Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells and/or hemoglobin inside them. Hemoglobin, a major part of the human red blood cells, is a protein that binds oxygen and transports it throughout the tissues in your body.
So, generally speaking, if you don’t have enough red blood cells and/or hemoglobin, the organs and tissues in your body don’t get enough oxygen—and that’s what’s anemia is all about.
To determine if you’re anemic, you’ll need a complete blood count test to check your hemoglobin level. The normal threshold is considered to be 120 g/L (12 g/dl or 7.4 mmol/l) for adult non-pregnant women and 130 g/L (13 g/dL or 8.1 mmol/l) for adult men, according to WHO reference values.
Everything below that threshold suggests current or approaching anemia, with several severity stages:
- Mild – 110 g/L to normal
- Moderate – 80 to 109 g/L
- Severe – Lower than 80 g/L
Technically, any number in between the normal threshold and 110 g/L (115, for example) is not considered to be anemia yet, but it’s a huge red flag to look into.
In 2015, about 2.36 billion people worldwide (roughly a third of the world’s population at that time) were living with some degree of anemia. So, all in all, the condition is extremely common—but that doesn’t mean it’s a harmless and minor one. When left untreated, it can cause severe irreversible damage to each and every structure in the human body.
Causes Of Anemia
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of conditions and factors that can result in anemia, but all of them are based upon at least one of the following mechanisms:
- Impaired production of red blood cells / hemoglobin
- Increased destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia)
- Blood loss (hemorrhagic anemia)
1. Impaired Production Of Red Blood Cells/Hemoglobin
If your body can’t produce red blood cells and/or hemoglobin, anemia is inevitable. These are the most common reasons for that:
- Lack of crucial nutrients: For example, iron, folate, and vitamin B12 are components that are absolutely necessary for the proper synthesis of red blood cells and hemoglobin.
- Toxic damage: Some drugs (medications) can severely inhibit the production red blood cells. Methotrexate, for example, is a medication that is widely used for the conventional treatment of autoimmune diseases. Heavy metal toxicity is another toxic cause of anemia. Eating highly processed foods or foods with artificial additives on a regular basis will also contribute to impaired production of red blood cells.
- Congenital disorders: Some hereditary conditions, like thalassemia or aplastic anemias, also lead to hemoglobin deficiency. At the time being, there is no confirmed and failproof treatment to most of these illnesses, as they are “encrypted” in one’s genes. But it is in our power to support the blood system as much as possible to prevent complications and improve quality of life!
2. Increased Destruction Of Red Blood Cells (Hemolytic Anemia)
There are factors and conditions that trigger the destruction of red blood cells in the body, thus causing anemia. The most common ones are:
- Blood-destroying toxins: This includes such conventional medications as cephalosporins, diclofenac, oxaliplatin, fludarabin, and dozens of others! (ALWAYS make sure to carefully read the list of side effects of what you decide to take). Some animals, fishes, and plants also produce hemolytic toxins.
- Autoimmune and congenital disorders: There are many health conditions in which your body starts triggering its own red blood cells and destroying them by the score. Just to mention a few: autoimmune diseases (like autoimmune hemolytic anemia), others are congenital (like hereditary spherocytosis), but all of them need your full support and careful attention. Restore the balance in your body to alleviate the course of these diseases as much as possible.
- Infections and medical procedures: For example, malaria is an infection of the blood during which a bug from the Plasmodium family starts infecting the red blood cells directly and ripping them from the inside. Some medical procedures such as hemodialysis are also accompanied by a certain degree of red blood cell destruction. In some cases, the impact of this can be truly life-threatening.
3. Blood Loss
Severe bleeding of any kind instantly results in anemia. Women who menstruate are more prone to blood loss. If iron intake and absorption does not replace the iron lost during your periods, you can end up with iron deficiency anemia.
As a rule, a blood loss of up to 15% (about 750 ml) of a person’s total blood volume does not result in any anemic symptoms and does not require urgent treatment (unless the person has already had anemia before the bleeding), but every human body is unique—so it’s important to stay alert and double-check everything in case of doubt.
Symptoms Of Anemia
All kinds of anemia, being conditions characterized by impaired oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues, are accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Lethargy, fatigue, low energy levels
- Impaired motivation, focus, concentration
- Shortness of breath or abnormally rapid heartbeat, especially during physical activity or overcome by strong emotions
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in severe anemia
- Pale skin
- Dizziness spells
However, specific types of anemia have a few other symptoms to look out for:
- Iron deficiency anemia: Mouth sores, spoon-shaped nails (koilonychias), an inexplicable hunger for strange and inedible substances such as chalk, wood, dirt, ice (this is known as pica).
- B12 and/or folate deficiency anemia: A sensation of tickling or numbness in the extremities (paresthesia), easy bruising and bleeding, inflammation and soreness of the tongue, gastrointestinal symptoms.
What Happens When Anemia Goes Untreated?
Every single cell in your body needs oxygen to live, thrive, and carry out its functions. When the delivery of oxygen is impaired, all of your organs and systems will be affected:
- Central nervous system: Among all organs in your body, the brain is among the most sensitive to hypoxia (decreased oxygen delivery) that’s caused by anemia. As a result, it starts working much less effectively—impaired memory, focus, and learning potential are the most common signs. If the anemic state persists for a few years, the cognitive damage might even be irreversible.
- Cardiovascular system: To compensate for the lack of oxygen, the heart starts beating much faster and stronger, often increasing the blood pressure. After a few months of working in such a fashion, the heart starts to enlarge, which is an irreversible process that makes this organ much more likely to be affected by all sorts of diseases including coronary heart disease.
- Endocrine system: When the endocrine glands in your body receive less oxygen than is needed for their proper function, virtually any kind of hormonal imbalance becomes much more likely.
- Immune system: People with anemia are much more likely to catch any kind of infection because their immune system is weakened by the chronic lack of oxygen. Their wounds and traumas heal much slower as well.
- Pregnancy complications: Severe anemia during pregnancy is associated with poor development of the baby and puts under great risk, both the baby’s and the mother’s life during labor.
Anemia In Different Situations
Anemia And High Blood Pressure
As a rule, anemia is tolerated better by people with high blood pressure, at least in the short run. This is because the hypertension becomes a compensating factor: If there’s not much oxygen in 1 ml of blood, let’s pump MORE MILILITERS per minute thanks to an increased heart rate and blood pressure!
This approach works for a certain period of time, but is eventually deadly if both of the conditions persist:
- Living with high blood pressure leads to the enlargement of the heart
- A bigger heart needs more oxygen to work, which is impossible during anemia
- Ischemic heart disease starts, drastically decreasing life expectancy
The good news is that the whole process of heart enlargement takes months, even years—so there is a lot of time to alleviate both conditions or even cure them for good before it’s too late.
Anemia And Low Blood Pressure
This combination is extremely dangerous for life. There isn’t enough oxygen in the blood due to anemia—and no compensation coming from the cardiovascular system, leaving the body with no means to nourish its tissues.
As a result, a serious infection or trauma can easily be lethal for the person suffering from both of these conditions.
Anemia And Cancer
Cancer often results in progressive anemia through the following mechanisms:
- The tumor uses up the body’s iron, leaving less of it to be used for the synthesis of hemoglobin
- Cancer can infiltrate the bone marrow, disrupting its function of producing blood cells
- Some immune factors that are produced by the body to fight the cancer can suppress blood production
The vicious cycle is really nasty: Cancer causes anemia ⇒ anemia weakens the body ⇒ the body has less energy to fight the cancer ⇒ cancer progresses and worsens the anemia.
Addressing a single part of this problem won’t be enough. You have to treat BOTH sides of the equation to overcome the challenge and achieve a truly vibrant state of health.
7 Steps To Healing Anemia Naturally
If you have a confirmed anemia diagnosis, here’s a short list of steps that will significantly speed up your recovery to bliss, the natural way!
1. Improve digestive health and stomach acid
A poor digestive health is the beginning of many health conditions due to malabsorption of many nutrients. Most likely, you also have low stomach acid that prevents proper absorption of nutrients such as iron and the B vitamins that lead to your low/poor production of red blood cells.
A good place to start healing anemia is to give your body a “reset” by doing a gastrointestinal cleanse that will help your small intestines to start being able to absorb nutrients again. A parasite cleanse may also be necessary as parasite and fungal infections often cause anemia.
These two cleanses should really always go hand-in-hand. If you also have candida, read this candida protocol. On the second week after you start the gastrointestinal cleanse, also add digestive enzymes into your routine to help you improve your digestion.
Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and coconut kefir provides natural probiotics for a healthy gut. These microbes help heal the gut lining, absorb nutrients much better, reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune system.
2. Limit medications, eliminate all processed foods, added sugar, alcohol and green tea
When you’re on long-term medications, eat highly processed foods that are high in the wrong fats and sugar, chances are you’re deficient in many nutrients. Not only are these nutrients depleted in nutrients, your body also expend nutrients to digest them, causing further nutrient deficiencies.
Some medications will also lower your stomach acid (see #1 above) thus it impedes your digestion and reduce nutrient absorption. When your body is not absorbing nutrients that it needs for synthesis of red blood cells/hemoglobin, you become anemic—simply due to poor choices of food.
While drinking alcohol in moderation is fine, drinking excessively may lead to deadly health consequences. Excessive drinking can lead to suppression of red blood cells synthesis.
In heavy drinkers, alcohol anemia can occur in various ways, often as a side effect of liver cirrhosis. With alcohol in the blood system, it prevents folate from functioning in blood-building as it should, putting the drinker at risk for alcohol anemia.
Avoid drinking green tea if you are anemic. Drinking green tea in large amount can interfere with iron absorption. The polyphenols in green tea can bind with iron, inhibiting its intestinal absorption, and also prevent assimilation of vitamin B12—two very important components for blood-building.
3. Start exercising
This one might sound counter-intuitive but it works when you do it right. Studies indicate that moderate aerobic exercise is quite beneficial even for severe states of anemia, so start moving!
Do it bit by bit, step by step, gradually increasing the level of physical activity. Don’t strain yourself: your goal is NOT to build muscle or lose weight but to stimulate your body into speeding up its processes—hemoglobin synthesis included.
4. Eat a lot of foods rich in iron, protein, and B12 (folate)
Iron deficiency anemia is among the most common types of the disease. Luckily, it’s part of the so-called group of nutritional anemias—conditions that are caused by (and healed through) the things you eat. Here’s a short breakdown of what you should look for to reverse your specific anemia:
- Iron deficiency anemia: Liver, grass-fed beef, spinach, seafood, nuts, beans, fortified grains. Combine these foods with vitamin C to improve iron absorption.
- B12 deficiency anemia: Fish, poultry, dairy products, fortified cereals, algae (spirulina, chlorella, kelp).
- Great for all types of anemia: Aim to get enough proteins so that your body would have enough “building blocks” to produce hemoglobin, a protein itself.
But don’t stop on just those 3 nutrients (iron, B12, proteins)—aim for a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet based on all-natural products. Your body is a delicate machine carrying out hundreds of intertwined processes at the same time—and you never know for sure which one of them will affect the other.
5. Drink a glass of blood-building juice daily
Flood your system with what it needs and allow your body to use all the right foods you’re feeding it, to correct itself, restoring your blood count to its optimal level. Green juices and smoothies are one of the easiest way to do that.
Green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll and that our body can easily use to convert into hemoglobin. Read more about vegetable juicing here.
This juice combo is great for blood-building if you are experiencing iron deficiency anemia. Beetroots and carrots have blood-building properties, and the presence of vitamin C and bioflavonoids (peel) will enhance the absorption, making the nutrients more bioavailable for your body to use them efficiently.
5. Iron supplements
If you’re severely anemic, it makes sense to supplement with iron to help restore the iron depletion back to normal as quickly as you safely can.
If eating foods and drinking juices high in iron is an issue for you, for whatever reasons, supplementing with iron may be a good option.
However, most iron supplements prescribed by the doctor or at the pharmacy may cause side effects such as an upset stomach, or constipation.
We recommend this supplement which is derived from natural beetroot (a blood-builder), orange (vitamin C required for blood-building), folate and vitamin B12. All the right ingredients for efficient blood-building. Get Mega Food’s Blood Builder here >>
6. Eliminate stress and start sleeping more
Synthesizing new blood takes a whole lot of resources and energy, so make sure you get enough of both. The previous steps focused on the resources part, this one takes care of the energy.
- Sleep at least 7 hours each day. 8 is even better. No exclusions.
- Avoid toxic relationships, tasks, and places at all costs. They aren’t worth it, especially now.
7. Don’t forget to treat concurrent diseases
There are some conditions that are heavily associated with anemia, so you won’t be able to heal the latter without treating the former. Get yourself checked for underlying conditions and address them immediately. This website has a wealth of information that you can use to remedy almost any ailments.
There isn’t a single living cell in your body that does not need oxygen, so it’s absolutely understandable why anemia can have such serious consequences. Even though it doesn’t have any symptoms on its mild stage, never underestimate this condition and address it as soon as possible!