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A Holistic Approach to Anemia

Updated on May 17, 2009

What is it and why?

Anemia: When blood is deficient in red blood cells or blood is deficient in the iron-containing portion of red blood cells (hemoglobin), then we have the condition called anemia. Why are these blood cells so important? Because they transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body and then take carbon dioxide back with them. Without this happening efficiently, there is a deficiency in oxygen and a build-up in carbon dioxide, and anemic symptoms appear, the most common of which is fatigue. Anemia can be so debilitating. I was anemic for a several years. It is most common in women, vegetarians, and vegans. I am a woman, have been a vegetarian, a vegan and a vegan-raw-foodist! That is not to say that others don’t suffer or that all vegetarians will suffer, but it is interesting to note that the availability of absorbable iron in a vegetarian diet is less than that in a carnivorous diet.

Causes: There are many causes of anemia (being a woman, and/or a vegetarian and/or a vegan are some!). Excessive blood loss or red blood cells are some others. Celiac disease is one of those circumstances where we need to address what’s happening at a systemic level and understand that anemia (along with malnutrition) will probably be a part of this disease. Radiation (nuclear fallout, xrays, microwaves, and electromagnetic frequencies [EMF’s]) are also linked to anemia. Anemia can also be an absorption issue and not an iron issue. Some people need more HCl (Hydrochloric acid) to digest their food. (See previous article on heartburn: “Burn, Baby, Burn”.) In most cases, however, anemia is caused by nutritional deficiency.

Testing: I know that blood tests let us know where the issues are. For example, hemoglobin levels - lets us know how much oxygen and carbon dioxide are being transported and hematocrit results tell us if we have enough to transport iron to the tissues. If a blood test can show the red cell distribution, we can see if the blood cells are swollen which means they're trying to hold on to all the nutrients they can. And of course ferritin, which is the most reliable marker for anemia.

What to do....?

Iron supplementation may not help because the body may not be absorbing the iron and then it's very uncomfortable to process back out of the system. For those who are taking iron supplements, heed these words of advice, please!

  • Don’t take thyroid medication with iron supplements
  • Don’t take other medications with iron supplements
  • Take iron supplements with meals
  • Avoid antacids
  • Exercise, endurance exercise, and excess sweating will increase your iron needs
  • Choose high-quality supplement products only, not those of chain grocery, health, or drug stores!

Keep in mind that Vitamin C supplements have been shown to enhance the absorption of dietary iron greatly! To achieve this affect, have 500 mg of Vitamin C with each meal.

I would say the first step is to boost the intake of iron rich foods. Iron-rich foods include red meat, fish, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. A key with anemia, especially in vegetarians, is that they must soak and cook their foods to get the most out of them because they contain blockers to prevent the iron from being absorbed (that's why nuts are soaked before being dehydrated because we have to release the phytates in order to get the nutrients) – it is this way with all legumes – they must be soaked. And cook those veggies. In order for them to be most available to your system, lightly steam or stir-fry them and open them up a little!

As for the recommendations of foods, I wanted to compare the Eastern and the Western for a complete and holistic look at the possibilities and reasoning! It fascinates me how some recommendations are the same and others are so different. Consider both sides of the coin and the benefits of enjoying these foods regularly, as a part of a balanced, therapeutic diet!


  • Calf’s liver: rich in iron and all B vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folic acid
  • Brewer’s yeast: contains iron and B vitamins
  • Green leafy vegetables: the ideal source for greatest benefits
  • Spinach: has approximately 11 times the amount of iron than ground beef!
  • Dried beans
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Lean beef
  • Pork
  • Venison
  • Raisins
  • Dried fruits
  • Almonds
  • Mangoes
  • Shellfish

[AVOID: coffee, tea, egg yolk, Brazil nuts, wheat bran, antacids, and calcium supplements]


  • Apricots: high in copper and cobalt
  • Blackberry & raspberry: used for treating diarrhea and cleansing the urinary system as well
  • Cherries: rich in iron, also improve the blood
  • Goat’s milk: best fresh, if being used therapeutically
  • Spirulina, chlorella, and wild blue-green micro-algae – it’s the high levels of iron, protein, chlorophyll, and other nutrients that help overcome anemia when accompanied by B12-rich foods
  • Lamb: usually uses fewer antibiotics and drugs than other red meats, and tends to graze on unsprayed grassland, which is a plus, since buying hormone-free red meat can get pretty expensive!
  • Mulberry: used to treat many conditions, an overall good tonic for the body
  • Suma: a Brazilian herb known for its safe estrogenic activity. It enhances immunity, helping people adapt to stressful experiences easily
  • For celiacs who suffer from anemia, Pitchford recommends flax seed tea and nettle tea.

[AVOID: watermelon]


Please contact me if you have any questions about lifestyle, supplementation, or food preparation! I would love to help you on this journey.

In peace & health,

Theresa Singleton, MA is a holistic nutrition & wellness coach who specializes in gifting women with the freedom from dieting. Get more free resources from: !


Murray, Michael (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Atria Books, NY.

Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books, CA.

Iron Deficiency Anemia: Nutrition Support Protocol. Designs for Health, CT.

Designs for Health - Ferrochel Iron Chelate - 27mg Bioavailable + Easy on the Stomach, 120 Capsules
Designs for Health - Ferrochel Iron Chelate - 27mg Bioavailable + Easy on the Stomach, 120 Capsules

"atients often complain of poor tolerance of their iron supplements resulting in gastric distress and/or constipation. With Ferrochel® this isn’t an issue as it is extremely well tolerated by the gastrointestinal system. It may be safely recommended for pregnant and lactating women, teenagers and adults."



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    • profile image

      Jane 5 years ago

      Why avoid brazil nuts?

    • profile image

      Bianca Belmonte 7 years ago

      Is suma used for tea's?. I have never tried this type of herb.

      Thank you

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 8 years ago from London, UK

      Very Useful info. This has always been an issue for me.