General malaise as well as some more frightening symptoms of anemia like a swollen tongue, and ringing in the ears, could be signs of the illness. Here are some home remedies that might save you a trip to the doctor.
Home Remedies From the Cupboard
Blackstrap molasses. Consider covering waffles or pancakes in a little molasses. Blackstrap molasses has long been known as a nutritional powerhouse. Containing 3.5 mg of iron per tablespoon, blackstrap molasses has been used in folk medicine as a "blood builder" for centuries.
Dry cereal. Fix yourself a bowl of your favorite cereal (go for one without the sugar and the cartoon characters on the box), and you'll be waging a battle against anemia. These days, many cereals are fortified with a nutrient punch of iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid (check the label for amounts per serving). Pour some milk over your flakes, and dig in.
Home Remedies From the Refrigerator
Beef liver. Beef liver is rich in iron and all the B vitamins (including B12 and folic acid). In fact, beef liver contains more iron per serving -- 5.8 mg per 3 ounces -- than any other food. Other animal sources of iron include eggs, cheese, fish, lean sirloin, lean ground beef, and chicken.
Beets. Beets are rich in folic acid, as well as many other nutrients, such as fiber and potassium. The easiest and most flavorful way to prepare beets is in the microwave. Keep the skin on when cooking, but peel before eating. The most nutrient-dense part of the beet is right under the skin.
Spinach. Green leafy vegetables contain loads of iron and folic acid. We're talking dark and green (iceberg lettuce, for example, is mostly water and is of little nutritive value), so choose your leaves carefully. Spinach has 3.2 mg of iron and 130 mcg of folic acid per 1/2 cup.
If you're a vegetarian or have cut way down on your intake of meats, milk, and eggs, you are at greater risk for anemia caused by nutritional deficiency because iron from plant sources isn't absorbed as well as iron from animal sources; also, vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal foods. Be sure that you're getting adequate amounts of iron and vitamin B12 in your diet.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C at the same time that you eat whole grains, spinach, and legumes. This will increase absorption of the iron in these foods.
- If you drink coffee or tea, do so between meals rather than with meals; caffeine in these beverages reduces iron absorption.
For more information about anemia and how to combat it, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To learn more about how Vitamin B12 can help you avoid anemia, read How Vitamin B12 Works.
- Folate found in spinach and other vegetables can help protect you against anemia. Read about these food sources here in How Folate Works.
- For more tips on the different types of vitamins that can help you lead a healthy lifestyle, visit our main Vitamins page.
Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.
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