In Western medicine, physicians generally consider anemia to be a sign of another condition. Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is very common. It is the most common cause of anemia among menstruating women. In addition, up to 50 percent of pregnant women are iron deficient. Without adequate iron, the human body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, a substance contained in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body tissues.
Causes of iron deficiency anemia include chronic blood loss due to ulcers; heavy menstruation; internal bleeding of any cause including colon cancer; malabsorption of iron due to gastric bypass surgery or other intestinal problems; and increased demands for iron such as those that can occur during pregnancy.
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin, lips, and eyelids
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Difficulty concentrating
- Chest discomfort
Diagnostic techniques depend upon what is thought to be causing the anemia. For simple cases related to iron or vitamin deficiency, the diagnostic process may be very straightforward, starting with a few blood tests. When doctors suspect that it may be related to a more serious condition, the diagnostic process may be more in-depth involving stool sampling, urine analysis, endoscopy, colonoscopy, imaging studies, a bone marrow biopsy or genetic testing.
Western Medical Treatment
Treatment for IDA usually includes iron supplements as well as dietary changes. Raising iron levels in the body takes time (up to six months) and should be monitored carefully by a physician. Occasionally, iron injections may be necessary if the patient's condition does not improve with oral treatment.
Treating Iron Deficiency Anemia
using Chinese Medicine
The treatment of IDA using Chinese medicine is based on what we call "Differential Diagnosis". It is a process that involves a very thorough assessment of signs and symptoms in order to generate an accurate and specific diagnosis. In Chinese medicine, a specific set of symptoms is referred to as a "pattern". A common pattern for IDA is what we call "blood deficiency". A person can have one or more patterns occurring at the same time in the body. The pattern of "blood deficiency" can be the result of another pattern known as "spleen qi deficiency". Each patient is treated based on his/her pattern diagnosis.
In Chinese medicine, treatment is aimed to address not only the symptoms of a disease but the cause. The primary modalities used to treat patterns associated with IDA are Chinese herbs, acupuncture, massage, and diet. Customized herbal formulas and acupuncture can be used to build blood and qi, stop bleeding, regulate menstruation, and improve digestion without any unpleasant side-effects. Massage has been shown to help increase red blood cell count as well as increase circulation. A diet rich in iron and vitamins along with with a few suggestions for improving digestion is very important to a successful treatment.
Combining Western Medicine
and Traditional Chinese Medicine
The integration of Western Medicine and Chinese medicine is the most optimal approach to treating IDA. Your physician and acupuncturist can work together to provide you with a complementary treatment plan that is both safe and effective.
Establishing Open Communication
If you have been diagnosed with IDA and would like to be treated using Traditional Chinese Medicine, don't be afraid to tell your doctor. Most doctors are open to alternative medicine. I would be happy to contact your physician and explain the treatment options available.
If you would like further information, don't hesitate to call Ellie at (847)864-6464.