by Rida Rahman
Growing up Muslim in America and going out to eat, there were always very limited options. This is because we are only allowed to eat meat that is slaughtered a certain way. Then when I started working at Panda Express, there were no options for me to eat, and it sort of grossed me out seeing all of the meat on the steam table. I had to prepare raw meat and cook it; the smell eventually got to me. This was when I decided to go vegetarian and completely cut out meat or seafood from my diet. I started noticing that I became weak and would get headaches more often than usual. When I brought this up with my mom, she said it was due to my lack of iron intake and becoming vegetarian. My mom also mentioned that anemia is a common disorder in her family; she had it, her mom had it, and her sister had it. My mom had warned me about taking care of myself to ensure I was healthy, but I started feeling very weak when I became a vegetarian. Not long after, my doctor diagnosed me with anemia and said that if I continued being vegetarian, I needed to supplement my iron one way or another.
Iron deficiency anemia is a condition where there is not a sufficient amount of healthy red, blue cells in the body, caused by lacking iron (1). Iron deficiency anemia is a pretty common nutritional disorder, with WHO research stating 80% of the people in the world suffer from this disorder (2). Many religions and cultures cannot eat red meat, which contains a lot of iron. This problem alone is not that severe but, if left untreated, can lead to multiple health problems like heart issues and irregular heartbeat. (3) Furthermore, women can experience complications during pregnancy that lead to premature births and low birth weight. (1) Women experience this disorder more commonly than men due to blood loss during menstruation (1). In addition, premature infants are at higher risk, especially those infants who aren’t supplied with the proper amounts of iron from their formula or their mother’s breast milk. (1) According to statistics, 30% of both women and children are reported to be iron deficient. (6) Furthermore, research shows that African Americans are three times more likely to develop iron deficiency anemia than the white race. The symptoms include lethargy, fitness, and headaches. (2) When these symptoms are present, especially in children, it is crucial to get diagnosed by a doctor and get the proper treatment and recommendations to help increase iron levels. (3)
Iron therapy is a treatment for iron deficiency anemia, which can be given to children and pregnant women. (4) Another procedure available to help treat iron deficiency is to get red blood cell transfusions—this procedure is an immediate solution for severely anemic individuals. (7) In addition, ensuring a sufficient amount of iron is included in one’s diet is crucial. Including food like spinach, beans, dried fruit, and nuts are suitable for vegetarians and a variety of diets. (3) Not only are high iron diets beneficial to treating anemia, including high vitamin C can boost iron levels. (3) Foods like grapefruit, kiwi, tomatoes, and oranges are high in vitamin C. Another route to increase iron levels is by taking supplements that are suitable for various religious and cultural restrictions. (7) Iron supplements can be incorporated into one’s daily life to boost levels. They can be bought at many locations over the counter for easy access. (3) A non-profit organization that focuses on different iron disorders is Iron Disorders Institute. (5) They are an organization that educates and provides resources for the public about iron deficiency to prevent deaths. (5) Iron Disorders Institute headquarters is located in South Carolina and has been a non-profit organization since 1998. (5) Furthermore, they focus on educating individuals and bringing awareness to iron disorders and treatments. (5) In addition, this organization has informative videos to help those struggling with this disorder. (5) This organization has many products and services they provide right at the hands of those in need. They have published various articles, pamphlets, fact sheets, and books with vital information on treatment, iron deficiency disorders, and more. (5) All of their work is reviewed medically through their board members. (5) Not only do they have information, but they also help those in need by outreach to physicians and clinics nearby to get the help and treatment they need. (5) They also can match patients with specific clinics to meet their needs. (5) Through their services and outreach programs, they are able to screen hundreds of thousands of people for iron disorders. (5)
To help prevent iron-deficient deaths, donate any amount to Iron Disorders Institute. This will help fund their research and ensure they are able to publish their work to help save lives. In addition, donations help them supply iron tests for the at-home diagnosis of this disorder. Donations are used to print and publish their materials, maintain their website, and guarantee they are providing factual and helpful information to those in need. (5) Donating to the institution will ensure they are well funded to extend their services and products globally to tackle iron deficiency anemia in every part of the world.
1)“Iron Deficiency Anemia.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 Jan. 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034.
2)“Anemia.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/anaemia#tab=tab_1.
3)Short, Matthew W., and Jason E. Domagalski. “Iron Deficiency Anemia: Evaluation and Management.” American Family Physician, 15 Jan. 2013, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0115/p98.html.
4)“Vision/Mission.” Iron Disorders Institute, https://irondisorders.org/visionmission-statement/.
5)“Are We Underestimating the Prevalence of Iron Deficiency?” Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 3 Sept. 2021, https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/are-we-underestimating-prevalence-iron-deficiency.
6)“Iron-Deficiency Anemia.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/iron-deficiency-anemia.
7)Le, Chi Huu Hong. “The Prevalence of Anemia and Moderate-Severe Anemia in the US Population (Nhanes 2003-2012).” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 15 Nov. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5112924/#:~:text=Another%20potential%20risk%20factor%20is,than%20in%20Whites%20%5B14%5D