Anemia & Weight Loss


Anemia, a Greek word which means “without blood,” is a disorder that affects more than 3 million people in the United States. It is a condition with many causes that can bring serious implications to the health of those afflicted with it. Weight loss is one of the most common symptoms associated with anemia.

doctor talking to young man
doctor talking to young man (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)


Anemia is a deficiency of healthy red blood cells. Several underlying conditions can cause anemia, including pregnancy, a lack of vitamin B-12 or folicacid, irregular red blood cells, and heavy bleeding. No matter what the cause, the resulting condition is the same--a deficiency of healthy red blood cells. The most common form of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. Iron is essential to hemoglobin production, so a lack of sufficient iron in the body’s system leads to a shortage of red blood cells.

red blood cells
red blood cells (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)


In most cases, anemia is a condition that develops over a long period of time, according to the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms may at first be so mild as to be easily dismissible. But as the anemia becomes more chronic you may experience any combination of symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, jaundice, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, tongue inflammation, feeling cold (especially in your extremities) or strange cravings (a condition call pica). Pica is the craving for nonfoods, or the urge to eat or chew on substances which offer no nutritional value. Ice, corn starch, dirt, paper and chalk are a few of the more common cravings associated with pica.

older woman speaking with doctor
older woman speaking with doctor (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)


Weight loss is a possible outcome when anemia causes a loss of appetite. Weight loss is a medically recognized indicator of anemia, but some sufferers of this condition actually claim to experience weight gain instead of loss. Weight gain is not typical of this disorder, but if a lack of energy due to fatigue leads to diminished physical activity in the absence of appetite loss, weight gains could be explained.

weight scale
weight scale (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)


When you suffer from a shortage of red bloods cells, your heart has to work harder to transport oxygen throughout your body to burn the energy so vital to all your body’s activities. Over time this can have a cumulative harmful effect on your heart. The loss of appetite sometimes caused by anemia can lead to even more severe malnutrition than the mere lack of iron. An experience of fatigue may make it very difficult to muster the motivation to be physically active and thus lead to other health complications.

man turning down food
man turning down food (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)


The treatment for anemia depends upon the cause. Sufferers of celiac disease, for instance, are susceptible to anemia because of their body’s inefficiency at absorbing the nutrients they consume. This is due to the damage on the lining of their small intestine brought about by an intolerance for foods that contain gluten. Treatment for anemia in this instance has to include the gluten-free diet recommended for celiac sufferers, in addition to the recommended treatment for iron deficiency anemia. Iron supplements are usually suggested for iron deficiency anemia, taken in conjunction with vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron.

box of iron supplements, vitamin C and other medications
box of iron supplements, vitamin C and other medications (Image: Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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