The Role of Nutrition Support in Preventing and Managing Anemia

Author: Megan Hall, Registered Dietitian

Managing Anemia and Nutrition Support

An anemia diagnosis is presented with many different symptoms and causes. One thing that remains consistent, however, is the role of nutrition support in preventing and managing anemia. Certain medications and chronic health conditions can increase your risk of developing anemia. As a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS), I help people with chronic conditions manage their nutrition to prevent iron deficiency and live easier, healthier and happier.

Anemia and Chronic Conditions

While there are different types of anemia, this condition occurs when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. Anemia can be the result of blood loss, genetics and other factors. Chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and others can increase your risk of developing anemia. If you are diagnosed with a chronic condition, ask your doctor if you have a higher risk of becoming anemic.

The Importance of Testing Your Iron Levels

If you think you have anemia, it’s important to get your iron levels tested. The amount of iron each person needs depends on gender, age and other health factors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that men consume 8 mg of iron each day. For women ages 19 to 50 years old, NIH suggests 18 mg. Women 50 years and older are advised to get 8 mg of iron each day. Having too much or too little iron in your diet can lead to health complications.

Medication and Iron Supplements

If you are diagnosed with anemia, you may be prescribed supplements or medications to help you manage this condition. Always follow your prescription. Do not adjust your medication or take nutrition supplements without talking to your healthcare team. Tell your pharmacist at HPS about all your medications, including over-the-counter medications and nutrition supplements.

Good Nutrition to Prevent Anemia

Anemia can be temporary or it can be a long-term condition, depending on the type of anemia diagnosed and individual health factors. Either way, good nutrition is an important part of preventing and managing anemia. Eating a balanced diet can prevent iron deficiencies. If you are at risk of developing anemia, talk to a registered dietitian about how to get the nutrients your body needs. HPS patients can schedule a personalized consultation with me, registered dietitian Megan Hall.

Sources of Iron in Foods

Iron is a mineral that’s naturally found in the foods you eat every day. However, if you’re low in iron, you may need to pay more attention to the iron level in your food. Learn which foods have high levels of iron and be intentional with your grocery selections. There are many common, iron-rich foods. Your body absorbs more iron from meat sources than it will from plant sources. If you have low iron, make sure to include turkey, chicken and lean beef into your diet. Dark green, leafy vegetables, including broccoli, kale and spinach, are other common examples of iron-rich foods. Here’s is a list of iron-rich foods I often recommend to help people increase their iron levels. When you’re shopping at your local Hy-Vee grocery store, ask the registered dietitian on staff to help you find iron rich food options.

Foods that Improve Iron Absorption

In addition to foods that are rich in iron, you may want to ask a dietitian about foods that help with iron absorption. Foods with vitamin C can increase iron absorption. Look for simple ways to combine iron-rich foods with sources of vitamin C. For example, adding tomatoes and peppers to your kale or spinach salad provides a nutrient-rich meal to help you manage anemia. Vitamin A from carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges and other common foods can also help iron absorption.

Foods that Interfere with Iron Absorption

While it’s important to eat foods that are high in iron to help manage anemia, it’s also important to know which foods to avoid or limit. Calcium is important for bone health, but it may interfere with your body’s iron absorption. Some whole grains, cereals and soy products have an acid called phytate. Phytate or phytic acid can reduce iron absorption, so talk to your doctor about limiting the phytic acid in your diet. Coffee and tea, especially black tea, can block iron absorption. It’s best to avoid these drinks at mealtimes. It’s helpful if you drink your coffee or tea a few hours before or after you eat. If you are anemic, ask your doctor or a registered dietitian to help you get nutrients you need from your diet. He or she will recommend foods to eat and foods to avoid based on your unique dietary needs.  

Managing Anemia with Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions

At Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions (HPS), one of the ways we help people manage anemia and chronic conditions is by offering personalized nutrition support. If you have questions, schedule a personalized consultation with me, registered dietitian Megan Hall. Together, we’ll build a nutrition profile to meet your unique dietary needs and help you live easier, healthier and happier.