Anaemia is a very common condition worldwide. Although there are many reasons causing anaemia in India, which range from genetic causes with abnormal hemoglobin, to heavy menstrual bleeding, loss of blood through piles, parasite infection, the most prevalent is due to inadequate nutrition. This affects children and women, especially during pregnancy.
In order for our body cells and organs to function, they require a constant supply of oxygen, which is delivered to them, through blood. Blood has red blood cells (RBCs) suspended in it, which contains hemoglobin. This in turn, is made up of Iron and proteins. All blood cells are manufactured by the bone marrow which requires vitamins, especially vitamin B12, and various other nutrients to do so. Oxygen from the lungs is carried by the hemoglobin in the blood to various parts of the body.
Low levels of nutrition, or consumption of food with inadequate levels of iron, vitamins and proteins , results in decreased production of hemoglobin and blood cells, which in turn decreases the oxygen supply to the body, and is therefore responsible for the various symptoms felt by a person suffering from Nutritional Anaemias. Patients often feel tired, lethargic, experience hair loss, have pale lips, hands and face, have muscle pain and brittle nails and are more prone to recurrent infections and therefore fall sick more often.
There are several blood investigations that can be done in order to diagnose nutritional anaemia. A simple CBC or a complete blood count test can give us hemoglobin values, red blood cell and hematocrit counts. An examination of a drop of blood under a microscope, can give us an indicator of what type of nutritional deficiency is causing the anaemia. For example, small and light Red Blood cells seen under the microscope may indicate iron deficiency, but larger, oval shaped red blood cells are more indicative of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Likewise, there are iron studies, serum ferritin levels and vitamin B12 blood tests that can tell us if a patient has iron deficiency and low B12 levels. Some patients may have combined iron and vitamin b12 deficiencies.
The treatment of anaemia depends on how severe the patient’s symptoms are, and how low their counts of hemoglobin, iron and vitamin B12 are. Most commonly, a corrected diet, incorporating nutritious food like Jaggery, spinach, and leafy vegetables help with iron levels, while fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products, fortified cereals, pulses, legumes help with vitamin B12 levels.
An added Vitamin B12, vitamin B6 (Folic acid) or multi-vitamin supplement in the form of oral B12 medications can also be added. Iron supplements taken by mouth, may sometimes cause gastric upsets like acidity or constipation, therefore many patients take intra muscular or intravenous iron supplements in moderate to severe cases.
All in all, nutritional anaemia is a fairly common condition, which can be corrected easily with mild changes to diet and supplements. It is an ailment that is better tackled during childhood as good eating habits taught during the growing years will stay with people throughout their lives.
Disclaimer: The information given above is for education and awareness only and is not a treatment recommendation or advice. Please consult your doctor if you are feeling any symptoms or if you have any queries regarding the same.