Anemia: A Prevalent Problem


Anemia: A Prevalent Problem

Many Americans are anemic. More specifically, iron deficient - the most common form of anemia. Its prevalence is less than 1% in males and 12-25% in females. Most of the iron deficiency anemia in women is in pregnant, post-partum or menorrhagic (excessive loss) types.

Etiology or cause is inadequate iron intake from dietary sources or malabsorption. It is commonly a result of excessive menstrual bleeding, peptic ulcer hemorrhage or prolonged bleeding in any part of the G.I. tract. It also occurs when iron demand in the body exceeds supply, especially pregnancy, lactation and infancy.

Symptoms associated with moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia are pallor of the skin, buccal-pharyngeal mucosa, lips, ear lobes and nail beds, muscle weakness, easily fatigued, headache, and vertigo. These are non-specific symptoms of any type of severe anemia. Children with anemia develop pica, a desire for ingestion of strange substances (chalk, earth) in abnormal quantities.

In the U.S. and Europe, the average diet contains sufficient iron for ingestion of 12-18mg. of elemental iron per day of which 5-10% (0.75-1.5mg) is absorbed. When iron deficiency is present, absorption increases to 10-30% (1.5-4.5mg/day).

There are, however, many factors influencing absorption, including pH of the G.I. tract and total quantity of iron presented to the sites of absorption. Fe (ous) compounds are more readily absorbed than Fe (ic). Foods containing large quantities of phytates, oxalates and phosphates, such as eggs and vegetables, reduce iron (Fe) absorption.

Ascorbic acid as well as fructose and sorbitol enhance iron absorption; also histidine and systeine through chelate formation.

Pathophysiologic states such as achlorhydria, post- gasterectomy syndromes and hepatic and pancreatic disease also decrease absorption and responsiveness to iron therapy.

Lab assessment of low serum iron alone is not accurate, but serum ferritin is a more reliable indicator of total body storage.

Therapy to replace depleted iron may take up to 3 months. Fe (ous) salts such as sulfate, gluconate or succinate do not differ therapeutically. Dosage is based on elemental iron and ranges from 120-180mg/day. Iron solutions are well absorbed and can be used in children or elderly who have difficulty swallowing.

Alternative therapy consists of herbs such as Rumex (Yellow Dock) high in iron or Ferrum Sulph 6x (homeopathic).

Serum ferritin should be rechecked in 3 months and if stores are not replenished, then sources of blood loss need to be investigated.

The Holistic Health Network.


By Herbert I. Schuck

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