The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 2.5 to 3 billion persons are anemic worldwide. 50% of all anemia cases are caused by Iron deficiency.
In the US alone, it is estimated that more than 3.5 million people have some type of anemia. Anemia occurs in all age groups and in all racial and ethnic groups. One specific type, sickle cell anemia, occurs in one in every 600 African-American births, and about 2 million Americans have the sickle cell trait. Approximately 10 percent of children with SCD suffer fatal or debilitating strokes. Aplastic anemia occurs in about 500–1,000 people in the US.
Older Adults & the Elderly: Fatigue, weakness and other anemia symptoms can be misconstrued as normal signs of old age, but neither anemia nor these symptoms are a natural part of aging and should receive meticulous medical attention.
- 10% of persons aged 65 and older have anemia
- 50% of nursing home residents have anemia
- Anemic elderly are twice as likely to be hospitalized for falls
- Cancer Patients – 80% of chemotherapy patients have severe anemia
- Chronic Kidney Disease Patients – Anemia is a common and early complication of chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- 28% of mild CKD patients are anemic
- 87% of severe CKD patients are anemic
In Critically ill Patients: Many factors contribute to anemia in critically ill patients including trauma, surgical blood loss, inflammation and nutritional deficiencies.
- 50% of patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) are anemic
- 75% of long-stay critically ill patients are anemic
Women of Childbearing Age: Heavy bleeding with normal menstruation may cause iron deficiency anemia. Anemia can also develop during pregnancy. In fact:
- 12% of women aged 12-49 are iron deficient
- 20% of pregnant women in the US have anemia.
Poor Nutrition: Anemia can also be caused by, or related to, poor nutrition. Vitamins and minerals are required to make red blood cells; in addition to iron, vitamin B12 and folate are required for the proper production of hemoglobin. Deficiency in any of these may cause anemia because of inadequate production of red blood cells. Poor dietary intake is an important cause of low folate and low vitamin B12 levels. Strict vegetarians who do not take sufficient vitamins are at risk to develop vitamin B12 deficiency.
Heart Disease: People with Heart Disease are at a risk for anemia. Hypertension can precipitate or worsen many established cardiovascular diseases, advancing the severity of anemia and congestive heart failure.
- 17-48% of patients with heart failure have anemia
- 43% of hospitalized heart attack patients have anemia
- And in people with rheumatoid arthritis, 30-60% of rheumatoid arthritis patients have anemia
Pernicious anemia: There also may be a problem in the stomach or the intestines leading to poor absorption of vitamin B12. This may lead to anemia because of vitamin B12 deficiency known as pernicious anemia.
Sickle cell anemia: In some individuals, the problem may be related to production of abnormal hemoglobin molecules. In this condition, the hemoglobin problem is qualitative, or functional. Abnormal hemoglobin molecules may cause problems in the integrity of the red blood cell structure and they may become crescent-shaped (sickle cells).
Thalassemia: This is another group of hemoglobin-related causes of anemia. There are many types of thalassemia, which vary in severity. These are also hereditary.
Alcoholism: Poor nutrition and deficiencies of vitamins and minerals are associated with alcoholism. Alcohol itself may also be toxic to the bone marrow and may slow down the red blood cell production.
Aplastic anemia: Occasionally, some viral infections may severely affect the bone marrow and diminish production of all blood cells. Anti-cancer medications and some other medications may pose the same problems.
Hemolytic anemia: Hemolytic anemia is a type of anemia in which the red blood cells rupture (known as hemolysis) and become dysfunctional. Some forms of hemolytic anemia can be hereditary with constant destruction and rapid reproduction of red blood cells. This destruction may also happen to normal red blood cells in certain conditions, for example, with abnormal heart valves damaging the blood cells.
The Symptoms of Anemia
The symptoms of anemia are very imperceptible at first and include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and heart palpitations. These symptoms result from the body not getting enough oxygen through the bloodstream. It can become a life-threatening condition if left untreated for a long time.
Anemia often goes undetected in people with the following chronic health conditions:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Some Foods that Raise the Hemoglobin:
- Pumpkins are rich in vitamins and folic acid and vitamin B12 and are useful in combating anemia.
- Vegetables like spinach and broccoli, sweet potatoes, beans, green peas, pulses and all green leafy vegetables are rich in iron, folic acid and B12.
- Zucchini is another very effective food for treating anemia. Eat in salads or steam cooked.
- Tamarind leaves tea is very good for raising hemoglobin.
- Guavas are great for preventing anemia, and it is believed that they may also prevent leukemia.
Home Remedies for Anemia
Alternately, you could try some of these home remedies that are useful in anemia.
- Red wine: Believe it or not! A glass of red wine daily corrects anemia very soon.
- Vinegar and molasses: 2 spoons of apple cider vinegar and blackstrap molasses with water or tea is a very good home remedy to correct anemia.
- Bee Pollen: 1 teaspoon of bee pollen is a powerful biological stimulant and increases the red cells in the bone marrow.
- Yellow dock root: It is a common roadside weed. It has the property of raising the hemoglobin levels. Many people with anemia have surprised their doctors when they reported that their good results came from this simple plant. Some have been able to raise their hemoglobin count in a few weeks with yellow dock. It is available in tincture form as well as capsules. However, this herb can have the side effect of causing diarrhea if the dosage is too high.
- Nettle leaf: The stinging nettle, also called nettle leaf. This plant herb contains a stinging irritant to skin; it can be cooked and eaten like spinach. It grows in moist shady places. It can be obtained as the bulk dried herb, tincture, or capsule form at health food stores. Nettle is often combined with red raspberry leaf and oat straw herb, and used as a tea. The addition of anise seed seems to improve results.
- Dandelion: and burdock root – These herbs are often used in combinations to treat anemia. These plants are widespread and easy to identify, and could be used in cases where medical help is not available. They may work by increasing the body’s ability to absorb iron from food.
- Alfalfa: This is a plant that is very nourishing when taken in tablet form. It is often included in combinations of herbs designed to build up the blood. Alfalfa tablet doses are usually large, like 18 per day. It is more like a food than a medicine.
- Dong quai – It is a Chinese herb that has been reported to help in the treatment of anemia, but to date, no scientific studies have been done to verify this.
Homeopathic Remedies for Anemia
- Ferrum Metallicum: Iron is the great allopathic remedy for anemia from almost any cause. Similarly, it is also a great homoeopathic remedy, but it will not cure every case of anemia; careful individualization is necessary. It suits patients who have an appearance of full bloodedness or plethora, which is followed by paleness or earthiness of the face and puffiness of the extremities.
- Pulsatilla: Pulsatilla is a great remedy and is indicated in the anemic conditions where the patient is relaxed and worn out, chilly and suffers from gastric and menstrual derangement. The patient requiring Pulsatilla feels better in the open air. Dizziness on rising, absence of thirst, and the peculiar disposition will lead to the remedy.
- Cinchona: It is the chief remedy for anemia resulting from loss of fluids, as in lactation or hemorrhage, or from all exhausting discharges, such as menstrual flow or long-lasting diarrhea.
- Natrum muriaticum: This is also a remedy for anemic and debilitated conditions due to loss of fluids, especially in women who suffer from menstrual disorders and in chronic cases with a dead, dirty-looking skin.
- Chininum arsenicosum: Sometimes prescribed for anemia, it has been found to be curative in certain cases of pernicious anemia.
- Calcarea carbonica: Almost any of the deeper acting constitutional remedies may be of use in anemic and debilitated conditions.
- Arsenicum album: This is a very useful remedy in cases of pernicious anemia or in anemia due to hemolysis in malaria. Its indications are excessive prostration considerable edema, violent and irregular palpitation, marked appetite for acids and brandy, extreme anxiety and rapid emaciation. There is irritable stomach and intense thirst.
- Helonias: It is an excellent remedy in anemia. It suits especially anemia from prolonged hemorrhage in women enervated by indolence and luxury, or such as are worn out with hard work; they are too tired to sleep and the strained muscles burn and ache. This anemia is associated with disturbances in the urinary and sexual organs.
- Secale: This remedy is useful in progressing anemia, where the patient is pale, bloodless and jaundiced in color.
Ayurveda and Anemia
- Lauha bhasma: Historically (1500 B C) in Ayurvedic literature, Charak Samhita described fatigue and pallor due to bloodlessness, which can be cured by Lauha bhasma (Calcified iron).
- Lohasavam is a curative for anemia, jaundice, liver affections, cardiac lesions, dropsy and fever. Lohasavam mixed with Draksharishtam is effective in pregnant women. The main ingredients are Iron, Triphala, Trikatu, Vidanga, Motha, Chitrak, Dhtaki and Jaggery.
- Dhatri Lauh: This is very good Ayurvedic remedy for peptic ulcer syndrome, pain in abdomen, hyper acidity, anemia and Pitta imbalances. It is also useful as a regular supplement after first trimester of pregnancy and lactating mothers. The action of these roots is balancing three doshas in body.
- Navayas Lauh has nine (Nava) main constituents. It has Triphala and Nagarmotha, which are very well known digestive rejuvenators. Trikatu in it corrects the metabolism of the body. Pippali is an immuno modulator and digestive and respiratory rejuvenator. Vidanga kills the intestinal worms. Chitraka mool corrects all aspects of digestive system; digestion, assimilation of food and evacuation of feces. Navayas Lauh is useful in indigestion, anemia, and eye diseases, and against all skin diseases. It helps in all diseases involving the liver i.e. jaundice, hepatitis, loss of appetite etc. It’s also useful in management of heart diseases which are having their origin in anemia, as well as in management of hemorrhoids.
Diet in Ayurveda:
Ayurveda also recommends a good, well-balanced diet rich in iron, sesame seeds, almonds, vegetables such as beet, lettuce, spinach, soybean, radish, carrots, tomatoes and fresh fruits like banana, black berries, strawberries, apple, amla, and plums.
To improve your hemoglobin, you should enjoy sunbathing as the sunlight stimulates the production of red blood cells. Certain yoga postures such as Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana), Posterior Stretch (Paschimotthanasana), and Corpse Pose (Shavasana) are also considered useful in combating anemia.
Dr. Rajesh Vishwanathan, MBBS, became disillusioned with the impersonal and aggressive allopathic system and trained and qualified in Yoga, meditation, Naturopathy and Homeopathy. He dreams of Integrating Allopathic medicine with the Alternative systems of healing.