Anemia is a condition in which the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells (cells that carry oxygen to your body). It is easily diagnosed by a blood test called a hematocrit (part of a routine blood count).

The tricky, but important, part is determining the cause of the low blood count and correcting it when possible.

Causes of Anemia

Although there are many potential causes of anemia, these are the more common causes.

  • Nutritional Deficiency

    • Iron Deficiency

      This can be determined with a blood test called a "Ferritin Level" test. The problem? The normal range is insanely inappropriate and misses about 90% of cases. If the ferritin level is under 60, I recommend treatment for low iron — and if chronic illness is present, treatment should begin if ferritin is under 100. Most doctors (and lab forms) consider anything over 12 to be normal, not realizing that using this "normal" level simply says you're not in the lowest 2% of the population.

    • Vitamin B12 Deficiency

      B12 deficiency is usually a result of poor absorption (called pernicious anemia, where B12 injections are recommended), poor stomach acid, or being vegan.

    • Other Nutritional Deficiencies

      Other deficiencies, such as deficiencies in folate, vitamin B6, copper, and others, can cause anemia.  For these, simply taking a high potency multivitamin works better than testing.

  • Low Thyroid or Testosterone

    If low thyroid or testosterone are the causes of anemia, the levels will usually be so low that the abnormality will show up in tests. Treating a low normal testosterone, though, will help raise the blood count, and can be helpful for anemia

  • Chronic Illness

    This can suppress blood cell production.

  • Genetic Blood Conditions

    Genetic blood conditions can cause anemia.

  • Blood Loss

    Most physicians are familiar with what tests to perform, but often not as familiar with how to interpret the results.  I will focus here on what to do that your physician may not be aware of.

Treating Anemia

Most physicians are familiar with what tests to perform, but often not as familiar with how to interpret the results. I will focus here on what to do that your physician may not be aware of.

Recommended Supplements

  • Multi-Nutrient Powders

    Overall nutritional support is essential, and a good multi-nutrient powder is a simple way to provide it.  This will take care of many often missed nutritional deficiencies (low B6, copper, zinc, B vitamins, etc).

  • Iron and Vitamin C

    If the blood test for iron (called a "ferritin" test) is under 100, and anemia is present, take iron 30 mg with vitamin C 100 mg daily till the ferritin is over 100 (the ferritin test is considered "normal" if over 12, missing about 90% of those with iron deficiency).

Other Therapies & Advice

  • Optimize Testosterone Levels

    Men should optimize testosterone levels to bring their total testosterone level above 500.

  • Treat Underlying Inflammation

    Treat underlying inflammatory conditions and illnesses. 

  • Treat Bleeding

    Heavy menses can be caused by low thyroid or low iron, even if the labs are “normal”, so I optimize these. Your doctor can check for blood in the stool. It is very reasonable to consider a colonoscopy, especially if over 45 years old!

Contributor: 

Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is a board certified internist and author of the popular free iPhone application “Cures A-Z,” which was ranked in the top 10 of all health/wellness downloads on iTunes. Dr. Teitelbaum is the author of the perennial bestseller From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin), which has sold over half a million copies; Pain Free 1-2-3 (McGraw-Hill); Three Steps to Happiness: Healing Through Joy (Deva Press); the Beat Sugar Addiction Now! series (Fair Winds Press);  Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale Press); The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution (Penguin/Avery); and his latest, The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction (Fair Winds Press, 2015).