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Types of Anemia

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Did you know that not all anemia is iron-related? In fact, iron--deficient anemia may be over-diagnosed. Before you start taking iron supplements to counteract anemia, find out more about the types of anemia and the best treatment methods for each type listed below.

While you might think all cases of anemia are caused by a lack of iron, there are actually several types of anemia triggered by a variety of factors. Iron deficient anemia is just one kind of anemia among a sea of others.

Treating the wrong source of anemia will not only not fix the issue, but it might cause more problems than it cures. This is why it is important to find the right cause of anemia (or multiple causes).

Read on to learn more about the types of anemia.

What Is Anemia, Exactly?

Anemia is a condition where the balance between red blood cells, hemoglobin, and plasma are out of balance. In healthy blood, plasma makes up about 55 percent of your blood. It contains hormones, nutrients, proteins, and electrolytes.

The rest of your blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Without enough healthy blood cells, your body is oxygen-deprived and starts showing the symptoms of a slow, suffocating death. If left to continue, anemia will cause major health problems, including heart problems and brain problems.

Healthy blood contains between 4.7 and 5.2 million red blood cells per cubic millimeter of blood. Each cell contains 280 million hemoglobin molecules. When anemia strikes, however, your red blood cell count may be severely reduced or made wrong, which can have equally disastrous results.

Types of Anemia

The most common types of anemia are listed below.

Genetic Anemia

A few people are born with iron deficiency. One common type is caused by a nutrition of the Nramp2 gene, which regulates a protein that delivers iron to your body's cells. This mutation makes it nearly impossible to absorb iron properly. Other individuals simply have a harder time absorbing nutrients (often caused by genetic digestive disorders). A third form of anemia is triggered by genetic mutations of red blood cells, such as sickle cell disease.

Usually, if genetics are a factor, you will identify the root cause before anemia symptoms get too serious. However, if you have a relative who has been diagnosed with nutrition-related anemia, you might want to get your levels checked just in case, as trouble absorbing nutrients can pass through family lines.

Anemia of Chronic Disease or Chronic Inflammation

ACD or ACI are two forms of anemia that are triggered by chronic cases of other diseases and health problems. This type of anemia is usually triggered by excessive inflammation. In both of these conditions, red blood cells do not live as long and there is usually a reduced production of the hormone in the bones that triggers healthy production of hemoglobin and red blood cells.

  • ACD Triggers


  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Heart failure
  • Long-term infections (HIV, hepatitis C)
  • Liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease


Treatment-Dependant Anemia

If you have certain other health conditions, one of the side effects of treatment might be anemia. Anemia is highly common during cancer treatments. Individuals who are receiving treatment for AIDS or hepatitis C may also suffer from treatment-induced anemia as treatments make it harder to absorb nutrients.

Anemia-Causing Medications

Antibiotics Antiseizure medication Immunosuppressant drugs antiarrhythmic medications anti-clotting medication Megaloblastic Anemia Megaloblastic anemia is a type of anemia that occurs when you have too few B vitamins in your body. Usually, megaloblastic anemia is caused by deficiencies in folic acid and B12. This results in red blood cells that are too big that do not last as long. The hallmark of megaloblastic anemia versus iron anemia is that megaloblastic anemia often triggers mental problems, including trouble with clear thinking, memory, and concentration.

Megaloblastic Anemia

Megaloblastic anemia results from deficiencies in the B vitamins folate or vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin). Such deficiencies produce abnormally large (megaloblastic) red blood cells that have a shortened lifespan. Neurologic problems may be associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. In most cases, this form of anemia is caused by B12 deficiencies from long-term deficiencies in B12.

The body can hold about a three-year supply of B12, so most cases of diet-related B12 deficiencies occur after someone has not eaten enough B12 for several years. Typically, only the most malnourished people will be this deficient in B12, but it is likely that even small deficiencies in B12 can contribute to unhealthy red blood cells. A few other factors, including an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines, gastrointestinal complications, surgery, and certain diseases can also limit a body's B12 intake.

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia is caused by an autoimmune disease. This is the most common reason for a deficiency in B12. This anemia is triggered by impaired production of IF, which is a compound necessary to absorb B12. Pernicious anemia is more common in individuals who are over age 60 and women (particularly elderly women).

Folate Deficiencies

A low level of folate (also known as B9 and folic acid) can trigger anemia. Your body can only hold about a three-month supply of folic acid. The most common cause of a folic acid deficiency is poor diet combined with alcohol abuse. Pregnancy can also cause deficiencies in folate.

Other conditions, including intestinal diseases and trouble with the absorption of nutrients, will also lead to folic acid deficiencies. A few medications can also interfere with folic acid absorption.

Reversing Anemia with Vitamins

The easiest way to reverse anemia naturally is to boost nutrient intake. Once you rule out medically-based and genetic causes, the only cause of anemia is nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in iron, folic acid, and B12 will cause the most obvious symptoms, but a few other nutrients also help produce healthy, strong blood cells that live a normal life. 

Supplements for Anemia

Studies have found that when these nutrients are taken in conjunction with one another, they are far more likely to be effective than one simple supplement alone.

Anemia from Nutrient Deficiencies is Reversible

Although one main nutrient may be the cause of most of your anemia symptoms, boosting nutrient intake for all of the blood-building nutrients is the key to producing, healthy, strong red blood cells filled with the right balance of hemoglobin. Add these nutrients to your diet today in supplement and food form to reverse anemia and stop it from returning for good.





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