ZocdocAnswersWhat foods should anemics eat?

Question

What foods should anemics eat?

My mom was diagnosed with anemia about ten years ago, and she hasn't really followed up on it since. She takes a multivitamin, but other than that, I don't think she has adjusted her lifestyle. What should she be doing to treat it? What foods should people with anemia eat?

Answer

Anemia is more of a symptom than a diagnosis, and it can come and go over time. Anemia is a relative lack of red blood cells. It can be caused by any number of things, and your doctor can perform simple blood tests to determine the most likely cause. The most common cause is underproduction of the red blood cells because of a lack of nutrients, and different nutritional deficiencies cause different types of anemia (with slightly different symptoms and solutions). Frequently, people are iron-deficient as a cause of their anemia. This is slightly more common in woman because they lose blood monthly, courtesy of their menstrual periods. Iron-rich foods include red meat, spinach, broccoli, and other green leafy vegetables. Some people take iron supplements, though these tend to be large, constipating pills that are much less enjoyable than eating iron-rich foods. Plain multivitamins may not contain the necessary iron supplementation. Other people are B12 or folate deficient, though this is less common. All grain products in the US are supplemented with folate, and B12 is found in animal products, such as meats, eggs, and dairy. There is no specific lifestyle modification that a person with anemia should undertake, though some people are limited by fatigue, if the anemia is severe enough (as red blood cells carry oxygen around the body). It is probably worthwhile for your mother to see her doctor and have her red blood cells checked, to determine if she is still anemic and what the cause might be. Her doctor can then recommended targeted therapy, if necessary.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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