Supplementing for Anemia
Feeling weak and tired? Anemia, a condition in which a person’s red blood cells aren’t carrying enough oxygen to the body’s tissues, may be at play. While most people think of the condition as being directly linked to poor iron levels in the body, the reality is different. Several forms of anemia exist, often caused by various vitamin deficiencies. Sometimes, anemia can be temporary, such as in menstruating or pregnant women. While improving diet is the best way to correct anemia, supplementation is another option.
Iron the hero supplement
Especially for women, anemia is most closely linked with having low iron levels. Opting for iron-rich foods such as certain meats, seafood, fortified cereals, oatmeal, and even vegetables like lentils, spinach, and beans is preferred. However, supplements can also help increase iron levels in the body. Iron supplements usually come in pill or liquid form and should be taken with food to avoid an upset stomach.
Not getting enough folate, also known as vitamin B9, can also trigger anemia in people. Known as folate-deficiency anemia, the condition means a person doesn’t have enough folic acid, a B vitamin that helps the body make red blood cells. Common causes of folate-related anemia include a poor diet, excessive drinking, pregnancy, and even certain intestinal diseases.
Increase folate levels
People should focus on getting adequate amounts of folic acid to counteract poor folate levels. Keep in mind that the recommended amounts will vary by gender, age, and life stages. For example, a pregnant woman needs more folic acid than the general population. Folate can be found in foods such as dark leafy vegetables and citrus fruit. Folic acid is the form found in supplements like prenatal and multivitamins.
If levels are low, another B vitamin deficiency that can lead to anemia is vitamin B12. Similar to folate, B12 also regulates how red blood cells are formed. In people with low levels, the cells can be too large, limiting the ability to properly carry oxygen to tissues in the body. People should focus on eggs, dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, meats, and even fortified grains like cereal to get B12 from the diet. If necessary, B12 can be supplemented with an easy-to-swallow pill or injection.
Diet over pills
The medical and scientific communities almost always encourage a person with a vitamin deficiency to work to correct the problem through diet first. While pills are convenient, the dosage may not always be accurate. Sometimes, a person may take too much of a vitamin, leading to other health problems. If an individual decides to go the supplement route, consulting with a healthcare provider first is always recommended.
An energy boost
In many cases, anemia is a treatable condition. With the proper diet and supplements, red blood cell count can be improved and energy restored. A healthcare provider or registered dietician (RD) can work with the patient to incorporate iron, folate, and B12 to help with anemia.