More than 3 million Americans are affected by anemia. While rarely a deadly condition, anemia is still a serious health concern that can have a ripple effect throughout the body. It’s so common, in fact, that we kind of forget exactly what it is. Anemia is essentially an iron deficiency and can be partially met by consuming more iron. However, it’s a bit more complex than that.
Anemia occurs when a person doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or an insufficient amount of hemoglobin, which is a vital blood protein. Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to all our cells and tissues in the body via our blood. When we give ourselves a facial massage or use a gua sha tool to increase circulation, we are helping bring oxygen to our cells—that’s what gives us that glow.
Anemic people aren’t necessarily concerned with their glow factor, predominantly. Low hemoglobin or red blood cells means that many tissues in the body aren’t receiving adequate oxygen to function properly. This can result in lethargy, weakness, and fatigue, while more severe cases can lead to fainting or passing out, shortness of breath, or reduced exercise tolerance, unable to exert oneself.
Some types of anemia are passed down genetically, and even babies can be born with it. Women are at a higher risk of iron-deficiency anemia because of blood loss during menstruation, or higher blood supply demands during pregnancy. This is a manageable condition, however, so fueling and caring for ourselves properly can keep these debilitating side effects at bay.
Iron-rich foods support our blood health, and it’s a necessary nutrient for optimal cell function. Most people think of steak when we hear iron, but vegans and vegetarians rejoice because it’s found in many plant sources! Spinach and other leafy greens, lentils and other legumes, peas, tofu, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and dried fruit are all rich sources of iron.
Vitamin C helps support our absorption of iron so that we aren’t consuming it in vain. Try food pairing, like vitamin-C-rich tomatoes with your spinach or greens, add some strawberries and broccoli to your green smoothies, or just make sure to add vitamin C to your supplement regimen. This vitamin C cocktail makes it tasty and easy to stay hydrated while boosting vitamin intake.
Supplement with folic acid.
Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that helps our bodies make red blood cells. You can find it in a supplement, of course, but it’s also rich in natural sources like leafy greens, brussels sprouts, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, cabbage, and broccoli, which is also high in vitamin C for a double-duty anemia-fighting superfood.
Avoid coffee or tea at mealtimes.
Herbal tea is A-OK, but caffeine inhibits iron absorption and can render our dietary and supplementary efforts totally useless. Try to only consume them on an empty stomach, an hour or so before eating again. For cases of severe anemia, it might be wise to cut out caffeine entirely.
Maintaining an alkaline body pH is a general wellness practice that we recommend to everyone, because diseases like cancer cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. However, there is a very close-knit relationship between oxygen levels and pH as well. As our pH levels lower, the oxygen in hemoglobin molecules also decreases. Therefore, as the body becomes more alkaline, more oxygen is released.
Green veggies and alkaline water are great ways to achieve a more alkaline pH. Alkaline water may help to improve symptoms of metabolic acidosis, which happens when there is too much acid in body fluids and is a possible cause of anemia in some people. Moral of this story? Greens are your best friend, forever and ever.
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