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Anemia is a general term relating to a number of blood conditions involving hemoglobin, the substance responsible for the blood's capacity to carry oxygen. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world and iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia (other, more serious forms include pernicious anemia and megaloblastic anemia).



Iron deficiency anemia is more common in women than men and is associated with:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • General malaise or tiredness
  • Bluish lips, pasty skin, pale gums, nail beds and eye-lid linings

More severe symptoms such as breathlessness, light-headedness or dizziness may indicate more severe anemia and medical attention should be sought immediately.



Iron deficiency is usually related to dietary intake of this important mineral, but other factors may also be involved. For example, women who lose excessive amounts of blood through heavy menstrual flow may have become deficient in iron. Many mothers develop aaemia during pregnancy, as their iron stores are diverted to the developing baby. Additionally, those who have suffered blood loss due to accident, surgery or chronic disease are also at risk of developing anemia.


Natural Therapies

Women are more prone to iron deficiency anaemia than men, due to their monthly blood loss during menstruation. Many women find it helpful to take an iron supplement for several days each month leading up to and during their period in order to prevent anemia.

  • An iron supplement combined with dietary changes, should be the first step to resolving anemia
  • When vitamin C is taken at the same time as iron, the body is able to absorb significantly more non-heme (or vegetarian source) iron
  • A variety of nutrients are involved in the development of red blood cells including vitamin C, vitamin B12 and folic acid


Lifestyle Factors

Eat iron-rich foods such as lean meat and fish regularly.

Vegetarian sources of iron are not as easily absorbed as the meat, or heme, form. Dark leafy green vegetables, walnuts, raisins, wheat germ, strawberries, apricots and pumpkin seeds are the major vegetarian sources of iron, along with enriched breads and cereals.

Always combine iron-containing foods such as meat with foods rich in vitamin C (such as tomatoes and citrus) in order to improve your body's absorption of iron.

Iron foods or supplements should be taken at different times than foods and medicines known to decrease absorption, such as carbonated drinks, caffeine, black tea, calcium supplements and antacids.


Important Notes

Always follow the dosage recommendations for iron supplements, as iron is extremely toxic in excessive quantities.

Symptoms associated with iron overload include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever, jaundice, lethargy, and seizures. If you have been taking an iron supplement and experience these symptoms seek medical advice urgently.

If you suspect a child has accidentally taken an iron overdose seek medical advice urgently.


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