Anemia or anaemia as said by the British is when blood in the body has lower than the average or supposed amount of red blood cells (RBC). RBC as we know are important for the body’s immunity, blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding. Anemia can also be as a result of having a lower haemoglobin also spelled hemoglobin which is an iron- rich protein present in red blood cells. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and it gives the RBC their red color.
Haemoglobin also carries carbon dioxide from around the body to the lungs so that we exhale carbon di-oxide. Lowered haemoglobin in RBC can make it strenuous for the body to effectively carry out this very important activity. Haemoglobin levels vary from person to person and it is noted that men have higher haemoglobin than women. You can read more about it here.
Some types of anemia
- Iron deficieny Amenia
- Low haemoglobin anemia
- Vitamin deficiency anemia
- Low red blood cells anemia
Among the human population, some are more prone to being anemic than others as result of many factors. Those that are most prone to being anemic are:
- Pregnant women,
- Those digestive issues that inhibit the absorption of nutrients e.g ulcer,
- Frequent medication usage the block nutrient absorption e.g aspirin,
- Ageing i.e over 65 years old etc.
Symptoms of Anemia
When the body is not receiving oxygen-rich blood, it makes it weak. The following symptoms tend to appear:
- Paleness, a yellowish tint or loss of color
- Fatigue or weakness
- Hair loss
- Shortness of breath
- Poor appetite
- Muscle weakness etc.
Causes of anemia
Most cases of anemia are caused by the following:
- Poor diet
- Blood loss from injury, menstruation and other means
- Some nutrient deficiency e.g iron, folate, vitamin B12
- Sickle cell anemia
- Some cancers e.g leukemia
- Kidney disease
- Extreme physical exercises
- Liver disease etc.
Untreated anemia can severely impact on your life and health and can cause complication in places like the heart, brain and other important organs. Anemia is a very serious issue as blood and oxygen are the lifeline of the body.
Home remedies and supplements for anemia
There are easy and enjoyable remedies with quick results that can be employed when anemic including:
Iron is very important in the body because it helps the body produce adequate haemoglobin and boosts the production of red blood cells among other important functions.
Foods that are a good source of iron include meat especially lean meat i.e turkey, chicken, beans, fish and sea foods, eggs, dates, nuts and seeds etc.
For some, they might choose to take iron supplements which have to be used with caution as they are not as safe as vitamin C. the over use of iron supplements can cause constipation, nausea, diseases, liver disease etc.
Please remember that iron has to be taken over period of 3-4 weeks or more as its effect is in the body is gradual and not immediate. Some doctors might recommend months of using iron supplements to replenish the body’s storage of iron.
Flutes pumpkin leaves (Telfairia occidentalis)
Popularly known as ugu leaves in Nigeria, this is our very own national remedy that is widely used and known for treating anemia across the country. I remember often seeing my sibling with sickle-cell anemia blending the leaves and taking it when they were sick. It works very fast.
Ugu leaves are high in iron, potassium, antioxidants, and antimicrobial properties. I am not sure if you can get it outside of west Africa but I believe it should be available in places like Ghana, Senegal, Niger and guinea.
You can easily buy some from the local market, blend the leaves with some water and take the juice. One cup a day should be enough for you.
If you cannot blend, pound the leaves with very little water and wash it with some clean water to get the juice. If not, make a vegetable soup with much of the leaves and just eat it as a soup or with tuwo, eba,fufu or amala. It is up to you. Enjoy!
For other parts of the world, organ meat is not popular but for us Nigerians and Africans, they can be as expensive as meat itself. Liver is probably the most popular organ meat not just for its high iron, vit. A and folate content but because it is delicious especially in sauces.
Cow liver is easily available in the local market in Nigeria but because of high demand you might not get it in the evening and late hours of the day. For those outside the country, I believe it will be available in a similar place or at the supermarket. Other iron rich organ meats you can try are the heart and the kidney.
Caution: Liver is one of the body’s filter in both man and animals which is why it is important to properly cook and handle it with salt as there some diseases that can be contracted from eating liver. Y
ou should also make sure that it is healthy, looks fresh and not old looking before purchasing it. Keep to this caution and you should be fine. This caution applies to other organ meats.
The studies show that the continuous use of beet root across 4-6 weeks can help anemic patients. Beetroot contains iron, nitrate, sodium, potassium, fiber, folate (Vit. B12), vitamin C etc.
I will recommend the juicing of the vegetable or eating it raw as the best method of consumption because as we know, heating/cooking most of our foods especially fruits and vegetables depletes their nutrients.
Some few years back, beet root was all the range online and in Nigeria too. Though it is a foreign plant to us in Nigeria, you can now find it in some vegetable shops around the country. You just have to identify where they sell them in your area and then you have a constant supply available.
Vitamins for nutrient absorption
Vitamin C, A and beta-carotene are very helpful in improving anemia. While these vitamins do not directly cure anemia, it helps the body to improve the absorption and utilization of iron and other useful nutrients we get from a healthy diet so that they can be effectively and efficiently utilized by the body.
Beyond just eating iron rich foods and using supplements, it is important that we remember that the body has to absorb the nutrient into the blood so that it can boost your red blood cells and its haemoglobin. Without it, these remedies will only be half as efficient.
Sources of vitamin A, C and beta-carotene in our foods are liver, fish, green leaves, carrot, moringa leaves, baobab fruit, citrus fruits, spinach, pumpkin, mangoes, sweet potatoes etc. respectively. You can also choose to buy the supplements in the pharmacy shops.
The good news is that in most cases of anemia, they are easy to treat and correct with the above remedies suggested. However, if after using these home remedies but your blood remains low, then it is time to see a doctor soonest for further investigation.
All the suggested remedies and supplements are easy to get from pharmacies and the local diet from around the world including Nigeria. So go ahead and make your favorite nutrient-rich dish from the suggested foods above and enjoy. Correcting anemia in the body doesn’t have to be tedious and boring.
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