Anemia vitamin supplements

What helps it?

• Folic acid deficiency clearly causes an anemia in which the red blood cells produced are few in number but quite large (called a megaloblastic anemia). Supplementation restores the cells to a normal size and number. Addition of folic acid to the diet may also benefit people who suffer from sickle cell anemia (an inherited anemia seen primarily among blacks) and even aplastic anemia (a lifethreatening condition in which the red blood cell-producing tissue—the bone marrow—shuts down production). Recommendation: Take 2 to 5 mg daily. Refer to the listing for this vitamin in Section we and note that when you supplement folic acid you must be certain to ask your physician to check your blood level of vitamin B12. Since they both cause the same kinds of anemic problems, deficiency of one can mask deficiency of the other.

Anemia vitamin supplements■ Riboflavin deficiency may cause an anemia in which the cells are few in number but normal in size, shape, and color. Recommendation: Begin with a dose of 20 to 30 mg per day. After 3 to 6 weeks, ask your physician to recheck your red blood count. If you have had no response by 6 weeks, another cause of anemia may be at work.

•  Thiamine deficiency may cause anemia with few, large red blood cells. Supplementation to correct the deficiency corrects the anemia as well. If an anemia with large red blood cells fails to respond to Bl2 or folic acid thiamine may be the culprit.

Recommendation: Take 20 mg of thiamine per day for 3 to 6 weeks and then recheck your blood count.

• Among the many other physical ailments that occur in vitamin A deficiency, one of the early changes involves problems in producing hemoglobin (the iron-containing, oxygen-carrying pigment of red blood cells). Without enough hemoglobin, your body cannot produce normal-sized red blood cells in normal numbers, and voila, anemia results. However, because vitamin A can build up and cause problems, we would ask that you reread the discussion of this vitamin in Section we to become familiar with the symptoms of taking too much. Recommendation: Take 10,000 IU vitamin A or 25,000 IU beta-carotene daily for 3 to 6 weeks. At that time, ask your physician to repeat your blood count to see if it has improved.

•  Vitamin B6 deficiency can occasionally cause an anemia with small, pale red blood cells much like we see in people deficient in iron, and supplementation with B6 improves the anemia. Some patients with sickle cell anemia have also responded (with fewer pain crises and better blood counts) from supplementation with vitamin B6 daily. Recommendation: 50 to 100 mg B6 daily.

•   Vitamin B12 deficiency causes a quite well-known anemia, called pernicious anemia, in which the red blood cells produced are few in number but large in size. Symptoms of severe weakness, fatigue, and mental cloudiness accompany the low blood count. Recommendation: To be certain your body absorbs this vitamin, we would recommend that you take it in shot form in a dose of 1000 micrograms of cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin weekly for 4 to 6 weeks, then monthly for at least a year and possibly indefinitely. After you've restored your body's levels of the vitamin to normal, you may be able to take the vitamin by mouth or under the tongue.

•  Vitamin C improves your ability to absorb iron, and failure to take in enough vitamin C may contribute to the development of an anemia of small pale red blood cells. Recommendation: At the barest minimum, take 500 mg vitamin C per day. Most adults will tolerate (and if Dr. Linus Pauling is correct, should make every effort to take) a daily dose ranging from 3 or 4 grams (3000 to 4000 mg) up to 8 or 10 grams with ease. Refer to Section we and the discussion of the history of vitamin C for additional information about this important vitamin.

•  Vitamin E supplementation appears to make the red blood cells less fragile (less prone to easy bursting, which is often their fate) in some of the inherited anemias, such as sickle cell anemia, Mediterranean-type G6PD deficiency, thalassemia, and the anemia that patients with cystic fibrosis develop. (we won't go into detail about exactly what these anemias are, because if you have them or if they run in your family, you will know about it. If they do not, you are not at any risk to develop them.) The reason the vitamin helps make the red blood cells stronger, if you will, probably lies in its antioxidant properties. Recommendation. Take 400 to 800 IU per day.

Anemia vitamin supplements•  In the medical literature, cases of anemia with production of small, pale red blood cells (a picture identical to iron-deficiency anemia) occurs with copper deficiency. That the two minerals should cause such similar kinds of anemia makes perfect scientific sense, because to make hemoglobin (the red, oxygen-carrying pigment) the body requires both copper and iron. The red blood cells are small and pale precisely because there isn't enough hemoglobin to fill them up and make them full size and ruddy-red in color.

Copper deficiency rarely occurs under "normal" dietary conditions; however, ailments causing chronic diarrhea or poor absorption of food can cause low levels of copper, as can supplementation with other minerals that compete with the copper and hinder its absorption. Supplementation with zinc in its ionic form can create this kind of competition deficiency in copper; however, chelated zinc does not. Please refer to the discussion in Section we on the importance of chelation of minerals to their absorption.

On the other side of the coin, however, oversupplementation of copper can also cause problems for some people who suffer from a disorder called Wilson's disease, which causes them to store copper too easily. The buildup of copper in their brain and liver tissues causes severe symptoms, such as poor coordination, shaking tremors, difficulty speaking, drooling, and emotional disturbances. Recommendation: Unless your physician has tested and proven you to be low in copper, we would recommend you not supplement with extra tablets or capsules, but rather eat more of foods rich in copper (shellfish and other seafood, liver and kidney, and lamb) to prevent deficiency. However, if you are taking ionic zinc supplements (zinc sulfate, for example), you may also require the addition of 2 mg to 4 mg chelated copper per day.

• Iron, the commonest mineral deficiency cause for anemia, occurs more often in women of reproductive age still having monthly menstrual periods than in men. The cause is that of monthly loss of blood (and therefore, iron loss) exceeding the amount they replace in their diets. The anemia caused by lack of iron is one in which the red blood cells are small and pale. Recommendation: 20 to 30 mg iron glycinate daily (along with vitamins A, C, and E and adequate copper—see the specific listings for each of these nutrients). Before using an iron supplement, check with your doctor to be sure you have a deficiency. Excess iron can damage the liver, pancreas, heart, and immune cell activity. It has also been linked to cancer. Supplement only under qualified supervision.

• People who suffer from sickle cell anemia often have low levels of zinc, and studies have shown that supplementation with this mineral alleviates some of their symptoms (especially the number of pain crises they suffer). Recommendation: Take 40 to 50 mg of chelated zinc daily. Warning: Taking ionic zinc (such as the sulfate form) may cause deficiency of other minerals, notably copper, which may worsen anemic symptoms.

Herbal remedies

• Alfalfa, bilberry, cherry, dandelion, goldenseal, grape skins, hawthorn, mullein, nettle, red raspberry, shepherd's purse, and yellow dock are good for anemia. Caution: Do not take goldenseal during pregnancy, or for more than one week at a time if you have a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or glaucoma.

Dosages may vary, depending on the duration and severity of your symptoms. Consult a qualified herbal practitioner. Alert your physician to your decision to use herbs. Not all herbal remedies can be used in conjunction with conventional pharmaceuticals.

What makes it worse?

• Milk, wholesome as it is, can cause some problems in certain people. At least in infants, gastrointestinal intolerance to nonhuman milk may cause worsening of anemia through loss of small but steady amounts of blood in the bowel movement. Breast milk usually does not cause this kind of intolerance. When babies develop anemia, this source of blood loss has to be considered. The amount lost would not necessarily be visible to the naked eye, but you could find it chemically with cards or strips designed to detect occult (hidden) blood. You can purchase these test cards at the pharmacy or from your physician. If you detect blood, you should consult your personal physician, pediatrician, or allergist.

•  Overzealous use of stomach acid-inhibiting drugs, such as Tagamet (cimetidine) or Zantac (ranitidine), used in treating stomach ulcers or gastritis, could create a lack of stomach acid. Without at least some stomach acid, you cannot properly absorb iron.

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