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Iron Deficiency Anemia

We all need iron for our bodies to function properly. Iron is important in the production of hemoglobin, which helps healthy red blood cells bind to oxygen. Hemoglobin helps the blood carry oxygen throughout the body.

When an individual is deficient in iron, they lack healthy red blood cells and as a result, may feel tired and short of breath. Other symptoms experienced include chest pain, headaches or unusual cravings for non-food items such as ice, dirt or starch (these cravings are called pica).

It is important that you do not self-diagnose iron-deficiency anemia since supplementing with iron can be dangerous, especially when taken unsupervised.

There are several potential causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Blood loss which can be caused by slow chronic undetected bleeding such as from an ulcer, hernia, polyp or colorectal cancer. In women, heavy bleeding during their monthly cycle can contribute to anemia.

  • Lack of iron in the diet. Vegetarians and vegans are at risk for iron deficiency since meat products contain iron. There are other sources to provide iron to those who follow a vegetarian vegan lifestyle, such as leafy green vegetables and iron-fortified foods.

  • Pregnancy. This is because the mothers’ body has an increased need for hemoglobin and blood volume to sustain the fetus.

  • The body has problems absorbing iron. This can be due to the removal of part of the small intestine or due to diseases such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. These can affect the body’s ability to absorb iron from the food we eat.

To prevent iron deficiencies, make sure to incorporate foods high in iron into your diet. These include red meats, eggs, soybeans and tofu, spinach, lentils, shellfish and liver. Our doctors at Imagine Health are happy to listen to concerns you have with regards to iron deficiency, dietary concerns as well as diagnosing and treating anemia. Remember, taking iron without first consulting a doctor (and being seen for subsequent follow-up care) can be dangerous and should not be done alone.


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