Iron deficiency anemia may occur more frequently during pregnancy but, what many people do not realize, is that it occurs far often than that. Iron deficiency anemia can affect both male and female children and adults. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports on research findings about the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia, “30%–50% of anemia in children and other groups is caused by iron deficiency (World Health Organization 2007). Because 1.6 billion people are anemic (McLean et al. 2009), several hundred million manifest iron deficiency anemia. As such, iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia worldwide.”
Iron deficiency anemia is highly preventable and, if it does occur, highly treatable. For your health, and your family’s, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia so that, should symptoms occur, efforts to remedy the deficiency can be made. Symptoms include pale skin, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, tongue swelling or soreness, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances (dirt, ice, etc.) fast heartbeat, headaches, poor appetite and more. While anyone could become anemic due to a variety of health problems, those at higher risk of developing iron deficiency anemia include women of childbearing age, pregnant women, individuals with poor diet, individuals who frequently donate blood, infants and children (particularly those who were born prematurely or those experiencing a growth spurt), and vegetarians who do not replace meat with another source of iron.
If you are concerned you may have anemia due to iron deficiency, it is important to speak to your doctor right away so that you can begin to take the necessary measures to restore health. Naturopathic doctors are particularly skilled at aiding patients in remedying iron deficiency anemia because they take a whole-body health/holistic approach. While there are iron supplements to treat iron-deficiency anemia, there are many other more natural ways to cure anemia. Dr. Weil, a respected physician and advocate of natural and preventive medicine, including integrative medicine that stresses an importance of holistic (body, mind and spirit) health, recommend the following strategies for naturally treating iron deficiency anemia:
- Cook in cast-iron pots (the cooked food absorbs iron).
- Increase intake of red meat (preferably organic), chicken and fish, all of which provide some iron. Vegetarian sources include whole grains, dried beans, molasses, dried apricots and prunes, and leafy green vegetables such as kale, beet greens and chard, as well as exotic greens such as dandelions, lamb’s quarters, nettles and yellow dock.
- Eat more foods that enhance iron absorption. These include fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, or yogurt or sauerkraut, both of which contain lactic acid, which promotes iron absorption. Fermented soy foods can aid absorption as well.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, eggs, milk and bran, all of which can interfere with iron absorption.
Further, there are a variety of natural supplements and homeopathic remedies that can be used to treat iron deficiency anemia. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of anemia, a qualified naturopathic physician can help you restore your iron levels to normal and achieve whole body health.