In anaemia, there is either a reduction in the number of red blood cells in circulation or a decrease in the amount or quality of haemoglobin. The normal levels of circulating haemoglobin in males is 13.5 to 17.5 grams per decilitre and in females is 11.5 to 15.5. Anaemia occurs either because we are losing blood, because the blood we are making is in some way sub-standard or because we are destroying too many or not making enough red blood cells. Heavy periods, piles, bleeding gums or gastric inflammation can all be causes of anaemia.
The common symptoms of anaemia are exhaustion, lethargy, constipation, restlessness, headaches, irritability and lack of concentration.
Iron deficiency is generally the most common cause of anaemia, and causes the red blood cells to become very small. Different types of iron supplementation mean that absorption rates vary tremendously, with ferrous sulphate and fumarate generally being less than 5% absorbed (hence high levels being prescribed to gain sufficient iron) and ferrous succinate and glycinate forms up to 80% absorption.
The people who are at the highest risk of deficiency include:
• infants under two years due to the increased requirement for iron during growth spurts.
• teenage girls who have excessive menstrual bleeding, iron deficiency can also cause excessive menstrual bleeding.
• pregnant women have an increased requirement for iron.
• elderly people who do not absorb iron as well.
B12 Deficiency Anaemia causes the red blood cells to become quite large. Lack of the intrinsic factor needed to absorb B12 results in pernicious anaemia, (also associated with an additional iron deficiency). Where B12 is poorly absorbed, a sublingual (under the tongue) supplement negates the need for the intrinsic factor – this form can even be effective enough to avoid the need for B12 injections. B12 also works with folic acid in many other processes, including synthesis of DNA and the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells.
People at the highest risk of B12 deficiency include:
• vegetarians due to lack of B12 with a strict vegetarian/vegan diet.
• elderly people where decreased absorption is common.
Folic Acid Deficiency Anaemia caused because folic acid is not stored in the body, unlike iron or B12.
People that are at the highest risk of folic acid deficiency include:
• pregnant women, due to an increased demand for cell reproduction within the foetus.
• people on anticancer or epilepsy drugs, or women on the contraceptive pill
• people who suffer from Crohns disease, IBS, diarrhoea and/or malabsorption.
Before taking any supplements or making dietary changes it is important to have a blood test to determine the exact type of anaemia you have.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Folic Acid||Needed for the formation of red blood cells.||400mg to 800mg daily|
|Iron||Needed to carry oxygen in the blood.||15mg to 45mg daily|
|Vitamin B12||Needed for the formation of red blood cells.||1000mcg daily|
|Vitamin C||Needed to help enhance iron absorption.||1000mg daily|
|Echinacea||Helps to regulate the auto immune system.||500mg 3 times daily|
|Dong Quai||Helps to build red blood cells.||500mg 3 times daily|
|Gentian||Helps to stimulate digestion and absorption.||500mg 3 times daily|
Always take folic acid with Vitamin B12 as they work best together.
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Eliminate junk and processed which may provide substantially less iron than the body needs.
Best food sources
|Liver (not in pregnancy)||Chives||Fresh dates|
|Lovage||Unsalted cashew nuts||Fennel|
|Offal||Dried beans||Black pudding|
You can increase your absorption of iron be eating foods rich in Vitamin C at the same time.
Some foods may inhibit the absorption of iron, they include uncooked bran, tea, coffee, cola drinks, chocolate and antacid medicines.
Haem iron from animal sources is much more easily absorbed than non-haem iron which is found in plants.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
Suggested further reading
- Anaemia explained
- Food sources of iron