Anemia is term for a number of conditions causing low blood iron levels mainly due to the reduced concentration of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an essential component of red blood cells and are responsible for the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide through the blood. Hemoglobin is composed of iron bonded to proteins. The low intake of iron, loss of iron through bleeding or abnormal utilization of iron in the body will result in anemia.
Causes of Low Blood Iron Levels
The most common anemia is iron-deficiency anemia or hypochromic microcytic anemia. This type of anemia is prevalent in young women due to menstruation and frequently occurs in cases of heavy menses (periods) or frequent menses. Apart from blood loss, the low intake of iron either due to a vegan or vegetarian diet as well as malabsorption syndromes can contribute to low blood iron levels.
Other anemias like iron transport deficiency, iron utilization and iron reutilization anemia are usually a result of other systemic or genetic factors and may require more specific treatment apart from iron supplementation. The low blood iron levels in these anemias are not due to a lack of iron but rather due to the improper use of iron by the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Blood Iron Levels
A number of signs and symptoms associated with reduced gas exchange and transport capacity of the blood may be evident.
- Fatigue or tiredness.
- Breathlessness, even after mild activity like walking up a flight of stairs.
- Pale skin, especially of the hands and legs with bluish tinge of the nails in cold environments.
- Headaches and muscle cramps due to reduced oxygen supply to the muscles.
- Dizziness and fainting spells.
- Cracking of the corners of the mouth.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Hair loss (or thinning) and weak brittle nails.
A concomitant symptom of anemia is constipation. This is not directly linked to low blood iron levels but is often a result of malabsorption syndromes. These syndromes, which often occurs in young menstruating women, reduces the absorption of iron from the diet. Unabsorbed iron and other nutrients in the gut may result in bowel disorders like constipation. Constipation may also be seen in persons using high iron supplements.
Herbal, Homeopathic Treatment & Clinical Nutrition for Anemia
- Nettles (Urtica urens or Urtica dioca) is one of the best herbal remedies to assist with iron-deficiency anemia. This herb promotes the absorption of iron from the gut and is ideal in cases where thinning hair or brittle nails is noted.
- The homeopathic remedy, Natrum muriaticum 6CH to 30CH may be useful for a most cases of iron-deficiency anemia. This remedy also assists with headaches, thin hair, brittle nails and constipation.
- Other useful homeopathic remedies that may assist with most anemias, including atransferrinemia, sideroblastic anemia and anemias of chronic disease, include Ferrum metallicum 6CH to 30CH and Ferrum phosphoricum 6CH to 30CH. Ferrum phosphoricum can be used for iron-deficiency due to bleeding, either due to heavy periods, trauma or bleeding in the gut.
- Vitamin C should be used with iron supplements to increase absorption of iron from the gut. If nutrition is sufficient, iron supplementation can be avoided altogether and a vitamin C supplement can be used daily. Refer to Simplex Vitamin and Mineral Prescription.
- Foods such as spinach and beetroot are high in iron. While meat has sufficient iron for your body’s needs, iron is often better absorbed from vegetables such as spinach and beetroot.
- In cases of iron deficiency anemia due to heavy periods, a female hormone stabilizer may be useful