Anemia (Holistic)

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About This Condition

Boost your red blood cell count to a normal level by replenishing what your body may be missing. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Replace needed nutrients

    Prevent and treat anemia with supplemental iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid; you should not take iron unless a blood test has revealed a deficiency

  • Get a checkup

    Visit your healthcare provider for a test to determine the cause

  • Add L-carnitine to your routine

    If you have thalassemia, take 100 mg of this nutritional supplement per 2.2 pounds of body weight each day to reduce the need for blood transfusions

About

About This Condition

Anemia is a general term for a category of blood conditions that affect the red blood cells or the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin they contain.

In anemia, there is either a reduction in the number of red blood cells in circulation or a decrease in the amount or quality of hemoglobin. There are many causes of anemia, including severe blood loss, genetic disorders, and serious diseases. (See iron-deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia[vitamin B12-related], and sickle cell anemia.) Anyone with unexplained anemia should have the cause determined by a qualified doctor.

Some athletes appear to have anemia when their blood is tested, but this may be a normal adaptation to the stress of exercise,1 which does not need treatment. Further evaluation by a qualified doctor is necessary.

Symptoms

Some common symptoms of anemia include fatigue, lethargy, weakness, poor concentration, and frequent colds. A peculiar symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, called pica, is the desire to eat unusual things, such as ice, clay, cardboard, paint, or starch. Advanced anemia may also result in lightheadedness, headaches, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), irritability, pale skin, unpleasant sensations in the legs with an uncontrollable urge to move them, and getting out of breath easily.

Supplements

What Are Star Ratings?
Supplement Why
3 Stars
Vitamin A
10,000 to 25,000 IU daily
Vitamin A deficiency can contribute to anemia, supplementing with this vitamin may restore levels and improve symptoms.

Deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are the most common nutritional causes of anemia. Although rare, severe deficiencies of several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A,vitamin B2,vitamin B6,vitamin C, and copper, can also cause anemia by various mechanisms. Rare genetic disorders can cause anemias that may improve with large amounts of supplements such as vitamin B1.

3 Stars
Vitamin B2
5 to 30 mg daily in divided doses
Vitamin B2 deficiency can contribute to anemia, supplementing with this vitamin may restore levels and improve symptoms.

Deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are the most common nutritional causes of anemia. Although rare, severe deficiencies of several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A,vitamin B2,vitamin B6,vitamin C, and copper, can also cause anemia by various mechanisms. Rare genetic disorders can cause anemias that may improve with large amounts of supplements such as vitamin B1.

3 Stars
Vitamin B6
2.5 to 25 mg daily for three weeks, then 1.5 to 2.5 mg per day as maintenance therapy
Vitamin B6 deficiency can contribute to anemia, supplementing with this vitamin may restore levels and improve symptoms.

Deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are the most common nutritional causes of anemia. Although rare, severe deficiencies of several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A,vitamin B2,vitamin B6,vitamin C, and copper, can also cause anemia by various mechanisms. Rare genetic disorders can cause anemias that may improve with large amounts of supplements such as vitamin B1.

3 Stars
Vitamin B6 (Genetic Vitamin B6-Responsive Anemia)
50 to 200 mg per day
Taking vitamin B6 may partially correct sideroblastic anemia, although they must be taken for life.

Sideroblastic anemia refers to a category of anemia featuring a buildup of iron-containing immature red blood cells (sideroblasts). One type of sideroblastic anemia is due to a genetic defect in an enzyme that uses vitamin B6 as a cofactor. Vitamin B6 supplements of 50 to 200 mg per day partially correct the anemia, but must be taken for life.

3 Stars
Vitamin E
60 to 75 IU per day
Supplementing with vitamin E may improve anemia in cases of vitamin E deficiency.

Hemolytic anemia refers to a category of anemia in which red blood cells become fragile and undergo premature death. Vitamin E deficiency, though quite rare, can cause hemolytic anemia because vitamin E protects the red blood cell membrane from oxidative damage. Vitamin E deficiency anemia usually affects only premature infants and children with cystic fibrosis. Preliminary studies have reported that large amounts (typically 800 IU per day) of vitamin E improve hemolytic anemia caused by a genetic deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) and anemia caused by kidney dialysis.

3 Stars
Vitamin E Oral
800 IU daily
Studies have reported that large amounts of vitamin E improve hemolytic anemia caused by a genetic deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD).

Hemolytic anemia refers to a category of anemia in which red blood cells become fragile and undergo premature death. Vitamin E deficiency, though quite rare, can cause hemolytic anemia because vitamin E protects the red blood cell membrane from oxidative damage. Vitamin E deficiency anemia usually affects only premature infants and children with cystic fibrosis. Preliminary studies have reported that large amounts (typically 800 IU per day) of vitamin E improve hemolytic anemia caused by a genetic deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) and anemia caused by kidney dialysis.

2 Stars
Copper
If deficient: 2 to 3 mg daily
Copper deficiency can contribute to anemia, supplementing with this mineral may restore levels and improve symptoms.

Deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are the most common nutritional causes of anemia. Although rare, severe deficiencies of several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A,vitamin B2,vitamin B6,vitamin C, and copper, can also cause anemia by various mechanisms. Rare genetic disorders can cause anemias that may improve with large amounts of supplements such as vitamin B1.

2 Stars
Vitamin B1 (Genetic Thiamine-Responsive Anemia)
10 to 20 mg daily
Rare genetic disorders can cause anemias that may improve with large amounts of supplements such as vitamin B1.

Deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid are the most common nutritional causes of anemia. Although rare, severe deficiencies of several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A,vitamin B2,vitamin B6,vitamin C, and copper, can also cause anemia by various mechanisms. Rare genetic disorders can cause anemias that may improve with large amounts of supplements such as vitamin B1.

2 Stars
Vitamin E Oral (Kidney Dialysis)
800 IU daily
Studies have reported that large amounts of vitamin E improve anemia caused by kidney dialysis.

People with severe thalassemia who receive regular blood transfusions become overloaded with iron, which increases damaging free radical activity and lowers antioxidant levels in their bodies. Some people with milder forms of thalassemia may also have iron overload. Iron supplements should be avoided by people with thalassemia unless iron deficiency is diagnosed. Preliminary studies have found that oral supplements of 200 to 600 IU per day of vitamin E reduce free radical damage to red blood cells in thalassemia patients. However, only injections of vitamin E have reduced the need for blood transfusions caused by thalassemia.

1 Star
Açaí
Refer to label instructions
Açaí, which contains small amounts of iron, has been traditionally used to help treat anemia.

Açaí contains iron (approximately 1.5 to 5 mg per 3.5 ounces of fruit). Although it has been traditionally used to help treat anemia, the amount of iron in açaí is not likely to be abundant or absorbable enough to have a significant effect.

References

1. Smith JA. Exercise, training and red blood cell turnover. Sports Med 1995;19:9-31 [review].