June 13, 2004
Fatigue & Low Energy
Are You Anemic?
An estimated 20 percent of
all American women suffer from anemia. Anemia occurs when you don’t
have enough red blood cells, or enough of the oxygen-carrying protein
in red blood cells (hemoglobin). Thus, your cells don’t get enough
oxygen, critical for turning food into energy. Without enough energy,
critical processes, such as muscle activity and cell building and
repair, slow down and become less efficient. Bottom line: you feel
exhausted. But anemia carries with it a wide range of symptoms beyond
Loss of appetite
Brittle and ridged nails
Loss of coordination
Tingling in hands and feet
Causes of Anemia
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. Other causes include:
The average woman loses about 6 mg of iron per day of bleeding during
her period. 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. This is common particularly in the few years just before
Elderly women are more likely to develop anemia because they tend
to eat less, and less healthily, often because they live alone on
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. That’s why physicians and midwives often recommend
that nursing mothers continue to take a prenatal vitamin.
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.
Read More on Fatigue & Low Energy:
Conquering Fatigue: A True Tale
Keep it SIMPLE Energy tip Chamomile
Mighty Minerals that Fight Fatigue
Foods Rich in Potassium and Magnesium
Acupressure for Fatigue Relief
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