- Foods That Raise Iron Levels
- Anemia Causes
- Anemia Risk Factors
- Anemia Recovery Time
- 7 Types of Anemia
Iron is necessary to produce hemoglobin in red blood cells, which helps the RBCs carry oxygen to organs and other tissues of the body. Lack of iron disrupts this process, and insufficient oxygen supply can make you feel tired and short of breath during physical activities.
Your doctor will first try to identify the cause and severity of your anemia and then recommend the right treatment for you. Depending on your blood tests (including hemoglobin level, red blood cell count, etc.), your doctor may recommend eating iron-rich foods and vitamin C-rich foods instead of prescribing an iron supplement. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be needed.
What foods can help raise your iron levels?
It is important to have a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals to avoid suffering from any deficiency. When it comes to iron-deficiency anemia, look for foods that are rich in iron, vitamin C, vitamin B12, and folate.
Food sources of iron include:
- Iron-fortified cereals and bread
Food sources of vitamin C include:
Food sources of vitamin B12 include:
- Fortified bread, pasta, rice, and cereals
What causes iron-deficiency anemia?
Iron-deficiency anemia is caused by loss of iron in your body through:
- Blood loss, which may be due to:
- Lack of iron in your diet
- Inability to absorb iron due to an intestinal disorder or surgery that removes a part of your intestine. Iron absorption from food first occurs in the small intestine, which is then released into the blood. An intestinal disorder, such as celiac disease, hampers this process. Surgical removal of a part of the intestine also reduces your ability to absorb enough iron.
- Periods of increased iron needs, such as pregnancy and lactation, may also contribute to iron deficiency. Without adequate iron intake, pregnant women often suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. Excessive bleeding after childbirth may also cause anemia.
What are risk factors for iron-deficiency anemia?
People who have an increased risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia include:
- Women. Women lose iron from blood loss due to monthly periods.
- Infants. Premature infants and infants who do not get adequate iron supply from breast milk carry a greater risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
- Vegetarians. Vegetarians are more likely to have inadequate levels of iron if they do not get enough iron from food sources other than meat.
- Blood donors. Blood donors should always remember to replenish their iron stores by eating a diet rich in iron.
How long does it take to recover from anemia?
The recovery rate of anemia may depend on the underlying cause of the disease. For example, if a stomach ulcer causes anemia, the ulcer needs to be treated first to stop the bleeding and treat anemia. However, anemia caused by kidney failure will require long-term monitoring and kidney transplant.
Recovery from anemia may depend on many factors, including:
- Severity of deficiency
- Underlying cause
- Treatment options
Usually, young people recover from anemia more quickly than older adults. The effects in older adults are usually higher due to underlying chronic medical problems. Anemia could exacerbate any preexisting conditions.
Apart from these treatments, lifestyle modification and having a healthy balanced diet can help recover from anemia rapidly. Including essential nutrients in the diet can improve the recovery rate of the condition.
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7 types of anemia
The 7 types of anemia include the following:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Generally, with oral supplementation, the hemoglobin level should increase by 2 g/dL within four to eight weeks. Usually, the hemoglobin level should be restored by three months, whereas replacement of iron stores may take longer. Hence, iron supplements should be continued for a few more months even if the hemoglobin levels are restored to build iron stores.
- An intravenous iron administration can restore iron levels more rapidly than oral iron supplements. However, intravenous iron administration is recommended when the person’s intestinal absorption is impaired or when large doses of iron are required.
- Conditions, where intravenous iron administration may be recommended, include:
- Pernicious anemia
- If vitamin B12 deficiency is the reason for anemia (pernicious anemia), the patient would be administered vitamin B12 shots every day or several times a week until B12 levels return to normal.
- The duration of shots may decrease but may continue lifelong depending on the severity of the condition. Supplements could be recommended if pernicious anemia is due to dietary deficiency of vitamin B12.
- Aplastic anemia
- Blood transfusions may be recommended for some types of anemia, particularly aplastic anemia. However, they are not a permanent cure for the disease and may require supporting treatment.
- A bone marrow transplant could be recommended if the bone marrow fails to produce healthy blood cells.
- Hemolytic anemia
- Hemolytic anemia treatment may include:
- Treating infections that are potential stressors
- Suppressing the immune system that attacks red blood cells
- Generally, treatment for hemolytic anemia may continue lifelong.
- Hemolytic anemia treatment may include:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Stem cell or bone marrow transplants are the only cure, but considering the risk involved with these procedures, they are rarely recommended to treat sickle cell anemia.
- Most mild cases of thalassemia do not require treatment, whereas severe forms require lifelong blood transfusions, medication, folic acid supplementation, spleen removal, or a blood or bone marrow transplant.
- Anemia of chronic disease
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Harper JL. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/202333-overview
Nabili SN. Anemia. eMedicineHealth. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/anemia/article_em.htm
Jimenez K, Kulnigg-Dabsch S, Gasche C. Management of Iron Deficiency Anemia. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2015;11(4):241-250. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836595/
Mayo Clinic. Anemia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351366
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