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What is Anaemia?

What is Anaemia?

Looking pale? Feeling lethargic all the time? Losing hair but not sure why? Well, you might be anaemic! Anaemia is a condition where we have fewer red blood cells than normal or lower amounts of haemoglobin in each red blood cell (haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in your body, it is also responsible for the red colour of blood!) Red blood cell function is essential as they transport oxygen around the body and supply all our organs with oxygen. Let's have a look at some causes and symptoms of anaemia, and ways to treat and prevent it!


There are several different types of anaemia; for instance it can be caused certain chronic diseases, or by blood loss from blood donations or heavy menstrual bleeding (which explains why anaemia is particularly prevalent in women!) There are also two types of anaemia that are related to nutrient deficiencies: iron deficiency anaemia or B12 and folate deficiency anaemia. 

Iron is essential in haemoglobin production, therefore a lack of iron can lead to low haemoglobin, which impairs oxygen transportation in the body. Whereas B12 and folate deficiency causes ‘macrocytic’ anaemia, which is when the body produces abnormally large blood cells that can’t function properly.

Anaemia can be quite serious as prolonged time without adequate oxygen supply can lead to organ damage and other complications, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs!


But what are the symptoms of anaemia? Although there are many symptoms of anaemia, most patients are asymptomatic and a blood test is needed to identify the anaemia. Some common symptoms of anaemia include:

  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pale skin
  • Headaches 
  • Hair loss

There are also groups at higher risks, such as women of childbearing age, adults over 65, and individuals with poor diets, so keep that in mind if you fall into one of these groups. And if you happen to be experiencing any of these symptoms, please go see a GP and have some blood work done! 

What to eat?

Whilst we're on the topic of symptoms, another symptom of iron deficiency anaemia is “pica” - the unusual craving for non-nutritive things such as ice or dirt! But not to worry, You do not need to eat dirt to correct your iron deficiency.

Iron and B12 are both essential nutrients. The recommended amount of iron is 8.7mg/day for adult males and 14.8mg/day for women. The recommended amount of B12 is 1.5mcg/d and folate 200mcg/day.

Iron is found in red meats, as well as other meats and fish in its most bioavailable form. Some plant sources of iron include pulses, legumes, dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds.

B12 is found in meats and other animal products such as eggs and dairy products, and is generally not found in plant based foods except for nutritional yeast and fortified foods - so vegans are often advised to take a supplement. Folate is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, meats and more, so this is easier to obtain from dietary sources.


Vitamin C may help with the absorption of iron in the body, so by combining your iron rich foods with vitamin C rich foods such as oranges and bell peppers you can enhance the absorption of the iron from your food!

Tannins, which are found in tea, cocoa, whole grains, beans, nuts and some fruits can also inhibit iron absorption and negatively impact iron stores, so if you are taking an iron supplement avoid taking them alongside tannin rich foods as this may have a small impact on iron absorption.

If you struggle getting enough iron, B12 and folate through your diet, a supplement can help - you can also get a combined supplement that has iron, B12 and folic acid, just to cover all the bases!

Have you ever been anaemic? Tell us your experience below!
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