In her late 20s, Sherina Kirabo used to constantly feel dizzy with blurred vision. Whenever she went to hospital, the doctor would ask her to do a complete blood count. Results usually showed that she was anaemic, but not to the level of needing a blood transfusion.
Sometimes the doctor would prescribe iron tablets, and other times, he would advise her on what she needed to eat to prevent anaemia. Kirabo says she was always told to eat vegetables such as spinach, in addition to meat, millet and beans.
What is anaemia?
Iron deficiency anaemia, is a condition where by lack of iron in one’s body causes them to produce less red blood cells thus, have less than enough blood for normal body functioning, explain Dr. Henry Ddungu, a consultant haematologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute.
Iron is used to produce red blood cells, which help to store and carry oxygen in the blood.
Ddungu says there are several other causes of anaemia, such as sickle cell disease, chronic bleeding and some cancers, like leukemia. However, he adds that iron- deficiency anaemia is the most common form on anaemia.
It’s a common condition, especially among children and women of child- bearing age.
In Uganda, by 2001, up to 71% of children under the age of five and 37% of women of reproductive age were anaemic, according to Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS). Five years later, the situation become even more dire, 73% of children below the age of five were anaemic and so were 42% of women of reproductive age.
In 2012, the prevalence of anaemia among pregnant women in Uganda is 31% according to information from the World Health Organization.
People prone to anaemia
According to Adakun Lemarine Okiror, the pharmacist in charge of Rene Industries, groups of people prone to anaemia include pregnant women, especially those who do not maintain a balanced diet rich in iron.
Okiror says pregnant women should endeavor to prevent anaemia because iron deficiency during pregnancy will result into having a baby with low birth weight.
He says the birth weight of a new born baby is a true indication of the baby’s intelligence and quotient (IQ), its future health potential and it is a known fact that proper iron supplementation during pregnancy results in higher birth weights in newborn babies.
Other people prone to anaemia include:
Women of child-bearing age (15 to 46) because of the monthly periods. Those who experience excessive blood loss are more prone.
People with improper food habits and imbalance food consumption, leading to slow and steady development of anaemia.
People, especially young children, who suffer from hookworm infestation and frequent episodes of malaria.
Those who bleed in the gastro-intestinal tract, e.g. people with duodenal or stomach ulcers or cancer.
People suffering from hemorrhoids (piles). This is because they usually lose blood and become anaemic over a period of time.
People with kidney disease
People who lack iron in their diet for example vegetables.
How to manage anaemia Drugs
If you are struggling with anaemia, fortunately for you, there are drugs on the market that can address the challenge, like reniron syrup and capsule.
“This formulation uses ferrous salt, which has definite advantages for the anaemic and Vitamin/mineral deficient people. More importantly, reniron offers the right amount of iron and vitamins, as compared to other products available for the same indication, “says Okiror
He argues that ferrous salts are easily absorbed and are recommended by the World Health Organization as proposed to ferric salts. However Okiror not about warns: “it is not about just taking drugs, though. People should avoid self-medication and need to consult with a physician before embarking on taking any drugs.
Prevention of anaemia
In addition to taking iron supplements, for example among pregnant women, anaemia can be prevented by maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in iron.
According to Jamiru Mpiima, a nutrionist, iron in food is found in two forms; haeme and non-haeme iron. Haeme iron is found primarily in animal products while non haeme iron comes mainly from plants. Mpiima says haeme iron is better because it is easily absorbed by the body.
Dr Ramim says animal sources of iron include beans, nuts, green vegetables have non-haeme iron, which is not easily absorbed by the body. He adds that plants can contain tiny traces of haeme iron, but not enough to ultimately make a difference in one’s efforts to fight off anaemia.
For Vegetarians, Mpiima advises that one adds dietary supplements, and these are readily available in pharmacies.
“if you are a vegetarian, you need to see a specialist before you take in any supplements. If you are a pregnant woman or living with sickle cell disease, some supplements can have devasting effects. That is why you need to always see a doctor before you consume any supplements.
Okiror urges anyone to consult a nutritionist before they start taking iron supplements, noting that too much haeme iron in that diet can increase the risk of disease for some people with abnormal iron metabolism.