Anemia FAQ

Below are the most commonly asked questions about Anemia in general and Iron Deficiency Anemia specifically. For those of you newly diagnosed with anemia or struggling with low iron then this faq should really help to answer most of yoru questions. But if it doesn’t just drop me an email at peter @ ironrichfoods dot info and not only will I answer your email I will add both the question and answer to this FAQ (assuming its relevant).

Before you continue, remember two things:

One you’re not alone! Millions of people, both women and men from all around the world struggle with low iron or anemia.

Two, there is no reason why anybody should need to suffer from common iron deficiency anemia!

What is anemia?
What are the causes of anemia?
What types of anemia are there?
What are the signs of anemia?
How do I find out if I have anemia?
What is the treatment for anemia?
What will happen if my anemia goes untreated?
How do I prevent anemia?
How much iron do I need every day?
How much iron do I need if I am pregnant?
I am taking menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Does that affect how much iron I should take?
Does birth control affect my risk for anemia?
I am a vegetarian. What steps should I take to make sure I get enough iron?
What happens if my body gets more iron than it needs?


What is anemia?

Anemia (from the ancient Greek ‘an aimia’ meaning lack of blood) is a general shortage of blood either in terms of quantity or quality or both. It specifically occurs as the result of a lack of hemoglobin, the red, iron-containing pigment in blood that transports oxygen to all parts of your body. And it is pretty much a women’s disease, affecting four times as many women as men, with children coming second to women.

Anemia is one of the world’s most common and most widespread diseases and in 90% of the victims it is due to a lack of iron. Having a high standard of life like we have in the West does not make you immune to anemia. In fact, anemia is one of the top causes of both physical and psychological problems amongst women in the United States, Europe, and Australia. A recent count showed that four hundred million women worldwide were anemic and running on insufficient amounts of hemoglobin. More than a billion women are short of iron and iron deficiency is only one step away from full anemia. And right here, in the United States iron deficiency is the number one nutrient deficiency with 12% of women affected.

What are the causes of anemia?

Anemia happens when:

  1. The body loses too much blood (such as with heavy periods, certain diseases, and trauma); or
  2. The body has problems making red blood cells; or
  3. Red blood cells break down or die faster than the body can replace them with new ones; or
  4. More than one of these problems happen at the same time.

What types of anemia are there?

What are the signs of anemia?

How do I find out if I have anemia?

What is the treatment for anemia?

What will happen if my anemia goes untreated?

How do I prevent anemia?

How much iron do I need every day?

Your body needs to maintain an ideal iron level in order to function properly. The required iron intake to maintain that optimum iron level varies from one individual to another as it dependent on gender, age and life stage. An adult woman aged between 19-50 should get 18 mg of iron per day. For a detailed table showing the required daily iron levels see How Much Iron Do You Need?

It is important to note that between the ages of 14 to 50, the iron requirement for women are significantly higher compared to men.

How much iron do I need if I am pregnant?

Pregnant women need to consume a lot more iron as women who are not pregnant: 27 mg of iron per day. But about half of all pregnant women do not get enough iron. During pregnancy, your body needs more iron because of the growing fetus, the higher volume of blood, and blood loss during delivery. If a pregnant woman does not get enough iron for herself or her growing baby, she has an increased chance of having preterm birth and a low-birth-weight baby. If you’re pregnant, follow these tips:

  • Make sure you get the 27mg of iron every day. Take an iron supplement. It may be part of your prenatal vitamin. Start taking it at your first prenatal visit.
  • Get tested for anemia at your first prenatal visit.
  • Ask if you need to be tested for anemia 4 to 6 weeks after delivery.
  • I am taking menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Does that affect how much iron I should take?

    Does birth control affect my risk for anemia?

    I am a vegetarian. What steps should I take to make sure I get enough iron?

    What happens if my body gets more iron than it needs?