- Discuss the relationship between anemia and colitis. Anemia means deficiency and iron anemia is the most common nutritional anemia in the world. Iron anemia is a frequent finding and complication in those with colitis or inflammation of the colon. The inflammatory process causes micro- or macroscopic blood loss that causes the anemia. Treating the anemia is not treating the problem and is a frequent error by nutritionists and even doctors. The chronic inflammatory process of colitis causes blood loss in the intestines that may or may not be seen in the stool. The stool might appear darker brown and sink to the bottom of the toilet and/or some small or even large amounts of blood can also be seen. The blood of colitis could appear like coffee-grounds or may be bright red. Managing the inflammatory and healing process will result in healing of the intestinal tissue and thus no more loss of blood.
- Why/how do they affect each other? Chronic or acute iron anemia is the most common anemia of autoimmune inflammatory disorders. Most often colitis is of autoimmune origin. Symptoms and signs of iron anemia may include, fatigue and malaise, muscle aches and pains, heart palpitations, reduced oxygenation of body tissue that may impact overall healing, brain fog or difficulty thinking, increased risk of heart attack, lightheadedness and other symptoms. The relationship between iron anemia and colitis is that the colitis manifests as inflammation of the colon which impacts iron loss; this is a vicious cycle that deserves both medical and nutritional attention.
- Do anemia and colitis have any of the same symptoms or are they very different? Please discuss. A person with colitis may have gas, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, blood in the stool, mucous in the stool plus all of the symptoms of iron anemia stated above. If the iron anemia has resulted over many months a person may compensate and not have any signs or symptoms of iron anemia. Colitis often results in an overall loss of wellness in the affected individual. Virtually any symptom may result from anemia, as blood supply to organs is body wide.
- If you have anemia or colitis, are you more prone to getting the other condition? Iron anemia causes can range from poor diet (lacking iron); it may be secondary to the inflammatory process form dozens of diseases and health conditions including colitis; from a vegetarian diet inadequate in iron, etc. Colitis does predispose specifically to iron anemia, but there are nearly a dozen other forms of anemia such as protein and B-vitamin anemia that also commonly occur with iron anemia.
- What are some treatments for a person with both anemia and colitis? The cause of the anemia must be treated. Iron supplements and iron containing foods (either plant based or animal based) are almost always appropriate, but the practitioner must be careful not to jump into iron supplementation of any form without first knowing for sure the extent and cause of the anemia – otherwise, one might mask a bleed or more serious problem that may concurrently exist with the colitis or anemia. Remember, anemia is merely a symptoms and not a disease; it always has another cause(s). If the cause of the anemia is autoimmune colitis then the tradition treatments mainly include: steroids such as prednisone and chemotherapeutic agents such as 5FU or methotrexate. Many other treatments for colitis, and its resulting iron anemia exist, and are determined on an individual basis but will include powerful anti-inflammatory immune-suppressive medications. There is also surgery for extreme cases of colitis.
- What are some coping strategies for a person with both anemia and colitis? It is essential that the person be well-informed regarding colitis and anemia. They should know that there are successful treatments available. Coilitis and anemia are, generally speaking, well managed and do not have to rule someone’s life. However, the individual must accept that permanent lifestyle choices in terms of alcohol intake, diet, stress management and nutritional supplements are frequently necessary.
- Please recommend a patient to interview who has both of these conditions. The patient should be willing to provide their full name and a photo. Please provide the patient's phone number and e-mail address.
- Additional comments:
The use of fecal transplant can often cure colitis or help it measurably. I have written extensively on this topic and can send you an article I wrote. Also, the use of omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients such as probiotics including L. acidophis, L. bifiidus and saccromyces boulardii have been sufficiently researched. I have had great success with these and other treatments. Gluten removal is frequently helpful as well.
Dr. Michael Wald, Blood Detective, MD, MS, CDN
Director of Nutrition at Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, P.C.