Often, when testing a patient’s blood during their annual examination, we order a complete blood count. Sometimes, often unexpectedly, we discover anemia. Anemia is a reduction of red blood cells or a lack of hemoglobin. You can be anemic due to loss of blood. That is why anemia is more common in women – they have periods and lose blood every month. In men, and women after menopause, anemia is uncommon but when discovered, needs a full investigation.

Is the patient losing blood? If they do not have a period, then the gastrointestinal tract is the next place to explore. The stool can be tested for bleeding. If there is blood in the stool, then we will want the gastroenterologist to inspect the stomach and the colon. With endoscopy, they can often peak inside the beginning of the small intestine (the duodenum) to confirm ulcers. Likewise, the colonscopy can pass into the terminal ileum (the end of the small intestines) and verify no masses are near the appendix. While the small intestine remains an organ that evades direct evaluation, blood loss from the small intestine is rare but when the source of anemia, very symptomatic with pain and bowel changes.

Anemia can also be due to a lack of sufficient dietary iron. It is important to consume iron-rich foods. This can be lean meats or beans. Luckily, dark chocolate is very rich in iron. Most breakfast cereals are fortified with iron but if they are your main source of iron, always drink the milk at the end because most of the fortified vitamins are sprayed onto the cereal. Additionally, one of the easiest ways to treat – and prevent – iron deficiency anemia is to cook in cast iron pots and skillets.

If you already have pots and pans then you can make a simple purchase of an IronFish. Cooking with the Lucky IronFish has reduced iron deficiency anemia in the developing world. While most American households have plenty of food, the pantry and fridge may not be stocked with foods rich in iron. If there are small children in the home, cooking with the IronFish can add iron to pasta and soups and most Vegan diets. Having children take iron fortified vitamins can also provide the dietary iron but also can cause constipation.