What is Anaemia?
Anaemia is a condition rather than a disease itself that results due to a dysfunction in the body. The condition indicates lower than normal levels of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the body. Red blood cells use haemoglobin (a protein) to carry oxygen around the body, which then in turn performs its various duties. Low levels of hemoglobin and RBCs cause the blood supply insufficient amounts of Oxygen to the tissues, thus forcing the heart and lungs to work harder to pump additional oxygen to where it is needed.
Different types of Anaemia
- Iron Deficiency Anaemia: This occurs when the body runs low on Iron, mainly due to inadequate dietary intake, diseases such as gastritis and stomach cancer, and menstruation.
- Pernicious Anaemia (B12 Deficiency Anaemia): This kind of Anaemia is caused by inadequate absorption of vitamin B12 from the diet. B12 if most commonly sourced from animal food sources thus placing vegetarians and vegans at a higher risk of eveloping pernicious Anaemia. It may also be caused by diseases that affect absorption such as stomach cancers, ulcers and small intestine disease.
- Megobalstic Anaemia (Folic Acid Deficiency Anaemia): This type of Anaemia is usually caused by excessive alcohol consumption and inadequate intake of dietary folic acid.
Causes of Anaemia
- Autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune disease such as autoimmune hemolytic Anaemia cause cells of the immune system target the red blood cells thus reducing their quality and lifespan.
- Blood loss: Blood loss caused by heavy menstruation, trauma, surgery, peptic ulcers, cancer, bowel cancer or frequent blood donations may cause a reduction and abnormal levels of RBC/haemoglobin.
- Bone marrow disorders: Including infection or cancer.
- Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases such as TB may cause a dysfunction in Iron absorption and metabolism.
- Dietary deficiency: Low levels of RBCs and haemoglobin may occur with low intakes of dietary iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid.
- Drugs and medications: Certain drugs may affect RBC and haemoglobin levels. Some of these include alcohol, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anti-coagulant drugs.
- Hormone disorders: Including hypothyroidism.
- Infection: Certain infections affect RBC quality thus reduces their lifespan. Some of these include septicemia and malaria.
- Inherited disorders: Including sickle cell disease or thalassaemia.
- Malabsorption: Malabsorption issues may cause lower than normal RBC/haemaglobin levels as the body is unable to efficiently absorb nutrients (such as Iron) from foods.
- Rapid Growth periods: High energy requirement and high growth periods, such as pregnancy and puberty may affect RBC and haemoglobin levels.
Symptoms of Anaemia
- Abnormal food cravings
- Appetite loss
- Difficulties with concentration
- Fatigue & weakness
- Heart palpitations
- Orthostatic Hypertension – rapid drop in blood pressure upon standing from a lying/sitting position.
- Pale skin
- Reddened/ cracked tongue
- Shortness of breath
Those at high risk of Anaemia
- Babies (particularly if premature)
- Cancer, stomach ulcers and some chronic diseases patients
- Extreme dieters (fad diets)
- Menstruating women
- Pregnant/ breastfeeding women
- Teenagers going through puberty
How is Anaemia diagnosed?
- Blood tests – including complete blood count and blood iron levels, vitamin B12 and folate levels.
- Bone marrow biopsy
- Faecal occult blood test
- Gastroscopy or colonoscopy
- Kidney function tests
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Urine tests
Natural Treatments for Anaemia
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture employs the use of thin needles on the skin to restore a flow of qi that nourishes the body thus reducing symptoms. It does so by stimulating points that increase a flow of qi to the stomach, liver and blood-producing spleen.
- Chinese Massage: Anaemia is treated by Chinese masseuses who focus on hand and foot massage to stimulate the production of blood in the spleen, and the overall flow of qi energy around the body. See
- Herbal Medicine: Chinese herbalists aim to treat Anaemia by using singular or combined herbs that improve the blood supply and the movement of qi throughout the body.
- Nutrition: A Nutritionist or Naturopath will design a dietary program with foods rich in Iron, Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 which are most often deficient in those that suffer from Anaemia. See nutrition and Anaemia for more information.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine