Anaemia is a general term under which a number of different conditions are classified. It is a disease in which the levels of haemoglobin in the peripheral circulation are lower than normal. The two most commonly recognised types of anaemia are caused by:
Iron Deficiency Anaemia
It is caused by a lack of iron, often due to blood loss or during pregnancy as well as a lack of iron in the diet. Aside from blood loss during pregnancy, bleeding in the stomach and intestines is the most common cause of iron deficiency. This may be caused by long term use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflmmatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin, stomach ulcers, inflammation of the bowels or less commonly in cases of bowel or stomach cancer.
Common symptoms can include: tiredness and a lack of energy, sometimes leading to chronic fatigue syndrome, shortness of breath, palpitations and pale skin. Other less common symptoms may include headaches, tinnitus and hair loss.
Folate Deficiency Anaemia
This occurs when there is a lack of vitamin B12 or vitamin B9 (folate) in the body, causing it to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly. It is most commonly caused by pernicious anaemia, where the immune system attacks stomach cells, preventing absorbtion of vitamin B12. A deficiency in either vitamin can cause the following symptoms:
- Extreme tiredness and lack of energy
- Pins and needles
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle weakness
- Memory problems
- Psychological issues including depression and mental confusion
Treating Anaemia with Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine acknowledges that anaemia is the result of an iron deficiency, but whereas Western doctors might prescribe iron supplements, the view in Chinese medicine is that the body gets all the iron it requires from a properly balanced diet, therefore a TCM practitioners’ first concern must be to restore the body’s own ability to absorb the iron effectively, by restoring the function of the Spleen.
In Chinese medicine, the cause of anaemia can be attributed to the following clinical patterns:
Spleen Yang deficiency resulting in the poor transformation and transportation of Qi is regarded as the most common cause. In TCM, it is commonly treated using a well known formula called Gui Pi Tang (Restore the Spleen Decoction).
A similar Chinese medicine treatment for anaemia can also be helpful for women who suffer from sickness or constipation through taking iron supplements during pregnancy, as it does not cause the side-effect of constipation. The herbs used enable the body to absorb and maintain iron, restoring haemoglobin to normal level. Pregnant women should always seek the advice of a doctor before taking any medicines.
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