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Tips for preventing anemia

Anemia occurs when there are too few red blood cells in the blood. A complete blood count (CBC) can determine whether anemia is present.

Women who have heavy and prolonged periods may develop anemia, because the body cannot produce blood as fast as it is being lost. Your body needs iron to make new blood cells. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 18 mg. You may need to increase your iron intake to 20 mg a day if your periods are heavy or prolonged.

Your diet is the best source of iron. It is better for you to eat a balanced diet than it is to take dietary supplements. Red meats, shellfish, eggs, beans, and green leafy vegetables are the best sources of iron.

Other good sources of iron include:

  • Clams [canned drained, 3 oz (85.1 g)]
  • Oysters [3.5 oz (99.2 g)]
  • Shrimp [3.5 oz (99.2 g)]
  • Beef liver [3 oz (85.1 g)]
  • Lean beef [3 oz (85.1 g)]
  • Lentils (uncooked, 1 cup)
  • Green peas (uncooked, 1 cup)
  • Spinach (uncooked, 1 cup)
  • Raisins (1 cup)
  • Prunes (10)
  • Enriched wheat bread (1 slice)
  • Egg (1)
  • Iron-enriched cereals (1 cup, read label for exact amounts)

Cooking in iron cookware will add small amounts of iron to the food.

Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron. Be sure your diet includes 250 mg of vitamin C a day.

Consider using a nonprescription iron supplement (such as ferrous sulfate) or a multivitamin if you are unable to meet your need for iron through your diet. For more information about iron, see the topic Healthy Eating.

You may become constipated when you are taking an iron supplement. To avoid constipation:

  • Increase dietary fiber.
  • Eat plenty of fruits.
  • Drink at least 2 to 4 extra glasses of water a day.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised February 9, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 09, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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