Anemia is characterized by a deficiency in red blood cells or in the concentration of hemoglobin (iron-containing portions of red blood cells). These deficiencies are caused by either decreased production or increased destruction of red blood cells. Anemia is most common among women in their reproductive years (5.8 percent), infants (5.7 percent), and the elderly (12 percent). Because one of the major functions of red blood cells is to transport oxygen, a decrease in red blood cells decreases the amount of oxygen delivered to the body's tissues, which results in the symptoms of anemia.

Signs and Symptoms

There is tremendous variability among individuals as to when the following symptoms of anemia develop.

What Causes It?

Anemia may have the following causes.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Anemia is often the result of an underlying disease. Laboratory tests to examine your blood will be ordered. If you are anemic, your health care provider will determine the cause in order to begin treatment.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the anemia. Because anemia is often the result of nutritional deficiencies, your health care provider can help you outline a diet that contains all of the nutrients you need for healthy blood formation such as vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid. If your anemia is the result of an underlying disease, that disease must first be successfully treated.

Drug Therapies

Surgical and Other Procedures

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Most cases of anemia will respond well to nutritional therapy. Note that excess iron is toxic and you should not take supplements unless lab tests indicate iron deficiency and your health care provider recommends them. Herbal and nutritional treatments may be helpful when used along with medical treatment.

Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted.

You may be treated with the following herbal therapies for one to three months and then reassessed. Homeopathy
Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of anemia based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. A constitutional type is defined as a person's physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.

Following Up

Maintaining a normal balanced diet is very important if the cause of your anemia is nutritional. Also, avoid drugs that can have adverse effects on your gastrointestinal system and avoid excessive alcohol intake if one or both of these are the cause of your anemia.

Special Considerations

Complications from anemia can range from loss of productivity due to weakness and fatigue to coma and death. Some neurologic changes caused by anemia are irreversible. Pregnant women need three or four times as much iron as normal. A folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can result in infants being born with neural-tube defects, such as spina bifida.


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