Acupuncture for Anemia

There are about 400 million women all over the world who are suffering from anemia. A lot of them may not even be aware of its symptoms and often blame its mild symptoms to the pressures of modern life.  Anemia is a word that literally means “without blood.” It is a condition wherein the blood lacks RBCs or red blood cells or hemoglobin, the red substance in red blood cells that contains iron.

The main responsibility of the red blood cells is to convey oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body exchanging carbon dioxide in the process. When cells are provided with oxygen, they have more energy to do their normal functions. Anemia is the result of severe loss of blood or inadequate production of RBCs. This condition may have several forms, with IDA or iron deficiency anemia as seen as its most common form. Iron is very important to the body since it is needed to create hemoglobin.  Roughly 20% of females of childbearing age suffer from IDA as opposed to just 2% in men. The reason why women suffer more is that they lose a significant amount of blood when they menstruate.

Not absorbing adequate amounts of iron or not consuming enough iron-rich foods can add to the condition. Chronic diseases that cause loss of blood or impair the production of new blood can likewise bring about anemia. Some diseases can cause anemia including bleeding hemorrhoids, bone marrow disease and peptic ulcer.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), blood is the basis for organ, muscle, skin, nerve and bone creation. It likewise contains the spirit (Shen). This force balances the soul. IDA comes closest to the classical definition of what is known as “blood deficiency” in TCM. However, the traditional Chinese medicine perspective of blood deficiency does not entirely jibe to that of Western medicine’s idea of anemia. From a symptomatic viewpoint, blood deficiency can have certain indicators that may overlap from time to time and differ in the eyes of Eastern and Medicine medicines.

A person suffering from symptoms such as ringing in the ears, irritability, headache, shortness of breath, swollen or sore tongue, rapid heart rate, dizziness, fatigue, and sallow or pail nailbeds may be anemic. There are anemic individuals who may manifest unusual symptoms of cravings for paint, dirt or ice.  In TCM, people with symptoms such as scanty or no periods or delayed menstruation, numbness of the limbs, insomnia, blurry vision, or heart palpitations, may indicate anemia.  There may likewise be poor appetite, dry skin, thin and graying hair and unusual hair loss in an anemic person.

The initial step in the treatment of anemia is to identify the underlying reason through diagnostic procedures required by a doctor. A person with a disease that causes anemia like peptic ulcer may need to first keep his health issue under control. If his/her anemia is caused by a poor diet, his/her problem can be easily resolved.  You can undergo a blood test that monitors your serum ferritin, hematocrit, hemoglobin and RBC levels if you suspect you are anemic.

Treating IDA with TCM usually involves the use of Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. They are useful in tonifying the body’s vital energy known as qi and in nourishing the blood. Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture therapy should also be complemented with an iron-rich diet.  If required, iron supplements can be taken. For infants the RDA or recommended daily allowance for iron is 30 mg while for pregnant women, their RDA is 30 mg. you need to talk with your doctor to know what dosage is needed for your condition. It is important no to take too much iron supplements since it may hinder the uptake of important trace elements, lead to constipation and worse, high amounts of iron in the blood may enhance your risk of a heart attack. If you suffer from constipation, you need to take in more dietary fiber.

Yams, whole grains, parsley, seaweeds, almonds, dried fruits like raisins, prunes, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses dried beans and green leafy vegetables are all good sources of iron for mild cases of anemia. For severe blood deficiency or anemia, eat chicken, lamb, oysters, lean meat, and beef liver are recommended.

In order for your body to optimally absorb iron from foods, a good amount of vitamin C-rich foods such as strawberries, tomatoes, citrus foods and vitamin C supplements is needed.  Foods you need to stay away from if you suffer from anemia include candy bars, ice cream, beer, soft drinks, chocolate, rhubarb, Swiss chard, spinach, wheat bran, coffee and tea. Too much intake of calcium supplements and antacids can impair your body’s ability to absorb iron.

Emily Farish Acupuncture
400 S. Jefferson, Suite 203
Spokane, WA 99204
Phone: 509-217-9262

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