The body needs red blood cells to carry oxygen to all organs and tissues. Lack of oxygen can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, brittle nails, and pale skin. Anemia is the lack of healthy red blood cells. Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when the cause of the low red blood cell count is due to a lack of iron. Without iron, the red blood cells cannot produce hemoglobin or bind to oxygen. Iron-deficiency anemia can typically be corrected with supplements and an iron-rich diet.
Do certain factors increase the risk?
Certain types of anemia are genetic and cannot be avoided. Sickle cell and aplastic anemia are examples of anemia passed on from parent to offspring. Anemia can also be a mix of genetics and circumstance. Iron-deficiency anemia has 3 main risk factors: blood loss, the body’s inability to absorb iron, and poor diet.
1. Blood loss
Menstrual cycles and childbirth can cause temporary drops in blood iron levels. Chronic blood loss such as hernias or ulcers can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Certain pain relievers can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and lead to iron deficiencies.
2. Inability to absorb iron
Iron is absorbed in the small intestine. Medical conditions can affect the body’s ability to process nutrients from food and lead to deficiencies. Celiac disease and intestinal surgeries can lower the amount of iron the body is able to absorb.
A large portion of the iron individuals need to function is consumed through diet. Consuming too little over time can lead to iron deficiencies and medical complications. Protein, dried fruits, dark leafy vegetables, and nuts are good sources of iron. Vitamin C will help the body absorb the iron.
Minimize the risk
Iron-deficiency anemia is often preventable. The best way to minimize the chance of developing an iron deficiency is to increase the intake of iron-rich foods. Eating foods high in vitamin C will also help the body absorb iron. Patients should speak with a healthcare provider for recommendations and treatment options for anemia.