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Anemia: cause, symptoms and treatments

Do you feel tired, out of breath, pale and like your batteries are completely dead?

If so, you might be anemic.

Anemia is characterized by a decrease in the number of erythrocytes, hemoglobin concentration and/or hematocrit below the reference values ​​corresponding to age or sex.

Do we speak Chinese to you there? Well basically, anemia is a drop in the level of hemoglobin in the blood and the symptoms can sometimes be confused with a simple bout of fatigue since this is one of the main symptoms of anemia.

But if fatigue is accompanied by dizziness, paleness, headaches or shortness of breath, then the possibility of anemia should be taken seriously.

Don't worry, together we will discover the most common causes of anemia and give you the solutions to remedy them.

anemia causes

The causes of anemia

The causes of anemia can be varied and very often iron deficiency will be cited as the cause of anemia.

However, there are several other causes explaining anemia and even several types of anemia:

  1. Bone marrow anemia (bone marrow malformation);
  2. Hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells and white blood cells);
  3. Deficiency anemia (lack of iron, vitamin B12, folic acid, etc.);
  4. Hemorrhagic anemia (accidental, heavy periods);
  5. Inflammatory anemia (rheumatism, infectious diseases, etc.).

    Focus on the most common causes of anemia:

Iron deficiency: No. 1 cause of anemia

This is the most common cause of anemia, we will then speak of iron deficiency anemia.

Iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. When the body does not get enough iron, it cannot produce enough hemoglobins, leading to insufficient red blood cell production.

Iron deficiencies can be caused by insufficient consumption of iron-rich foods or by excessive blood loss, which is called hemorrhagic anemia. This can also be explained by iron malabsorption due to a digestive disease (eg: Helicobacter pylori gastritis).

So-called “hemorrhagic” periods

Heavy periods can cause anemia by causing significant blood loss in a short period of time. The body must then produce new red blood cells to compensate for the blood loss and maintain normal oxygen levels in the body.

But if the losses are too frequent, the body may fail to “keep up” and therefore will not be able to produce enough new red blood cells to compensate, which can lead to anemia.

This is the same principle that we observe in the event of hemorrhage due to a wound for example (flow of blood out of the blood vessels).

Vitamin B12 and folic acid (B9) deficiency

Vitamin B12 is necessary for DNA synthesis and for the maturation of red blood cells . When there is a deficiency of vitamin B12, red blood cells cannot form properly, which can lead to insufficient red blood cell production.

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is involved in cell division, including the production of red blood cells, and a B9 deficiency can therefore lead to insufficient red blood cell production.

Deficiencies can again be due to insufficient consumption of foods rich in B12 or B9 but also to poor absorption of these vitamins by the small intestine.

Chronic inflammatory diseases

Chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's disease , rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease for example, can cause anemia by disrupting the production and regulation of red blood cells in the body.

These diseases cause inflammation in the body that can reduce the production of red blood cells . It is one of the most common causes of anemia.

Symptoms of anemia

Symptoms may vary depending on the cause of the anemia, its severity and its duration. The main symptoms of anemia are related to decreased oxygenation of body tissues.

Signs that should alert you

  1. 🚨 Fatigue → This is one of the most common symptoms. People with anemia may feel exhausted even after minimal effort. Muscle weakness can also be a symptom of anemia and people may feel unable to perform normal daily tasks.
  2. 🚨 Shortness of breath → Lack of oxygen in the body can cause a feeling of lack of air. People with anemia may have difficulty breathing during exercise or even at rest.
  3. 🚨 Vertigo or dizziness → Again, this is a common symptom of anemia. They are due to reduced oxygen supply to the brain. Headaches may also appear.
  4. 🚨 Pallor → The pale complexion linked to anemia is due to the decrease in hemoglobin in the blood. People will then have a paler or even yellowish complexion. Nails can become weak and brittle and the tongue slick and inflamed.

Palpitations, chest pain, a drop in blood pressure, mood disorders and psychological manifestations are all symptoms to take into account when anemia is suspected.

Treating the causes of anemia

Treatment for anemia depends on the underlying cause of the disease.

If it is a deficiency anemia , this can be corrected by increasing the intake of iron, vitamin B12, protein or folic acid through diet or taking a food supplement.

When we talk about iron supplementation , for example, we may be faced with unpleasant side effects such as stomach upset, constipation or black stools. You will therefore need to be careful to choose your supplement and the most digestible form of iron.

What about chronic illness? If the cause of anemia is a chronic inflammatory disease, treatment often involves treating the underlying disease. Logic. For example, if anemia is caused by chronic kidney disease, treatment may include dialysis.

🔎 Note that people with autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's disease , may need higher doses of vitamin B12 .

In some more serious cases of anemia, an iron injection may be recommended. This involves administering iron directly into the body intravenously. It is a treatment reserved for people suffering from severe iron deficiency or who cannot absorb enough iron orally.

Anemia prevention

In order to prevent anemia and avoid related complications, we advise you to carry out regular blood test screenings. The earlier the deficiency is detected, the more likely it is to be treated before serious symptoms develop.

The blood test allows, among other things, to measure the ferritin level but also the CBC (complete blood count) in order to record the level of hemoglobin and VGM (mean corpuscular volume), for example.

These measurements are valuable clues to detecting anemia and its cause.

Diet, as always, must be careful to avoid anemia. A balanced diet is often enough to prevent possible deficiencies.

A diet rich in iron, protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 is recommended if you are prone to anemia.

Vegan friends, remember that vitamin B12 can be difficult to find in a plant-based diet .

For people suffering from deficiencies, do not hesitate to rely on food supplements ! We can obviously think of spirulina for its contribution in iron , vitamin B9 and vegetable proteins .

To optimize iron intake, our favorite is Iron Bisglycinate ! PS: do n't forget that iron is better absorbed when coupled with vitamin C.

Finally, if you suffer from a chronic illness that could lead to anemia, medical monitoring is obviously essential in order to treat the illness underlying the anemia.

To conclude

So if you're feeling exhausted and without energy, anemia could be the culprit. Do not hesitate to consult a doctor, because by following appropriate treatment, you can quickly regain your shape and vitality.

A healthy, balanced diet combined with regular screening for anemia can help prevent it.

Don't let anemia weaken you further and take care of your little red blood cells!

Eloise Dubois-Gaché - Naturopath

Naturopath and FENA certified

Thanks to her solid experience in different herbalists, Eloïse includes, if necessary, complete and precise advice in phytotherapy, aromatherapy, gemmotherapy and micro-nutrition when setting up a personalized and adapted lifestyle program to everyone.

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