The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency. If you don’t
get enough iron, either through diet or nutrients, your red blood
cells don’t mature properly and remain small and pale. To see if
you might be iron deficient, take this
If you eat a lot of junk food or dairy products (which don’t contain
much iron), or diet excessively, which usually entails cutting out
iron-rich sources of food, you’re probably not getting enough iron.
Assess your diet with this food tracker.
The average woman loses about 18 mg of iron during her period, about
6 mg per day of bleeding. As a result, women who are still having
regular periods need twice as much iron as men. If you experience
unusually heavy periods, your need for iron increases even more.
Some women lose excessive amounts of blood during their menstrual
cycles, particularly in the few years just before menopause. This
blood loss can lead to anemia.
Pregnancy and lactation
When you’re pregnant, the increased blood supply in your body requires
increased iron. And when you’re nursing, you lose iron through your
breast milk. Hence, you need additional iron. That’s why physicians
and midwives often recommend that nursing mothers continue to take
a prenatal vitamin nutrient.
Iron absorption problems
Even if you’re consuming sufficient iron, it won’t do you much good
if your body can’t absorb it. Certain nutrients, including B-complex
vitamins and vitamins A and C, as well as the minerals copper and
zinc, are essential for iron absorption. Vitamin B12 is particularly
important, and vegans who don’t supplement with this vitamin may
become iron-deficient. If you have chronic diarrhea, use laxatives,
or have a malabsorption disease such as celiac sprue, you may also
not be absorbing the iron you take in through food or nutrients.
Certain ethnic groups are more prone to certain types of anemia.
For instance, African Americans are more likely to have sickle-cell
anemia, in which the red blood cells are sickled, unable to carry
enough oxygen and often clogging small blood vessels. People of
Mediterranean or Southeast Asian heritage are prone to thalassemia,
which causes a low red blood cell count.
Certain drugs, such as oral contraceptives, alcohol, and anticonvulsive
medications like Dilantin, as well as exposure to bone marrow-damaging
chemotherapy, radiation, or pollutants, may also result in anemia.