the underlying cause is corrected.

❑ Physicians can sometimes detect vitamin B12 deficiency by measuring serum B12 levels, taking a complete blood cell count, and doing a blood test called the Schilling test, which evaluates B12 absorption. Persons with pernicious anemia must take vitamin B12 sublingually (dissolved under the tongue), by retention enema, or by injection. This treatment must be maintained for life, unless the underlying cause of the deficiency can be corrected.

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❑ Hydroxyuria (Droxia), a cancer drug, may be prescribed for people with sickle cell anemia who are over the age of eighteen and have experienced three or more crises in a one-year period. The drug eases symptoms, but is not a cure for the disease. Anemia Recommendations.

❑ The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under one year old not drink cow’s milk. Milk can cause anemia by interfering with iron absorption and possibly causing internal bleeding. The AAP published the results of a University of Iowa study that found the blood content in the stool of infants fed cow’s milk was five times higher than in children fed infant formula. Researchers concluded the amount of iron lost was “nutritionally important.”