Anemia Part 1: Iron Deficiency

Jennifer Rackley Health Pro
  • Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.  It occurs when the body has too little iron to produce the hemoglobin needed to transport oxygen through the blood stream.  Some of the symptoms of anemia include: pale skin, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, leg cramps, trouble sleeping, weakness, irritability, pica and shortness of breathe or chest pain with exercise.


    In IBD there are several different reasons for why an iron deficiency can occur.  One reason may be due to inadequate intake.  People with IBD may limit a lot of the foods that are iron rich because they are no longer palatable.  Another problem is that the iron may be poorly absorbed in people with IBD.  This is especially true for patients with Crohn's disease or those who have had surgery to remove portions of their GI tract.  Iron levels can also be decreased in those with bleeding from the GI tract or another area.

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    It is very important to eat a diet that contains iron rich foods when you have IBD.  There are different types of iron in food.  Heme is the iron that is found in meats and is the most bioavailable form.  Non-heme iron is found in plants and requires vitamin C to aid in absorption.


    Some good sources of heme iron include: meat poultry and fish.  Non-heme iron is naturally high in beans, lentils, split peas and spinach.  It can also be found in many fortified grains and cereals.  It is important to include a vitamin C rich food with non-heme sources.  Some foods high in vitamin C include: orange juice, broccoli, red and green bell peppers, strawberries and tomatoes. (


    There are also certain foods that can decrease your body's ability to absorb iron.  Some of these things include coffee, tea and high fiber foods containing phytates.  It is also important not to take your calcium supplement at the same time as iron because it can also reduce the absorption. (


    Discuss iron levels, anemia and supplementation with your physician.  Iron deficiency anemia can be treated with the proper intervention and it can dramatically improve quality of life.

Published On: July 07, 2008