A Primer on Anemia

linguini with clams
linguini with clams (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

I’m suspecting I have some form of anemia. I’ve had iron deficiency anemia in the past.  Update: The doctor thought my symptoms were consistent with hypothyroid, even though blood tests show my TSH as within normal limits.

There are three types of anemia linked to deficiency- iron deficiency, folate (folic acid) deficiency and B12 deficiency anemia. From www.anemia.org:

What are the effects of untreated anemia?

Long-lasting deficiency of vitamin B6, folate, or vitamin B12 can result in anemia. With folate and vitamin B12 deficiency, anemia often causes symptoms such as fatigue, poor appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea. The earliest symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may be weakness, poor coordination, and numbness or a “pins and needles” feeling in the hands and feet. Mild irritability and forgetfulness are other early signs. A severe untreated deficiency can result in serious damage to the nerves, spinal cord, and brain.

How do I know if I have anemia?

Symptoms usually develop when anemia is moderate to severe, and can include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, dizziness, irritability, numbness or coldness in your hands and feet, trouble breathing, a fast heartbeat, and headache. It is important to see your doctor on a regular basis in order to be tested for possible anemia.

I’m definitely dealing with a lot of  these symptoms.  I’ll be asking my doctor for bloodwork to check all levels – B12, folate, and iron. For iron levels, I’ll ask for a CBC (complete blood count) as well as a serum ferritin test, which measures the amount of iron stored in the body.  Sometimes, levels are too low to correct with diet and pills may be necessary.

There are two sources of iron in food – heme and non-heme iron.  Examples of heme iron would be meat, poultry and seafood and is more easily absorbed.  Non-heme iron sources would be grains, vegetables, nuts, and beans. To increase absorption of iron from all sources, including iron pills, take with a vitamin C source such as fruit juice.   Excellent sources of iron are beef, liver, clams and Cream of Wheat cereal.   Good sources of B12 are animal products.  Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables.

Here’s a recipe from Apple magazine that is high in iron.  Serve with a spinach salad with strawberries for more iron, vitamin C and folic acid.

Zesty Clam Linguini

2 T. olive oil

3/4 c. onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tsp. dried garlic

3/4 c. red pepper, chopped

1, 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

5 oz. can whole baby clams, drained

1 tsp. no salt added herb seasoning

1/4 c. chopped green onions

13 ounce (375 g) package whole wheat linguini

Heat oil in medium sized pan on medium.  Saute onion until tender.  Add garlic and saute slightly. Add red pepper and saute two more minutes.  Add tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Simmer 10  – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, make linguini according to package directions.  Add clams and seasoning to tomato sauce and heat through.  Serve on linguini.  Garnish with chives.  Serves four.

Some foods and beverages that interfere with iron absorption include tea, coffee, fiber, eggs, soy and dairy products, according to: http://www.truestarhealth.com/Notes/2870003.html

For information on iron-medication interactions, check here:  http://www.truestarhealth.com/Notes/3181009.html

Easy Black Bean Soup

black bean soup
black bean soup (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

The weather has hardly been spring-like here recently, more like winter.  Soup was called for to take the chill out.

1 onion, chopped
1 T. oil
1 28 ounce can tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 large can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked, chopped roast beef
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 – 2 T. chili powder (depending on your heat preferences)

Brown onion in oil in large pot until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so that soup is simmering and simmer for about 10 minutes or until heated through. Makes about 4 – 6 servings. Serve with taco chips and a dollop of sour cream.