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  • Writer's picture Lauren Svensen FNP-C


Anemia occurs when you do not have enough red blood cells which help carry oxygen to your body. Symptoms of anemia are fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fast heartbeat. It is possible to have anemia with mild symptoms or no symptoms. Being deficient in iron, vitamin b12, or folic acid can cause anemia.

Iron-deficiency Anemia

Young women commonly have iron deficiency anemia because they lose iron every month in their menstrual cycle. Oxygen attaches to iron which is part of your red blood cell. Red blood cells live for 120 days then our spleen will break down the old red blood cells so the iron can be used again. Our bone marrow uses iron from our diet and the recycled iron from our spleen to make new red blood cells. When blood is lost during a menstrual cycle, the body cannot recycle the iron in those red blood cells. This means that sometimes young women need to make sure they have enough iron in their diet or take an iron supplement. Iron deficiency anemia can also occur when you have bleeding after the delivery of a baby, bleeding from trauma, or internal bleeding. Foods that are a good source of iron are nuts, beans, red meat, dried fruit, and soybean flour.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia

Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia occurs commonly in vegetarians due to avoiding foods high in vitamin B12. Foods that are a good source of vitamin B12 are fortified cereal, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and milk.

There are many health benefits to eating vegetarian but some vegetarians need to take a vitamin B12 supplement daily to prevent anemia. Heavy alcohol drinking, and surgically removing part of your small intestine which absorbs vitamin b12. can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. Your bone marrow uses vitamin B12 to make healthy red blood cells.

Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia

Folic acid is important when making healthy red blood cells, and during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, which is a deformity of the baby’s spinal cord. Poor nutrition, heavy alcohol drinking, bariatric surgery, and having a disease that prevents your intestines from absorbing folic acid are causes of folic acid deficiency. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, kidney beans, and peas are foods high in folic acid.

Your primary care provider can check for anemia and tell you which type you have in a blood test called a CBC or complete blood count. All of the types of anemia have very similar symptoms so it is important to seek care from a licensed healthcare provider to make sure your anemia is properly treated.

*This article is intended for general information purposes only and is not medical advice. Please seek counseling from your primary care provider for personalized medical advice.


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