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Causes of Anaemia: Understanding iron deficiency

Anaemia refers to the condition where the blood lacks sufficient quantities of red blood cells. These cells are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body.

Iron is required to produce haemoglobin – the specific part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen. This is also what makes the blood red in colour. Without adequate levels of iron in the body, patients develop anaemia, which leaves them tired and out of breath.

Iron deficiency can develop as a result of many different factors and is only one specific type of anaemia. This post examines some of the most common causes of this condition. Individuals who believe they may be displaying symptoms of iron deficiency need to receive prompt medical attention.

Loss of blood

Iron is contained in the red blood cells in the blood. When blood loss occurs, iron is also lost.

Any kind of blood loss, including heavy periods, can cause iron deficiency. Chronic blood loss internally, resulting from conditions including peptic ulcers, hiatal hernia, colon polyps or colorectal cancer, can also trigger the onset of this condition.

Certain medication such as aspirin can also cause iron deficiency given that it may cause gastrointestinal bleeding in certain individuals.

Insufficient iron in an individual’s diet

Another cause of iron deficiency is the lack of iron in the daily diet. Iron is a nutrient the body receives from certain types of food including meat, shellfish, green vegetables like spinach, legumes, eggs and other iron-rich items.

It’s important that children receive iron from their diet to ensure healthy development and to prevent the onset of anaemia.

Low levels of red blood cell production

Red blood cells are created out of bone marrow, which is the soft tissue found at the centre of bones.

When diseases affect the bone marrow, such as leukaemia, white blood cells, which are also created from bone marrow, are produced excessively, preventing the regular production of red blood cells.

Pregnancy

​Pregnant women may also develop this condition if they aren’t receiving enough iron through their diets or through iron supplements.

Extra reserves of iron are needed for pregnant women given their increased volume of blood as well as to provide sufficient haemoglobin for the foetus.

The inability for the body to absorb iron

​Iron is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine. Certain gastroenterological health conditions prevent this from taking place in a normal manner.

Coeliac disease hinders the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, which can eventually result in anaemia. If surgery has been performed and an individual’s small intestine has been removed, this can also result in this condition.

Risk factors

Menstruation

Given that women bleed significantly every month, they are at greater risk of developing iron deficiency.

Vegetarian Diets

Meat carries stores of iron. People who are vegetarians need to incorporate a variety of iron-rich vegetables and supplements to ensure that they don’t develop anaemia.

Frequent blood donations

Individuals who donate blood frequently need to be aware of the risk of iron deficiency. Blood loss, even in this form, can deplete iron stores in the body.

These types of individuals need to ensure that iron-rich food is a major part of their diet.

Preventing and treating anaemia is possible through the guidance of medical professionals

Anaemia can be a serious medical condition if it isn’t treated and managed properly. With the right medical support and guidance, even individuals at risk can prevent the onset of this condition.

Major diet and lifestyle changes should not be made without the consultation of a professional gastroenterologist.

For more information on iron deficiency, individuals can visit the Sydney Gut Clinic website. For expert medical opinion, appointments can be made with the clinic’s experienced gastroenterology specialists.

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