Anemia is defined as the iron deficiency in your body that occurs when the count of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) decreases. These RBCs contain hemoglobin that is essential to bind oxygen within the blood. As the count of RBCs decreases, the capacity of blood to hold oxygen also decreases. Since oxygen is a necessary element for the proper functioning of the body, anemia affects the performance of each and every organ. It is a common problem that people tend to suffer from these days.
Vegetarianism anemia is a disorder that occurs when people avoid consuming meat and other dietary products and continue to take a vegetable-only diet for many reasons. Anemia (iron deficiency) can be one of the reasons for people to give up on animal products too, including milk, eggs, honey, etc.
But research studies have concluded that anemia can affect both meat consumers and vegetarians alike. A study recommended that having a balanced and well-organized vegetarian diet plan can provide the right amount of iron that your body needs in a day.
Types of Anemia
Although there are numerous types of anemia, iron deficiency is the most common type. Consuming iron-rich foods is very important to maintain your health. Iron deficiency or low iron consumption may lead to lower levels of hemoglobin which eventually affects the overall oxygen supply in your body.
The human body reserves a large quantity of iron in the spleen, liver, and bone marrow and uses it whenever there occurs any deficiency.
There are three stages of iron deficiency:
- Stage1: Iron deficiency with no visible symptoms
- Stage2: Embryonic iron deficiency with reduced performance
- Stage3: Anemia
Myths and Truths
It is true that iron deficiency affects vegetarians more than non-vegetarians.
Vegetarians tend to avoid consuming meat, fish, eggs – the main sources of iron and Vitamin B12. These two elements play a vital role in formation of red blood cells in our body.
The reason for not consuming animal products may be religiously, ethically, healthily wrong for vegans. But still, they can compensate for iron deficiency by consuming a balanced diet. They can also consume different iron-rich vegetables in their diet to stay healthy. Moreover, they can consume leafy greens, sunflower seeds, beans, and pumpkin seeds in their daily diet to get rid of iron deficiency. All these vegetables contain more iron content than meat.
Ironically, dairy products do not come with iron-rich constituents.
There are many other reasons that can lead you to suffer from anemia apart from the iron deficiency that is not related to any of your diet preferences.
Conditions where consumption of iron increases
In certain conditions, you must consume iron-rich foods and iron supplements to remain healthy. These conditions may include but are not limited to:
- Pregnancy: for feeding and growth of the fetus
- Rapid growth spurts: during the early stages of childhood when the body structure tends to develop
- Heavy menstruation: may lead to excessive blood loss
- Viral infections: for example, HIV or hepatitis causes anemia
- Antibiotic and prescription drugs: including blood thinners and other medications that may often lead to iron deficiency, for example, aspirin, warfarin
- Exposure to toxic chemicals: including pesticides and insecticides
- Chronic and slow blood loss: mainly due to cancer, angiodysplasia, peptic ulcer, or a colon polyp
- Genetic disorder: that may occur due to the absence of a particular gene, abnormal red blood cells, or fragments
What can be done to get over iron deficiency?
If you consume a vegetarian diet, then you can serve yourself with iron-rich foods including dry fruits, peas, green vegetables, spinach, beans, iron-fortified pulses, broccoli, and raisins. These food items suffice your daily iron intake. You can consume them regularly to combat iron deficiency.
You can also ask your doctor to suggest iron supplements along with a customized diet to boost your iron intake.
In conclusion, all we can say is that there are many reasons associated with anemia, irrespective of your dietary intake. So, if you are concerned about your vegan diet, it’s high time to make some tweaks in your daily diet to overcome iron deficiency.