Anemia and menstruation: risks and treatments for iron deficiency

Anemia is characterized by an abnormal drop in hemoglobin levels in the blood. The most common form of anemia is iron deficiency. A deficiency of vitamins B12 and B9, a chronic inflammatory disease or bone marrow dysfunction can also be signs of anemia. According to the WHO, anemia affects 25% of the world's population. Women are the most affected.

Why do we talk about anemia during menstruation?

As mentioned above, anemia is a recurrent menstrual disorder in women, who are more affected by this deficiency than men. Why is this so? Quite simply because menstruating women experience regular blood loss during each hormonal cycle: menstruation.

Heavy, long periods, such as menorrhagia, can be responsible for iron deficiency. This is because bleeding from the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, reduces the red blood cell content. Symptoms include paleness, fatigue and dizziness.

What are the symptoms of anemia?

First of all, there are several types of anemia.

  • Iron deficiency anemia: this is the most common anemia. It is caused by an iron deficiency or poor absorption of iron by the body. It may be due to a deficient diet or heavy menstrual periods.
  • Anemia is caused by a lack of vitamins B12 and B9. These vitamins enable the production of red blood cells.
  • Anemia linked to a chronic illness such as Crohn's disease or cancer
  • Hemorrhagic anemia, caused by bleeding. This occurs when a large quantity of blood leaves the blood vessels. This can occur after childbirth, or due to gastric or intestinal problems.
  • Finally, there are rarer cases of anemia, notablyaplastic anemia, when the bone marrow fails to produce sufficient red and white blood cells and platelets.

We will concentrate oniron-deficiency anemia, which is particularly common in menstruating women.

Anemia is thought to affect between 4% and 8% of women of childbearing age. Some people are more prone to anemia than others.

  • People following vegetarian diets
  • People with heavy or prolonged menstrual periods
  • If you are breast-feeding or pregnant
  • Older people: intestinal absorption disorders are more frequent with age.
  • People suffering from chronic illnesses
  • People exposed to radiation through multiple x-rays or their professions
  • People with serious viral diseases that affect the immune system

There are many symptoms:

  • pronounced, continuous fatigue
  • Pale complexion
  • Headaches and headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Soft, brittle nails
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating and thinking

How is anemia treated?

If you are prone to these symptoms, you can ask your doctor to carry out a blood test to determine your hemoglobin level. Depending on your diagnosis, your healthcare professional may consider a number of treatment options, such as taking iron-rich medical supplements.

How can I prevent anemia during my period?

Fortunately, anemia during menstruation is not inevitable! There are several ways to prevent the risk of anemia.

Eat iron-rich foods

The first solution is to eat iron-rich foods, to limit the loss of iron during menstrual flow. This trace element falls into two categories:

  • haem iron (from blood products such as meat and fish), with an absorption rate of around 25%.
  • non-haem iron (from plant or dairy foods: cereals, fruit, vegetables, etc.), which is more difficult for the body to absorb, at 10%.

Our bodies are made up of around two-thirds haem iron, which is found in the following foods:

  • red meat, but also poultry, offal, black pudding...
  • fish, octopus...
  • seafood such as mussels and clams

Non-heme iron has a low bioavailability, but is present in products necessary for a balanced diet, such as :

  • legumes: lentils, coral lentils, white beans,
  • tofu
  • pumpkin seeds
  • certain green vegetables (green beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts), as well as seaweed
  • dark chocolate

Take dietary supplements

If a change of diet isn't enough, it's possible to take dietary supplements, or even medication, to restore iron levels in the blood. This solution is often prescribed in cases of ferritin deficiency.

Avoid drinking tea or coffee after meals

Finally, avoid tea or coffee at all costs after eating. These beverages prevent the body from absorbing the iron contained in food: you risk iron deficiency during menstrual bleeding due to poor assimilation! Conversely, the famous vitamin C is said to play a positive role in theabsorption of non-heme iron when taken at the same time as these foods, as it improves its bioavailability.

FAQs on anaemia during menstruation

What are your periods like when you're anemic?

People with anemia often have longer, heavier periods. Menstruation is therefore not a happy time for people with low hemoglobin levels, since the effects of menstrual bleeding are all the more pronounced. But this is not always the case, and the deficiency may have another origin!

What are the dangers of anaemia during menstruation?

Anemia linked to menstruation is quite common. It causes symptoms that are more or less disabling in everyday life. If you suffer from an excessively abundant or even hemorrhagic menstrual flow, consult your doctor! It may conceal an underlying pathology.

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