A few months after normal delivery I feel tired and weak, sometimes with dizziness. The tests showed that I’m on the verge of anemia. What nutrition contributes to whole blood? – a reader’s question

The word anemia, in fact, means “without blood”. This, of course, is not literally – the meaning is that we are short of blood or we have low erythrocytes and hemoglobin concentration (the red pigment, carrier of oxygen) in it.

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Anemia is one of the most common diseases of blood, which affects humans.

Medicine knows more than 10 types, but the most common among them are:

1. Iron-deficiency anemia – the most widespread type of anemia – it occurs when there is a deficiency of iron in the body, necessary for hemoglobin synthesis. The people with this type of anemia sometimes are said to have “lack of iron in the blood” or “tired blood”.

The most common cause of iron deficiency is blood loss. In women iron and the red blood cells are lost when there is a bleeding from very heavy and long lasting menstrual cycles as well as after delivery. The foods which are enriched with important vitamins and minerals, such as the cereals with added iron and folic acid, are very suitable to fight anemia.

The prevalence of foods low in iron also may cause iron-deficiency anemia. Meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and the foods enriched with iron are the best sources of iron..

Pregnancy can cause such type of anemia if not enough iron is consumed in order to maintain the loaded organism and the unborn baby. It is also possible to intake enough amount of iron with your diet but to have problems with its absorption due to diseases such as Crohn’s disease and gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease) or intake of certain medications.

2. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia (pernicious anemia)

imagesOur body needs vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells and our nervous system to work properly. This type of anemia most often occurs in people whose bodies are unable to absorb vitamin B12 from the food because of autoimmune disease. Frequently, the reason may be different intestinal problems, as vitamin B12 is produced only from bacteria and fungi – normal inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract.

That is why the vitamin is naturally found predominantly in animal products, as the plants cannot store it. However, it is possible vitamin B12 to be found in some fermented vegan foods such as tempeh, miso, extract of brewer’s yeast spread (marmite, vegemite) as well as in enriched with it products such as tofu and cereals (muesli).

The treatment, as you see, depends on the cause. You may need to be treated with injectable vitamin B12 or to take special pills with vitamin B12.

Mussels are rich in cobalamin (the other name of vitamin B 12).

There is 98.9 mcg or 1648% of RDI (recommended daily intake) of vitamin B 12 in 100 g cooked mussels. 85 g cooked oysters will bring you 408%. Another wholesome source is the liver – the calf’s one is with the highest content – 83.1 mcg (1386% RDI) in 100 g.

The cooked octopus will give you 36 mcg (600% RDI) of vitamin B 12. It is followed by the cooked crab with 11.5 mcg (192% RDI) for 100 g, lobster (44% RDI in 85 g) and shrimps (24% RDI). We should not miss the eggs, of course – one hen’s egg (50 g) will bring you 0.36 mcg (6% RDI) of vitamin B 12.

Goose eggs are the richest in cobalamin (122% RDI), followed by duck (63%), turkey (22%) and quail (2%) in each egg.

3. Folic deficiency anemia can happen if you don’t consume enough folic acid or if you have problems with the absorption of vitamins. It can also occur during the last trimester of pregnancy when the organism needs additional amount of folic acid for the development of the fetal nervous system. Folic acid is a vitamin from the B group, found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, dried fruits and peas. Folic acid is found in enriched bread, pasta and cereals.

Dizziness and fatigue are characteristic symptoms of anemia. Difficulty in performing routine tasks, shortness of breath, pallor, headache and giddiness are other frequent complaints. The reason for all these is the intense work of the heart which is trying to pump more blood to compensate the lack of oxygen in it.

The treatment of anemic conditions requires careful etiological approach because, as you see, finding the cause underlies the effective treatment.

As for nutrition – choose foods rich in iron, copper and vitamin C. These are dark green vegetables, cheese, eggs, seafood and fish. Include in your diet liver, lean beef and mutton, fish, egg yolk, dried fruits, soy products and molasses. Take large amounts of onion, garlic, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and herbs (parsley, stinging nettle, leaves of coriander and dandelion). Eat foods rich in vitamin C to stimulate iron absorption from the organism.

Good luck!

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