Anaemia is the most common nutritional disorder associated with poor health outcomes. Anaemia has a high prevalence in the modern world and is regarded as one of the serious global public health problem.
Anaemia is a condition in which there is reduced number of red blood cells (RBCs) or lower haemoglobin concentration within the RBCs. The lower absolute number of circulating RBCs will subsequently lead to insufficient capacity to carry oxygen. The decreased oxygen delivery to tissues will give rise to negative effects on health and development.
There are different types of anaemia like iron deficiency anaemia, vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, aplastic anaemia (a condition where the body stops producing new blood cells), haemolytic anaemia (a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they are made), sickle cell anaemia (an inherited disorder in which red blood cells become sickle shaped), pernicious anaemia (autoimmune disorder caused due to impaired absorption of vitamin B12).
This blog aims to outline what it means by iron deficiency aneamia, its symptoms, causes and probable remedy.
WHAT IS IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA?
Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia that develops if you don’t have enough iron in your body. An insufficient amount of iron makes it impossible for your body to produce the right amount of haemoglobin as a result of which your body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. This can cause you to feel tired, weak, and dizzy, and result in other symptoms that interfere with your daily life.
CAUSES FOR IRON-DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA
The risk of iron deficiency anaemia increases due to following causes: if you are not getting adequate iron in the diet, very heavy menstrual bleeding in women, gastrointestinal bleeding (inflammation of the stomach) that could result from taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like diclofenac, ibuprofen), frequent blood donation, stomach ulcers, piles, inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals, oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, intravascular haemolysis (where RBCs breakdown in the bloodstream, releasing iron that is lost in the urine), deficient erythropoiesis (production of RBCs which happens when kidneys secrete hormone erythropoietin), people over the age of 50 who are more likely to have iron-poor diets, inherited conditions (such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia), increased systemic requirements for iron in pregnancy, parasitic infection, too much alcoholism (which depletes B vitamins), vegetarian diet (that contain non-heme iron not readily absorbed by the body).
SYMPTOMS OF IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA
The very obvious and evident symptom of iron deficiency anaemia is extreme exhaustion or fatigue. Sometimes, even after a good night’s sleep, or extra rest, some complain of fatigue. The prolonged fatigue interferes with your ability to complete daily tasks. Iron acts as a cofactor for many enzymes involved in cellular energy metabolism. Oxygen plays a vital role in the electron transport chain that produces cellular energy. So, lack of iron means, you can’t produce enough haemoglobin which further means insufficient oxygen to tissues and the onset of fatigue.
The low levels of red blood cells (RBCs) convey the low levels of oxygen. This means the heart has to work harder to transport oxygen through the body. When heart works harder than normal, it leads to the feeling that the heart is beating irregularly, but the compensatory increase in cardiac output aims to maintain adequate oxygen delivery. By circulating blood faster, your body is trying to spread around the small amounts of available haemoglobin to deliver more oxygen. A rapid heart rate may be combined with a feeling of anxiety and tiredness.
SHORTNESS OF BREATH
When there isn’t enough iron to create adequate amounts of haemoglobin, there is an impaired circulation of oxygen in the bloodstream throughout the body. As a result of which, some parts of the body will not receive the oxygen they need. This causes your lungs to overcompensate and work harder to bring in more oxygen. Since the amount of oxygen in the body’s tissues depends on the amount of oxygen supplied by breath, the insufficient oxygen levels cause shortness of breath and make you feel like you can barely catch your breath.
COLD FEET OR HAND
This is yet another way your body compensates for the low RBCs, the body restricts major blood flow to certain essential parts, like the heart, brain, and kidneys. As there aren’t enough red blood cells to provide oxygen to the body tissue, less blood is delivered to the limbs. The limited circulation can make people with iron deficiency anaemia experience cold feet that often feel numb. Low levels of iron in the blood can also lead to a fall in dopamine that triggers restless leg syndrome.
Paleness of skin is related to blood flow in the skin. When you have fewer red blood cells, it indicates you don’t have enough haemoglobin and oxygen. Your body will send blood to vital organs, depriving other parts of the body in the process. Without enough haemoglobin and oxygen, you can lose your skin tone, and your skin may become pale. Besides, iron deficiency anaemia can make nails brittle or cracked and cause dark circles under the eyes, and lead to hair loss.
Iron deficiency causes low haemoglobin levels which are associated with tissue hypoxia, a state in which sufficient oxygen is not available at the tissue level to maintain adequate homeostasis. When there is insufficient oxygen supply in the brain, the blood vessels in the brain swell and cause pressure that sets off a headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, and poor cognitive performance.
REMEDY FOR IRON DEFICIENCY ANAEMIA
Consume meat, especially organ meat like the liver that’s high in iron and B-vitamins.
Foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, and broccoli help with iron absorption.
Dry fruits like apricots, prunes, raisins, and pistachios are a good source of iron.
Legumes like peas, lima beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas are rich sources of iron.
Include cereals and grains fortified with iron in your diet.
Do not take calcium and iron-rich foods or supplements together as calcium inhibits the absorption of iron when taken together.
Tannin foods like tea, coffee, and grapes are known to interfere with iron absorption and hence to be avoided.
Phytates in whole grains and legumes can decrease the absorption of iron.
Limit consumption of eggs as protein from the egg is known to inhibit iron absorption.
Iron supplements can help in improving iron levels in the body.