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What is anemia/iron deficiency?
Generally, anemia is when your blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells and therefore cannot carry adequate oxygen to the body. Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia caused when there is not enough iron in your body which inhibits it from creating hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen. Without iron to produce hemoglobin, oxygen is not adequately distributed to your body. Anemia and iron deficiency can cause severe health concerns when left untreated. Should you suspect this condition then please contact your local GI Alliance facility as soon as possible.
What are the causes of anemia/iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by a lack of iron in your blood. Iron is what allows the blood to produce hemoglobin. This lack of iron can be caused by a few different factors:
- A lack of iron in your diet
- Blood loss (heavy menstruation, chronic blood loss, etc.)
- An inability to absorb iron (your small intestine becomes compromised from a disease like Celiac disease)
- Intravascular hemolysis
Risk factors for iron deficiency anemia include:
- Infants and children
- Donation of blood
- Vegetarian/vegan diet
If you or someone you love is at risk for iron deficiency, speak with a specialist at GI Alliance to ensure anemia does not become an issue.
What are the symptoms of anemia/iron deficiency?
Lack of sufficient oxygen causes several iron deficiency complications. The most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Sore or smooth tongue
- Craving for ice or clay (picophagia)
- Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
- Pale skin
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Cold hands and feet
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Iron deficiency anemia is not something you should self-diagnose, and taking iron supplements on your own could be dangerous. See your doctor if you are experiencing any combination of the above symptoms persistently. If you or someone you love is suffering these symptoms, please contact a local GI Alliance practice and ask about investigating the possibility of iron deficiency.
How is anemia/iron deficiency treated?
The treatments for iron deficiency anemia are very straightforward and they aim to get more iron in your body. However, some other conditions or medications can interfere with the absorption of iron. The most common treatments for iron deficiency anemia include:
- Taking iron tablets on an empty stomach
- Increasing intake of foods rich in iron
- Treatment for diseases that impede absorption, like Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease
- Taking iron tablets without antacids
- Taking iron tablets in conjunction with vitamin C
- Antibiotics to treat peptic ulcers
- Oral contraceptives to reduce menstrual bleeding
- Surgery or treatment for internal bleeding
Foods rich in iron:
- Red meat- Beef
- Leafy greens
- Dried fruit
Foods rich in vitamin C (to help with iron absorption):
- Leafy greens
Comprehensive treatment for anemia
Iron deficiency anemia can cause serious health issues if left untreated. When the cells and tissue in your major organs do not receive the supply of oxygen they need, they begin to scar or become damaged. Also, with iron deficiency anemia, your heart can be overworked because it is trying to supply more blood to oxygen-deprived sections of the body. Iron deficiency treatment can take two to three weeks to reverse symptoms. Depending on why you were anemic in the first place you may need to take iron supplements for a long period of time to ensure that the anemia does not return. If you have been diagnosed with, or suspect, anemia please contact a GI Alliance location near you to ensure you receive adequate treatment for your condition.
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