Anaemia: If you feel like you’re dragging yourself through the day with no spark in your cylinders, it may be less about your adrenals and more about your red blood cells.
We’re all familiar with burning the candle at both ends whether that be from from work, family, kids, socialising or even heavy training. And while you may attribute your exhaustion to adrenal fatigue or sleep deprivation (both worthy of consideration), it may actually be anaemia that’s behind your fatigue, lethargy and fuzzy brain symptoms.
Anaemia – What is it?
Essentially, it’s a deficiency of red blood cells or haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells that takes oxygen from the lungs to all the other tissues in the body, and carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs to be exhaled.
Signs of Anaemia
- Fatigue, weakness or lethargy
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Pale skin or lower inner eye lids
- Cold hands and feet or feeling cold all over
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in taste
- Brittle nails
- Sore or abnormally smooth tongue
- Heart palpitations
- Spoon-shaped nails
What Causes Anaemia?
- A lack of iron (iron-deficiency anaemia). This can happen because of:
- A heavy period (e.g. changing a pad or tampon every 1-2 hours) from fibroids, polyps, endometriosis, endometrial hyperplasia, peri-menopause, non-ovulatory cycles, clotting factor disorders, the hormonal IUD or hypothyroidism
- A lack of red meat or other dietary sources of iron
- A severely restricted diet and/or eating disorders
- Too much caffeine, antacids, dairy or calcium supplementation which can block iron absorption
- Other hidden internal bleeding (e.g. from the bowel/colon or stomach from ulcers or NSAID use)
- Poor absorption of iron in the gut (e.g. from coeliac, Crohn’s disease or other autoimmune diseases or low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach)
- Bacterial or parasitic infection (which feed on iron)
- Growth spurts in kids
- Pregnancy, which increases iron requirements
- A lack of other vitamins, e.g. B6, B9 and B12
- Genetic problems affecting red blood cells such as thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia
- Chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis or kidney disease
What Can I Do If I Think I’m Anaemic?
- It’s common for women with heavy bleeds, including those in peri-menopause with heavier than normal cycles, and/or vegans or vegetarians to be low in iron and be unaware of it. A simple blood test including Iron Studies and a Full Blood Count (monitoring red and white cell counts) can check your cell size, haemoglobin as well as iron levels and stores. Your naturopath or GP can order this test for you.
- Take a look at your diet and ensure you’re including good quality, grass-fed red meat (if you’re into meat) a couple of times a week, as well as dark leafy green vegetables, lentils and pulses, brown rice, eggs and nuts and seeds will help ensure good iron and B-vitamin intake. It’s especially important to include foods high in Vitamin C to help iron absorption from vegetable sources.
- Reduce your amount of tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks which can block absorption.
- Optimise gut health with pre- and probiotic foods, fibres and ferments and include lots of bitter greens or supplement with HCl and digestive enzymes if your digestion is sluggish.
- Cook in cast iron cookwear or check out this little iron fish! #mindblown …
- Check your medications and ask your naturopath or GP if they may be affecting your ability to absorb iron.
- Too much iron is as bad as too little, so never take an iron supplement without checking with your healthcare practitioner.
Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.
Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, adrenal fatigue, iron deficiency, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.
Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!