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Role of diet in preventing anaemia

Anaemia can be temporary or long term and can range from mild to severe

Post by on Saturday, January 23, 2021

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Anaemia is a major and grave public health concern worldwide affecting both developing and developed countries. Anaemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells or the body does not produce sufficient numbers of these cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body tissues. It is a condition when the normal hemoglobin (Hb) level becomes less than 12g/dl in women and less than 13 in men. Anaemia occurs at all stages of a life cycle, but adolescents girls, pregnant women and young children are the most vulnerable group of the population due to different reasons. Anaemia during adolescence is a nutritional problem and it has irreversible negative effects on growth and cognition, work performance, and have a serious impact on the reproductive years of life and beyond. Having Anaemia can make one feel tired and weak. There are more than 350 forms of Anaemia, each with its cause. Anaemia can be temporary or long term and can range from mild to severe. Different types of anaemia have different causes. Some common types of Anaemia are as follows:


Iron deficiency anaemia

It is a common type of anaemia- a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. As the name implies, iron deficiency anaemia is due to insufficient iron, your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin. Without enough iron, your body can’t produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen (haemoglobin). As a result, iron deficiency may leave you tired and short of breath.


Nutritional anaemia

It is caused by a lack of iron, protein, vitamin B12, and other vitamins and minerals that are needed for the formation of hemoglobin. Folic acid deficiency is a common association with nutritional anaemia.


Anaemia of inflammation

Certain diseases, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, Crohn's disease, and other acute or chronic inflammatory diseases can interfere with the production of red blood cells.


Aplastic anaemia

This rare, life-threatening anaemia occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, causes of aplastic anaemia include infections, certain medicines, autoimmune disease, and exposure to toxic chemicals.


Sickle cell anaemia

This inherited and sometimes serious condition is haemolytic anaemia. It’s caused by a defective form of haemoglobin that forces red blood cells to assume an abnormal crescent (sickle) shape. These irregular blood cells die prematurely, resulting in a chronic shortage of red blood cells.


Haemolytic anaemias

This group of anaemias develops when red blood cells are destroyed faster than bone marrow can replace them. Certain blood diseases increase red blood cell destruction. You can inherit haemolytic anaemia or you can develop it later in life.


Mostly all anaemias have common symptoms like fatigue, lack of energy, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, paleness, swelling of ankles, hair loss, light headedness, compulsive and atypical cravings, constipation, depression, muscle twitching, numbness or burning, or chest pain.


How to improve dietary habits to prevent anaemia?

No single food will cure Anaemia, but eating an overall healthy balanced diet rich in dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, seafood, meat, beans, and vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables can help you get the iron you need to manage anaemia. It is also crucial to include foods that can improve the body’s absorption of iron and avoid foods that may interfere with the process.

It is advisable, that mothers should start Iron and Vitamin C rich food before 10 years of age, as early puberty has started now and the highest prevalence is at these years when requirements are at peak, so children should not have a deficiency of iron and vitamin C in the future.


Tips for getting more iron in diet

1. Eating iron-rich foods alongside those rich in Vitamin C. Finish meals with fruit rich in vitamin C that increases iron absorption.

2. Try to combine cereals, bread, and vegetables with milk or egg.

3. Green vegetables to be taken every day, as they are the best source of dietary folic acid.

4. Take dried fruit and nuts between meals to provide iron all day.

5. Take animal foods that provide protein and high doses of vitamin B12.

6. Refraining from eating foods rich in calcium with those rich in iron.

7. Refraining from drinking tea or coffee with meals.

8. Cooking food in a cast-iron skillet and cooking foods for shorter periods.


The following foods can interfere with iron absorption

1. Tea and coffee with meals.

2. Milk and some dairy products with iron-rich foods.

3. Foods that contain tannins, such as grapes, corn.

4. Foods rich in gluten, such as pasta and other products made with wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

5. Foods that contain phytates or phytic acids, such as brown rice and whole-grain wheat products.

6. Foods that contain oxalic acids, such as peanuts, parsley, and white chocolate.

7. Avoid cold drinks, canned juices, alcohol, and  beer with meals.

8. Avoid cigarette smoking.


Iron rich foods

legumes (Kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas), green leafy vegetables, fruits (guava, pomegranates, mangoes), broccoli, pumpkin, lotus stem, Dried fruits (apricot, dates, figs, raisin, prunes), whole grain cereals, iron-fortified bread and cereals, liver and other organ meats like kidney, brain and heart, Eggs, oysters, pumpkin seeds, quinoa seeds, dark chocolate.


For better iron absorption, eat vitamin c rich food like red, yellow, and green bell peppers, citrus fruits like lemon, oranges, sweet lime, melons, peaches and strawberries, fresh juices, fresh lime water, carrots, pumpkin.


Prevention is always better than cure, so remember these points:


A-Awareness of our body needs.

N- Nutritional knowledge is key to a healthy mind, body, and soul.

A- Ask questions about food and their properties.

E- Early intervention of any vitamins and minerals deficiency.

M- Maintain your diet plan, calorie, vitamins, and minerals count.

I-Ignorance towards your health will be dangerous.

A-Alertness of any symptoms if occurs.


(Author is a Senior Consultant, Dietetics, VIMHANS Hospital, New Delhi. She can be reached on rashmi_bhatia25@yahoo.com )

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