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Anemia is an inclusive name for a number of conditions all of which are related to a deficiency in healthy red blood cells. The most common form of anemia stems from an iron deficiency. This form of anemia manifests in a low blood hemoglobin level or in a lack of red cells able to carry the hemoglobin.

Anemia can be divided according to the cause:

Anemia resulting from decreased or improper production of hemoglobin or red blood cells.

Anemia resulting from the destruction of red blood cells or blood loss.

Causes and manifestations:

  • Diminished hemoglobin production due to a lack of iron in the diet
  • Iron deficiency which causes the production of undersized red blood cells (called Microcytic anemia)
  • Diminished hemoglobin production due to a chronic infectious disease, which disrupts the availability of iron to the body
  • Improper hemoglobin production due to hereditary diseases such as Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Anemia
  • A problem in the production of the red blood cell membranes such as in spherocytic anemia
  • Improper production of red blood cells due to a lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid, called Megaloblastic anemia
  • Kidney problems which cause an imbalance of erythropoietin, the hormone responsible for the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
  • A problem in the production off all blood cell types in the bone marrow, called aplastic anemia or hypoplastic anemia.

Risk groups, are you in one?

Children and babies are at increased risk of anemia. In order to prevent the occurrence of anemia, the recommendation in Israel is to administer an iron supplement to babies starting at the age of four months. The elderly and people with chronic diseases are also at greater risk of anemia. In comparison to men, women have a greater incidence of anemia due to the monthly loss of blood during the menstrual cycle, and pregnant women in particular have a greater tendency to develop iron deficiency anemia due to an increase in blood volume.

Vegetarians and vegans are an additional risk group. In many Western countries, the traditional diet is built around meat as the main component, as opposed to Eastern countries, where the diet is based primarily on rice and soybeans. In the west, a lot of the people who stop eating meat, do not overhaul their whole diet and therefore do not consume enough iron.

What do you feel?

The symptoms of anemia are not specific and reflect the diminished blood and oxygen supply to the body’s various organs and tissues:

  • Weakness, fatigue and dizziness
  • Headaches, restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, ringing in the ears, lack of appetite, nausea
  • Cold extremities
  • Tachycardia – increased heart rate
  • Pallor as a result of a diminished supply of blood to the skin stemming from the fact that the body is directing more blood to essential organs
  • Amenorrhea (no menstruation)

The diagnosis and differential diagnosis of anemia is done with blood tests. One should note that although the human body, both male and female, does not need a large amount of iron, B12 and folic acid, at times, Western, industrialized nutrition does not provide the required amount.

How is it treated?

Anemia is treated by treating the cause. Iron deficiency anemia will be treated with a high dose of iron. A folic acid and/ or B12 deficiency is treated by administering those same vitamins. Erythropoietin deficiency is treated with a hormone substitute.

Recommendations for proper nutrition

Consume Iron rich foods such as leafy greens, legumes, algae, nuts, dried fruit and eggs. Caffeine (tea, coffee and coke), smoking and alcohol must be avoided, since they compromise iron absorption.

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