Given the frenetic pace of modern Western life, it can seem almost normal to feel fatigued, weak, or short of breath. But these symptoms are never normal; they always point to a disorder of some kind. For millions of Americans, that disorder is anemia.
Every cell in the human body gets a large portion of its energy from oxygen. In a healthy person, cells receive an adequate supply of oxygen, thanks to a substance called hemoglobin, which transports oxygen through the blood. Without sufﬁcient hemoglobin, the cells don’t get enough oxygen; without enough oxygen, the brain, the muscles, and all the other tissues begin to slow down. The anemic person feels weak and tired at ﬁrst and then may experience several other symptoms, including headaches, difﬁculty concentrating, and a series of illnesses that are the result of a sup- pressed immune system.
The body needs iron to produce the necessary amount of hemoglobin, and the vast majority of anemia cases are caused by a deﬁciency of this mineral. Iron deﬁciency most often results from a poor diet, especially one that’s high in junk food, or from long-term or repeated dieting. There are many other ways a person can end up with a deﬁciency of iron, however. Blood loss for any reason, including surgery, trauma, gum disease, hemorrhoids, polyps, cancer of the colon, bleeding ulcers, and heavy menstrual periods, can produce an anemic state. So can an increase in the body’s need for iron, which usually happens during pregnancy. Iron deﬁciency can also be caused by an inability to absorb certain nutrients, as can happen with folic acid and vitamin B12. In rarer cases, deﬁciencies of vitamins A, B2, B6, and C, as well as of copper,
may lead to anemia. The elderly often lose their ability to absorb these nutrients, as do people with certain digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Usually, iron deﬁciency is caused by a combination of these factors.
In rare cases, anemia is the result of a hereditary blood disorder, in which red blood cells are destroyed prematurely. Thalassemia, sickle-cell disease, and spherocytosis are all very serious and sometimes fatal forms of anemia; people with these diseases must be under lifelong medical care. Anemia can also be caused by an inability to absorb any vitamin B12 at all. This condition can easily be treated with sublingual B12, with regular injections of vitamin B12, or by improving stomach acid levels.
If you suspect that you have anemia, it’s likely that you can be cured with simple home treatments and supplementation. It’s important, however, that you see a doctor for an ofﬁcial diagnosis. The symptoms of anemia can mimic those of other disor- ders, so you’ll need to get a thorough physical examination. If you are diagnosed with anemia, don’t let your doctor stop there. Make sure he or she explains the speciﬁc cause of your problem so that you’ll know how to address any underlying disorders and prevent a recurrence.
• Shortness of breath after mild exertion
• Dizziness or fainting
• Difﬁculty concentrating
• Pale skin, lips, and nail beds
• Cold extremities
• Frequent illnesses
• Cessation of menstruation
• A poor diet, especially one that’s deﬁcient in iron, folic acid, or vita- min B12. This category includes eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
• Acute blood loss (most often from menstruation, surgery, or injury)
• Chronic blood loss (commonly from bleeding ulcers, colon
disorders, gum disease, or bleeding hemorrhoids)
• Inherited blood disorders
• An inability to absorb vitamin B12 or folic acid
• Poor digestion and absorption particularly, low stomach acid
Dietary changes are of utmost importance for the anemic person. If you adhere to the
following suggestions for several weeks but still feel tired, consult your doctor. There may be an underlying disorder at work, or you may have something other than anemia.
Plan your meals so that you get plenty of iron. The best source of this mineral is organic calf ’s liver; while this book usually discourages the consumption of organ meats, it may
be necessary for you to incorporate this one into your diet until your body recovers. Green leafy vegetables (except for spinach—see the note about oxalic acid under Food to Avoid in this section), leeks, cashews, cherries, strawberries, dried fruits, ﬁgs, kelp, and eggs are all excellent sources as well. If you’re a vegetarian and can’t eat calf ’s liver, include one or two servings of green leafy vegetables at every meal.
Blackstrap molasses is also rich in iron, so take a spoonful of it every day. Black- strap molasses can usually be found next to the pancake syrup at your grocery store. Make sure to read the label carefully, as you don’t want molasses that’s been sulfured.
Brewer’s yeast is a good source of iron, folic acid, and B12, so add 1 tablespoon to cereals, salads, or juices daily.
Vitamin C will help your body absorb and retain iron. When you’re eating foods that are high in iron, have some citrus fruits alongside them or take supplemental vitamin C.
Cook your food in cast-iron pots and pans. The food will absorb some of the min- eral from the cookware. This strategy is especially helpful for vegetarians, who have difﬁculty meeting iron requirements.
If you have a digestive disorder that prevents you from absorbing food properly, juice the vegetables that are suggested here and drink several glasses daily. Juices don’t require much digestive work from the stomach and the intestines, and their nutrients are easily passed into the bloodstream.
• Blood testing—complete blood count (CBC), ferritin (iron stores), B12, folate
• Comprehensive stool analysis
Food to Avoid
Do not eat spinach, rhubarb, tomatoes, or chocolate. These foods are high in oxalic acid, a substance that inhibits your body’s ability to absorb iron.
Sodas, dairy products, coffee, and black tea are other iron-blockers. Eliminate them from your diet.
Iron is removed from your body through the bowels, so eat your ﬁber or take ﬁber supplements separately from iron sources. Avoid raw wheat bran entirely: it’s a strong laxative that could well deplete an entire day’s supply of iron.
Avoid cow’s milk, which may cause hidden bleeding in the intestinal tract. This is particularly true with children.
Many young women—and, increasingly, men—become anemic as a result of fol- lowing fad diets. If you truly need to lose weight, don’t starve yourself; instead, restrict your consumption of fats and sugars, while eating lots of foods with high nutritional density, such as vegetables, fruits, soy products, and whole grains. For further weight- loss suggestions, see Obesity.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Anemia
Super Prescription #1 Iron
Take 50 to 100 mg of a well-absorbed form of iron, such as iron citrate, gluconate, glycinate, or fumarate, one to two times daily. Also, labels that state iron chelate
Phycocyanin, a phytonutrient found in spirulina, has been shown in animal studies to stimulate the bone marrow to produce blood cells more effectively. Spiru- lina is considered a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. are generally well absorbed. Avoid the use of iron sulfate (ferrous sulfate), which is poorly absorbed and can cause digestive upset. Note: Supplement iron only if you have iron-deﬁciency anemia.
Super Prescription #2 B12
Take 1,000 to 2,000 mcg of B12 daily, preferably in the methylcobalamin form. Sublingual is very absorbable, or your doctor may use the injection form to start. Note: Supplement this higher dose of B12 if your doctor has diagnosed a B12 deﬁciency.
Super Prescription #3 Folic acid
Take 800 to 1,200 mcg of folic acid daily. Sublingual is very absorbable, or your doctor may use the injection form to start. Note: Supplement this higher dose of folic acid if your doctor has diagnosed a folic acid deﬁciency.
Super Prescription #4 Homeopathic Ferrum phosphoricum
Take 5 pellets of the 3x or 6x potency three times daily. This homeopathic remedy improves iron utilization in the cells.
Super Prescription #5 Spirulina
Take 2,000 mg daily, as it has been shown to help improve anemia by stimulating the bone marrow production of red blood cells.
Super Prescription #6 Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)
Take 1 capsule or 20 drops of the tincture form with each meal. It contains iron and improves iron absorption.
Super Prescription #7 Vitamin C
Take 250 to 500 mg with each dose of iron. It provides an acidic environment for enhanced iron absorption.
Gentian root (Gentiana lutea) increases stomach acid for improved absorption. Take a 300 mg capsule or 20 drops of tincture at the beginning of each meal.
Betaine hydrochloride increases stomach acid. Take 1 to 3 capsules with each meal.
Several herbs leach iron from the soil as they grow. When you consume them, you get the beneﬁt of their mineral density. Some of the best herbs for anemia treatment include dandelion (Taraxacum ofﬁcinale), pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae), and nettle leaf (Urtica dioica). There are several commercial preparations available that combine these herbs into one “blood-building” formula; take as directed on the product label. If you wish to buy and take the herbs separately, here are the recom- mended dosages:
Dandelion (Taraxacum ofﬁcinale), in addition to having a high iron content, cleanses the blood and detoxiﬁes the liver. Choose a product made from dandelion root, and take 3 to 5 grams or 5 to 10 cc daily.
Pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) can be used as a tea; drink several cups a day. Take 100 mg or 0.5 to 1.0 cc three times daily.
Nettle leaves (Urtica dioica) are used for anemia because they have a rich nutri- tional content. Take 300 mg two or three times daily, or use 2 to 4 cc of a tincture three times daily.
Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) has been shown in human studies to increase red blood cell count. Take 2,000 to 3,000 mg daily.
Dong quai is a traditional Chinese blood builder. Take 500 mg twice daily for one month.
Select the appropriate remedy from the following list, and take 30C two times daily for two or three weeks.
Calcarea Phosphorica is for anemia in school children or chronic anemia in adults. China Ofﬁcinalis will improve anemic conditions that are a result of blood loss or illness.
Natrum Muriaticum is for anemia that’s accompanied by headaches and constipation.
• Improve your strength and energy, along with your ability to absorb nutrients from food, by working Stomach 36.
• For tension, work Lung 1 and Pericardium 6.
• If you have a headache, use Large Intestine 4.
While massage won’t address any of the causes of anemia, it’s an effective way to improve your circulation and increase your energy level. A full-body massage is prob- ably the best choice, but there are easy home-care techniques you can use to relieve headaches or to warm up cold extremities.
Work the spleen to encourage the manufacture and the recycling of hemoglobin. To aid circulation, blood formation, and detoxiﬁcation, stimulate the liver.
Eucalyptus, ginger, black pepper, and rosemary all improve poor circulation. Add any of these oils—or if you prefer, a combination of them—to a bath. You can also dilute them in a carrier oil and use in a massage.
For an uplifting effect, try geranium or jasmine oils. Use them in any preparation you like, but for a long-lasting effect, you might like to add a few drops to a diffuser and let the scent envelop your room or ofﬁce.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Olive is a potent way to address the prolonged fatigue that accompanies anemia. Clematis is for people who feel dreamy and unable to concentrate. It is also good
for people who feel a constant, almost overpowering urge to sleep.
If anemia has drained you of the hope that you’ll ever feel better, take Gorse. It will help you regain the more balanced outlook that’s often necessary for healing.