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How To Recognize And Treat Symptoms Of Anemia

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Many women suffer from anemia, which can be serious if left untreated. Mary Bolster, Editor-In-Chief of Natural Health Magazine, suggests iron-rich foods that can be added to your diet to help deal with anemia.

STACEY: I’m Stacey Tisdale for howdini. If you feel tired all of the time it may be more than staying up too late and working too hard. You could be suffering from anemia, a condition that’s especially common among women. Mary Bolster is editor in chief of Natural Health magazine. Mary, welcome.

MARY: Thank you Stacey, it’s really nice to be here.

STACEY: So many of us just feel like this all the time. What is anemia?

MARY: Well, anemia is pretty pure and simple. It’s an iron deficiency in the blood.

STACEY: And what are some of the symptoms?

MARY: Well you mentioned the first, the most important one which is fatigue. And it’s usually a fatigue when you’re getting enough sleep. So it’s not staying up late and working long hours. It’s getting a lot of sleep and still feeling fatigue. Another thing is stress, kind of having an abnormal reaction to stressful situations where your stress levels feel really high. Um, pale. Your skin gets pale because there’s not enough blood—oxygen in your blood so that makes your skin pale. Um, being really unfocused. So being really scattered. And then another thing which doesn’t happen in every case, and it’s kind of odd, but it’s a craving to chew.

STACEY: A lot of us feel like this all of the time. How can we go about finding out if it’s anemia?

MARY: Well, you know, fatigue is really the biggest part of it. Sometimes the fatigue is so extreme that you feel weak and you feel faint. And that’s really when you have to, um, get yourself to a doctor. And you need to get a blood test which measures the, um, hemoglobin and the hematocrit and the, um, levels of your red blood cells. And those are the things you get tested; if those numbers are low you have anemia. Well it’s really kind of a very, a fatigue that’s so strong that you feel weak most of the time.

STACEY: Is this a serious medical condition?

MARY: Well the problem is if it goes unchecked. It can become very serious. It can actually feel like a heart attack where you have rapid breathing and irregular heartbeat and a chest pain. So some people are rushed to the emergency room thinking that they’re suffering from a heart attack and they’re actually just anemic. So, uh, it can be very serious if you don’t take care of it.

STACEY: Well I know you say there’s a lot of ways to address anemia naturally and one of your recommendations is to take supplements.

MARY: The two easiest things to do is take iron supplements, that’s what you have to do first off before you do anything to your diet or lifestyle. You’ve got to start taking iron supplements. The second thing you do is you start to bring in iron-rich foods into your diet. Um, from there there’s some other more specific things you can do. You can try acupuncture which helps move stagnant blood. Um, you can um, you have to exercise with care because sometimes over-exercising can exacerbate anemia. So if you’re a fairly athletic person who exercises a lot you want to kind of take—you want to check that.

STACEY: Energy drinks, you say, can also help us feel better.

MARY: Oh yeah. There’s these energy drinks that sort of are high in algae-based—they’re not like, um, sports drinks that I think most people think of when they hear the words energy drinks. These are more specific high iron energy drinks.

STACEY: And also you say that we can eat iron-rich foods.

MARY: Yeah, yeah. There’s about—a lot of iron-rich foods. Most people think of liver when they’re told they’re anemic. They think, oh my god, I’m going to have to go home and start drinking liver shakes? No. You don’t have to do that. There’s a lot of more palatable foods that you can eat that are higher in iron like clams. I don’t know that everybody loves clams, but there’s clams, there’s oysters, soybeans, tomato puree, prune juice. Now that might be a liver equivalent to some people’s lists. A lot of meats are, very lean meats that are, they have a lot of iron in them. Another thing you can do is cook in an iron skillet.

STACEY: Really?

MARY: Yeah because that puts, that imparts iron to your system. So that’s another thing that people who have anemia are told to do. Start using an iron skillet.

STACEY: Great advice Mary Bolster, editor in chief of Natural Health magazine. Thank you for joining us.

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