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Eat Your Spinach: Dealing With Anemia

Eat Your Spinach:
Dealing With Anemia

What is anemia?
How do you get anemia?
What are the symptoms of anemia?
How can I find out if I have anemia?
How do you treat anemia?

What is anemia?
If you have anemia, it means that you have fewer red blood cells in your blood than normal. It's also called low blood count. Your red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to every part of your body. If you don't eat enough iron-rich foods, you won't have enough iron to make all the red blood cells you need. Your blood count will be low and you may feel tired and worn out. The most common cause of anemia in teens is too little iron. This is called iron-deficiency anemia and is the kind of anemia we're talking about here. back to top

How do you get anemia?
You get it by not having enough iron in your blood. You take iron into your body by eating foods that contain lots of it. Many foods have iron, such as beef, liver, spinach, and dried fruit. These foods might not be favorites for some girls, so they may not get enough iron in their diet. Teenagers need extra iron because they are growing. Regular periods increase the need for iron even more. For all these reasons, many girls are anemic. back to top

What are the symptoms of anemia?
Most girls who have anemia have no symptoms. Those who do often have vague symptoms like tiredness and weakness. In severe cases of anemia, you might have irritation of the tongue or sores at the corners of your mouth. Pica is an unusual sign of anemia. A pica is a craving to eat a non-food substance. People who have iron-deficiency anemia might develop a craving for starch, ice, or even clay. Exactly why this happens is unknown. back to top

How can I find out if I have anemia?
You should have a blood test each year at your regular check-up to make sure that you don't have anemia. Between check-ups, if you are feeling unusually tired, you should call your health professional. She or he may do a blood test to see if you are anemic. back to top

How do you treat anemia?
The best treatment for anemia is to eat a healthy diet that contains iron-rich foods. These foods include beef, eggs, spinach, and red vegetables, especially red peppers. Not everyone can get enough iron that way, so your health professional may recommend iron pills. Iron pills work very well, but they can upset your stomach for a little while. They are less likely to bother your stomach if you take them with food.

You may need to have your blood tested again in 1 to 3 months to see if the red blood cells and iron have increased. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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