Anemia is a medical condition in which the red blood cell count or hemoglobin is less than normal. The normal level of hemoglobin is generally different in males and females. For men, anemia is typically defined as hemoglobin level of less than 13.5 gram/100ml and in women as hemoglobin of less than 12.0 gram/100ml. These definitions may vary slightly depending on the source and the laboratory reference used.
Causes and symptoms
Iron is an essential component of the production of healthy RBCs, and iron stores must be maintained for the ongoing production of RBCs by the bone marrow. Iron deficiency anemia can develop as a result of depleted iron stores from chronic blood loss, increased demands for iron as seen in periods of growth (e.g., in infancy and adolescence ), or malabsorption of iron even when foods or supplements are supplying adequate amounts.
It is accepted that iron is hard to absorb; this, in combination with diets that may not meet daily requirements, is a common route to iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. Iron can also be lost through strenuous exercise and heavy perspiration, poor digestion, frequent consumption of antacids, long-term illness, heavy menstrual cycles, and other causes.
Infancy is a period of increased risk for iron deficiency because dietary iron may not be adequate for the rapid growth of the child in the first two years of life, an example of increased demand. The human infant is born with a built-in supply of iron, which can be tapped during periods of drinking low-iron milk or formula. Both human milk and cow milk contain rather low levels of iron (0.5–1.0 mg iron/liter).
However, the iron in the mother's breast milk is about 50 percent absorbed by the infant, while the iron of cow milk is only 10 percent absorbed. During the first six months of life, growth of the infant is made possible by the milk in the diet and by the infant's built-in supply of iron. However, premature infants have a lower supply of iron and, for this reason, it is recommended that pre-term infants, beginning at two months of age, be given oral supplements of 7 mg iron/day, as ferrous sulfate.
Iron deficiency can be provoked where infants are fed formulas based on unfortified cow milk. For example, unfortified cow milk is given free of charge to mothers in Chile. This practice has the fortunate result of preventing general malnutrition , but the unfortunate result of allowing the development of mild iron deficiency.
Children have a great need for iron as they grow, and in most cases, the diet will provide replacement iron for the iron used in growth. Children seem to stay in balance unless a bleeding disorder of some kind exists, either hereditary ( hemophilia or von Willebrand's) or related to hookworm infection or another illness. In adolescence, girls have an increased requirement for iron because of increased growth and the start of menstruation .
Adolescent boys also experience a major growth spurt that demands more iron; iron stores are worn thin especially when healthy red cell function is needed for adequate oxygenation of exercising muscles and developing organs. Teenagers are also not noted for making healthy food choices; often they are losing iron stores and not replenishing iron through diet.
Iron deficiency occurs most often through chronic blood loss, more often in adults than in children, although the sources of bleeding can apply to people of all ages. Blood losses from gastrointestinal bleeding, excessive menstrual bleeding, and infection with hookworm can deplete iron and lead to iron deficiency anemia. In hookworm infection, a parasitic worm that thrives in warm climates, including in the southern United States, enters the body through the skin, such as through bare feet.
The hookworm then migrates to the small intestines where it attaches itself to small sausage-shaped structures in the intestines (villi) that help with the absorption of all nutrients. The hookworm damages the villi, resulting in blood loss; they simultaneously produce anti-coagulants that promote continued bleeding. Each worm can initiate losses of up to 0.25 ml of blood per day.
Chronic blood losses through gradual bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract can be provoked by other conditions such as hemorrhoids, bleeding ulcers, anal fissures, irritable bowel syndrome , aspirin-induced bleeding, blood clotting disorders, and diverticulosis (a condition caused by an abnormal opening from the intestine or bladder). Several genetic diseases also lead to bleeding disorders.
These include the coagulation disorders hemophilia A and hemophilia B, and von Willebrand's disease, a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency in von Willebrand factor, an essential component of the coagulation system. All three genetic diseases can produce symptoms and be diagnosed in childhood.
The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia appear slowly and typically include weakness and fatigue. These symptoms result because of the reduced oxygen carrying capacity of RBCs and the reduced ability of the RBCs to carry iron to working muscles. Iron deficiency can also affect other tissues, including the tongue and fingernails. Prolonged iron deficiency can result in a smooth, shiny, and reddened tongue, a condition called glossitis. The fingernails may grow abnormally and acquire a spoon-shaped appearance.
Home Remedies for Anaemia
Anaemia Treatment using Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 is needed for preventing or curing anaemia. This vitamin is usually found in animal protein, especially in meats such as kidney and liver. There are, however, other equally good sources of vitamin BI2 such as dairy products which also contain some B12 .
Anaemia Treatment using Beets Beets are very helpful in curing anaemia. Beet juice contains potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulphur, iodine, iron, copper, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins B1 B2, B6, niacin, and vitamin P. With their high iron content, beets help in the formation of red blood cells. The juice of red beet strengthens the body's powers of resistance and has proved to be an excellent remedy for anaemia, especially for children and teenagers, where other blood-forming remedies have failed.
Anaemia Treatment using Fenugreek The leaves of fenugreek help in blood formation. The cooked leaves should be taken by adolescent girls to prevent anaemia, which may occur due to the onset of puberty and menstruation. The seeds of fenugreek are also a valuable cure for anaemia, being rich in iron.
Anaemia Treatment using Lettuce Lettuce is another effective remedy for this ailment as it contains a considerable amount of iron. It can, therefore, be used as a good tonic food for anaemia. The iron in it is easily absorbed by the body.
Anaemia Treatment using Spinach This leafy vegetable is a valuable source of high grade iron. After its absorption, it helps in the formation of haemoglobin and red blood cells. It is thus beneficial in building up the blood, and in the prevention and treatment of anaemia.
Anaemia Treatment using Soyabean Soyabean is rich in iron and also has a high protein value. As most anaemic patients usually also suffer from a weak digestion, it should be given to them in a very light form, preferably in the form of milk, which can be easily digested.
Anaemia Treatment using Almonds Almonds contain copper to the extent of 1.15 mg per 100 gm. The copper along with iron and vitamins, acts as a catalyst in the synthesis of haemoglobin. Almonds are, therefore, a useful remedy for anaemia. Seven almonds should be soaked in water for about two hours and ground into a paste after removing the thin red skin. This paste may be eaten once daily in the morning for three months.
Anaemia Treatment using Sesame Seeds Black sesame seeds, as a rich source of iron, are valuable in anaemia. After soaking one teaspoon of the seeds in warm water for a couple of hours, they should be ground and strained, and then mixed with a cup of milk and sweetened with jaggery or sugar. This emulsion should be given to patients suffering from anaemia.
Anaemia Treatment using Honey Honey is remarkable for building haemoglobin in the body. This is largely due to the iron, copper, and manganese contained in it. Raw honey should not be given to infants and toddlers who have been diagnosed with anemia. This is because raw honey contains certain bacterial spores that can cause a severe condition called botulism in kids. In order to add honey to an older child’s diet, you can use it as a substitute for sugar in their bowl of cereal every morning. You can also use honey in other dishes and even baked products as honey is resistant to high temperatures. You can even use honey in salads to add a bit of flavor and variety as well as increase the nutritional value of the salad.
Anaemia Treatment using Other Foods There are several other foods which are rich sources of iron and can be used beneficially in the treatment of anaemia. The more important of these are bananas, black grapes, plums, strawberries, raisins, onions, squash, carrots, radish, celery, and tomatoes.
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