Anemia: Another Complication of Anorexia

What is Anemia?

Anemia occurs when the body’s red blood cell (RBC) count is low. This can be due to either the body’s inability to make new red blood cells, a large loss of blood, or a situation in which red blood cells are being taken away faster than they are being put back. In circumstances where someone has an eating disorder, anemia can result. If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, anorexia treatment is available in most eating disorder residential programs. These anorexia treatment facilities have been proven very beneficial in recovery as well as in preventing further relapse from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia.

A singe red blood cell can live up to 100 days and is responsible for transporting oxygen to the entire body. Production of these cells occurs in bone marrow. If something goes wrong in this process the body reacts with weakness, fatigue and a lowered body temperature, among other complications. Anemia can either occur very quickly or slowly develop over a long period of time. The longer anemia takes to develop, the more chronic it is.

Approximately 2 to 10% of the U.S. population has anemia, although that rate is low compared to other countries. Women have a greater risk for developing anemia than men do. Teenage girls, pregnant women, toddlers and athletes are the primary groups of women at high risk for low iron levels. Vegetarians are also often at risk for this problem due to their diets, which often do not include enough iron.

Those with anorexia experience disordered eating by severely reducing the amount of food they eat. Such restrictions make it difficult for them to maintain a balanced diet and eat enough vitamins and minerals. There are many benefits to attending an anorexia treatment center. In fact, by seeking eating disorder treatment you may be able to prevent the development of anemia in your own life.

Symptoms of Anemia

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue and feelings of weakness
  • Reduction of weight
  • Pain in the abdominal or chest area
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Dark, tarry, or bloody stool
  • Pale skin
  • Depression
  • Poor school and work performance
  • Increase in one’s spleen size
  • Dizziness
  • Heart murmur
  • Change in heart rate
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Numbness of one’s hands and feet
  • Change in breathing patterns
  • Headaches
  • Anger, easily frustrated
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin)
  • Decrease in blood pressure

These symptoms occur slowly over a long period of time. Many people do not even notice their presence. All of these problems occur due to a lack of red blood cells in the body. The heart must work at a quicker pace in order to pump these oxygen-filled cells to the entire body. This is why the heart beat is often much faster in someone with anemia. In order to avoid such symptoms, seek eating disorder treatment today.

Causes of Anemia

While an eating disorder is one possible cause of anemia, there are also numerous other reasons anemia can occur. Poor nutrition however, is often the underlying cause of most of these reasons. Additional causes for anemia include:

  • Disease – These diseases may include kidney disease, liver disease, cancer and sickle cell disease, among others. Kidney disease is probably the most common disease associated with anemia.
  • Pregnancy – Often, the red blood cell count in the body decreases during pregnancy. The gaining of water weight is often the reason for this.
  • Blood loss – Bleeding as a result of heavy menstruation, surgery, a stomach ulcer or injury may result in an iron deficiency as iron is contained in blood.
  • Alcohol Use – Because alcohol does contain much in the form of nutrition, vitamins or minerals, too much of this substance and too little of other foods and beverages can create anemia.
  • Family History – Some families have hereditary problems concerning iron deficiencies. As a result certain members are more prone to developing anemia.
  • Other Reasons – A few other complications which may result in anemia include certain infections, arthritis, thalassemia and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency.

By eating a well-balanced diet and foods which contain iron or help the body absorb iron, many people can help to prevent this disorder. Another prevention method for those with an eating disorder like anorexia is to seek anorexia treatment at an eating disorder treatment center before you or your loved one’s eating disorder gets any worse.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.