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Why An Iron-Rich Diet May Not Be Enough In Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

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Should you be worried about iron deficiency? Well, iron deficiency can indeed trigger a bunch of health disorders. But the good news is, you don’t have to lose sleep over it! Why? Because iron deficiency can easily be cured with timely intervention. This means, with early detection and adhering to your doctor’s instructions, you will be able to overcome iron deficiency anaemia in no time and resume a perfectly healthy and active lifestyle.

What is Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

  • Iron deficiency anaemia is the lack of an adequate number of healthy Red Blood Cells (RBCs) in the body.
  • Iron deficiency anaemia also deprives RBCs of their capacity to carry oxygen to all the parts of the body.
  • This happens because of the reduced production of a substance called haemoglobin (which is a component of RBCs). 
  • While this deficiency is fully curable and does not last very long with proper treatment, it can prove fatal if ignored.

What are the Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

Iron Deficiency Anaemia might have several underlying causes but they can all be grouped under 3 broad categories.

1. Reduced Intake of Iron

  • When you consume an insufficient amount of foods that are rich in iron, you may start developing symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia. 
  • Having a low concentration of ‘iron enhancers’ like Vitamin C (in citrus fruits) can further reduce the body’s capacity to absorb the little iron that is available in your food.
  • Iron deficiency anaemia can also be caused by increased intake of non-Haem iron and reduced intake of haem iron in your body (known as reduced bioavailability of iron).
  • Iron deficiency anaemia can also occur during pregnancy if the woman is not able to fulfil the iron requirements of her growing baby, in which case, doctor’s recommend iron and folic acid supplements.
  • Finally, iron deficiency anaemia is usually an illness that does not occur unprecedentedly but is sometimes the result of your body’s poor capability to store iron since childhood. 

2. Poor Absorption of Iron

  • Increased intake of foods that are known as iron inhibitors (tea, coffee and some calcium-rich foods) before or during meals can hamper the absorption of dietary iron.
  • Existing ailments like Celiac Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, some autoimmune conditions or even Crohn’s Disease can hinder the absorption of iron in your small intestine. 
  • Since the small intestines are responsible for the absorption of dietary iron, removal of a part of it due to gastric bypass surgery can also reduce the absorption of iron. 
  • Medications like proton pump inhibitors, which are used to lower the levels of stomach acid can negatively affect the absorption of iron into your body.

3. Excessive Loss of Blood

  • Certain diseases like Peptic Ulcers, Hernia, Piles, Uterine Fibroids and Colon Polyps can cause internal bleeding that leads to reduced levels of iron in your body. 
  • For women who have heavy menstrual cycles, excess blood loss can often lead to iron deficiency anaemia. 
  • People undergoing dialysis for end-stage kidney failure may also lose a lot of blood leading to iron deficiency. Apart from this, medications for end-stage kidney failure have also been known to cause iron deficiency anaemia.
  • In severe cases of worm infestation in the intestine (Heavy Ascariasis), the intestinal walls may become damaged and lead to internal bleeding.
  • Some medications and medical conditions may increase your risk of internal bleeds.

Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Unusually pale skin
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat and/or even shortness of breath
  • Headache, dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  • Unusually cold hands and feet
  • Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
  • Uncharacteristically brittle nails
  • Unusual cravings for inedible substances, like ice, starch or clay or soil
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children
  • Poor growth in children.

Management of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Unfortunately, there are not many home remedies and self-management methods in the case of iron deficiency anaemia. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor beforehand. Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) iron supplements as well as Folic Acid supplements, as an addition to your daily diet.

Tips & Precautions of Taking Iron Supplements

TipsPrecautions
Ensure that you take the iron supplement regularly as per the dosage and complete the entire course of medication for long-term benefits.If you experience unwanted side effects like gastritis, vomiting or nausea, you need not stop the treatment but seek medical advice at the earliest. (Your doctor may advise you of suitable alternatives.)
Most of these iron supplement tablets should be taken on an empty stomach, 1 – 2 hours before meals for better absorption. A glass of orange juice, tomato salad or any citrus fruit when taken along with iron supplements, enhance their absorption.
Remember to eat foods that are rich in iron, vitamins, proteins, minerals, etc along with these iron supplements for a more comprehensive health benefit.Moreover, do not take iron supplements with tea, coffee, milk or calcium tablets (they hamper the absorption of iron). 
You can add green leafy vegetables, raisins, whole pulses, jaggery, poultry, fish, meat, fruits, black gram, groundnuts, milk, eggs and other nuts for a more balanced diet.In case of constipation, drink lots of water and consider adding a source of roughage (like a vegetable salad and whole fruits) to your diet.
In some cases, patients may not be able to absorb an adequate amount of iron from these supplements and for such people, intravenous iron infusions may be prescribed. When seeking intravenous iron infusions, you should always have it done in a hospital under the supervision of a doctor. Since there may be a risk of developing life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, a doctor usually administers a test dose at first.

Key Takeaways

  • Iron deficiency anaemia is the lack of haemoglobin in RBCs leading to low oxygenation throughout the body.
  • It can occur due to 3 broad causes – reduced intake of iron, lower absorption of dietary iron and excess internal bleeding.
  • The signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include – fatigue, exhaustion, shortness of breath, inflammation, pale skin, among several others.
  • Since it cannot be self-diagnosed and managed at home, you should seek medical advice at the earliest. A general physician or haematologist can help.
  • However, with the help of a few tips and precautions of taking iron supplements (prescribed by a doctor), iron deficiency anaemia can be cured.

Conclusion

With sufficient awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia, you can recognise the warning signs at home and seek timely treatment. Since there is no specific age for this ailment, it is all the more important that you eat healthily and exercise regularly to prevent its onset in the first place.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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