Anemia is a common blood disorder and there are many different forms. It refers to a state where ones red blood cell (rbc) count, and/or hemoglobin (an element of the red blood cells) is low causing a reduction in the mass of circulating red blood cells. Many forms are mild, short-term and can be easily treated however, other types of anemia can be long-term and more severe. As such it is vital to identify the cause through a complete history and lab testing.
What causes it?
In general, anemia has two main causes:
1. Impaired or decreased production of rbc's (e.g. as in iron deficiency, B vitamin deficiencies, and aplastic anemia)
2. Decreased survival of the rbc’s due to increased destruction as in hemolytic anemia
Dietary deficiencies, a heavy menstrual cycle, training for marathon's, chronic disease, bone marrow disorders and genetic abnormalities (like sickle cell anemia or thalessemia) are all potential causes.
What are the common symptoms?
Individuals who are anemic may experience fatigue because their heart has to work harder in order to deliver oxygen to the muscles and organs.
What are my treatment options?
There are many treatment options available however the correct one for you depends on what is causing it. As such, you must go to your naturopathic or medical doctor to determine what this cause is. In many cases dietary changes, vitamin and mineral supplementation are the selected treatments but it is best to be sure what is right for your individual case.
Conventional medical approaches:
Basic lab work is initially used to identify the presence of an anemic state. Follow-up lab work and/or other diagnostic tests will be performed by either a medical or naturopathic doctor to further investigate the type of anemia you have. Once this is revealed, treatments such as vitamin or mineral supplementation may be prescribed. If the cause is due to an underlying factor such as fibroids, an ulcer or some form of chronic disease, treatments will be selected accordingly.
Complimentary healthcare options:
The naturopathic approach to assessing the cause of your anemia is very similar. The treatments sometimes vary however once this cause is identified. If a vitamin or mineral cause is revealed, different forms of iron or B12 supplementation are typically prescribed to enhance their absorption and decrease the adverse effects typically caused by doctor-prescribed forms of iron. The reason for your low iron and/or B12 will be investigated to reveal the cause of your low mineral/vitamin levels. For example, is it due to low intake or poor absorption?
Other natural treatments will be selected depending on whether or not the cause is due to female hormonal issues, a chronic digestive disorder, from being an athlete, or due to chronic disease. A referral will sometimes be made to your GP so that conventional and naturopathic treatments can be coordinated as necessary.
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