Anaemia may be defined as a condition in which there is a decrease in the quantity of haemoglobin, in the number of red blood cells, in the volume of packed cells, or in any combination of these. It usually results from consumption of refined foods and is among the most common diseases affecting the human beings.
Nearly half of the blood flowing in our veins and arteries consists of red blood cells which carry oxygen to the tissues. Approximately, one trillion ( 100 million) new blood cells are formed daily in the bone marrow. The raw material required in the production of these cells are iron, proteins, and vitamins, especially folic acid and vitamin B12. Of these, iron and proteins are essential in building up the red colouring matter, called haemoglobin.
Red cells live approximately 120 days and are being destroyed and replaced daily. Each person should have 100 per cent of haemoglobin or about 15 grams to 100 cc of blood, and a blood count of five million red cells per millimeter. A drop in the haemoglobin content results in anaemia.
The patient usually complaints of weakness, fatigue, lack of energy and dizziness. Other symptoms include a haggard look, premature wrinkles, dull and tired looking eyes, poor memory, shortness of breathe on slight exertion, headache, slow healing of wounds , palpitation of heart and mental depression. The skin and mucous membranes look pale, the nails appear brittle and there may be sores at the corners of the mouth.
Low formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow, either due to defects in the bone marrow itself or to an inadequate intake of iron , vitamins and protein, is one of the main causes of anaemia. Other important causs may be heavy loss of blood due to injury, bleeding piles and excessive menstruation in women. Besides, a lack of digestive acid or hydrochloric acid needed for digestion of iron and proteins or emotional strain, anxiety and worry which interferes with the manufacture of hydrochloric acid in the body could also lead to anemia.
Intestinal parasites or worms are yet another cause of anaemia. Hookworms, pinworms, roundworms and tape-worms feed on the supply of blood as well as the vitamins. Symptoms of intestinal worms are itching at the rectum, restlessness during night with bad dreams, diarrhoea, foul breath, dark circles under the eyes and a constant desire for food. Garlic, fresh papaya and grated raw carrot can help vanquish some types of intestinal parasites.
Diet is of the utmost importance in the treatment of anaemia. Refined foods like white bread, polished rice, sugar and desserts rob the body of the much-needed iron. Iron should always be taken in its natural organic form in food as the use of inorganic iron can prove hazardous. It may cause destruction of protective vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids, serious liver damage, miscarriage during pregnancy and delayed or premature births.
The diet should be predominantly alkaline. The emphasis should be on raw fruits and vegetables which are rich in iron. Iron rich vegetables are spinach, green onion, squash, carrots, radishes, beets, celery, yams, tomatoes and potatoes ( with jackets). Fruits which are rich in iron are bananas, apples, dark grapes, apricots, plums, raisins and strawberries. Bananas are particularly beneficial as they also contain, besides easily assimilable iron, folic acid and B12, both of which are extremely useful in the treatment of anaemia.
Other iron-rich foods are whole wheat, brown rice, beans, soyabeans, sunflower seeds, crude blackstrap molasses, eggs and honey. Honey is also rich in copper which helps in iron absorption. The diet should also be adequate in proteins of high biological value such as milk, home-made cottage cheese and eggs.
Vitamin B-12 is a must for preventing or curing anaemia. This vitamin is usually found in animal protein and especially in organic meats like kidney and liver. A heavy met diet is often associated with a high haemoglobin and high red cell count, but it has its disadvantages. One cause of anaemia is intestinal putrefaction, which is primarily brought on by a high meat diet. Moreover, all meats are becoming increasingly dangerous due to widespread diseases in the animals which are slaughtered. There are, however, other equally good sources of vitamin B12 such as dairy products, like milk, eggs, cheese and peanuts. Wheat germ and soyabean also contain some B12. Vegetarians should include adequate amount of milk, milk products and eggs in their diet. For prevention of anaemia, it is essential to take the entire B complex range which includes B-12, as well as the natural foods mentioned above. Eating lacto-ovo products, which are complete proteins containing vitamin B-12, is good insurance against the disease. A liberal intake of ascorbic acid is necessary to facilitate absorption of iron. At least two helpings of citrus fruits and other ascorbic acid rich foods should be taken daily.
Mention must be made of beets which are extremely important in curing anaemia. Beet juice contains potassium, phosphorous, calcium, sulphur, iodine, iron, copper, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins B1, B2, niacin, B6,C and vitamin P. With its high iron content, beet juice regenerates and reactivates the red blood cells, and supplies the body with fresh oxygen. According to Dr.Fritz Keitel of Germany, " The juice of red beet strengthens the body’s powers of resistance and has proved to be an excellent remedy for anaemia, especially for children and teenagers, where other blood forming remedies have failed."
The anaemic person should commence the dietary treatment by an exclusive fresh fruit diet for about five days. During this period, he should take three meals of fresh juicy fruits at five-hourly intervals. This may be followed by fruit and milk diet for about 15 days. In this regimen, the meals are exactly the same as for all-fruit diet, but with milk added to each fruit meal. The patient may begin with two pints the first day and increase by half a pint daily upto four or five pints a day. After the fruit and milk diet, the patient may gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet based on three basic food groups, namely seeds, nuts and grains vegetables and fruits.