Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the stomach that produce a substance called intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12 from food. Without sufficient vitamin B12, the production of healthy red blood cells is impaired, leading to anemia.
Common symptoms of pernicious anemia includes –
• pale skin
• shortness of breath
• tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
• difficulty walking
• a swollen or inflamed tongue.
In severe cases, neurological symptoms such as –
• memory loss
Causes & Risk Factors –
The primary cause of pernicious anemia is an autoimmune reaction in which the body’s immune system attacks the cells in the stomach that produce intrinsic factor.
However, certain factors can increase the risk of developing pernicious anemia, such as
• family history of the condition
• certain autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes or Addison’s disease
• gastrointestinal surgeries or conditions that affect the stomach or small intestine
• a vegetarian or vegan diet lacking in vitamin B12
Pernicious anemia is considered a type of megaloblastic anemia, which is characterized by the production of abnormally large and immature red blood cells.
If left untreated, pernicious anemia can lead to various complications, including
• nerve damage
• neurological problems
• increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
The diagnosis of pernicious anemia involves a series of tests, including
• Complete blood count (CBC) to check for low red blood cell count and abnormally large red blood cells, a blood smear to examine the shape and size of the red blood cells
• Tests to measure vitamin B12 levels in the blood.
• Additionally, tests may be conducted to check for the presence of antibodies that target intrinsic factor.
The treatment aims to replenish the vitamin B12 stores in the body and alleviate symptoms.
• The conventional treatment for pernicious anemia involves regular injections of vitamin B12 to bypass the impaired absorption in the digestive system.
• In some cases, oral vitamin B12 supplements may be prescribed. The treatment aims to replenish the vitamin B12 stores in the body and alleviate symptoms.
Ayurvedic Perspective and Treatment –
According to Ayurveda, pernicious anemia can be attributed to an imbalance in the Pitta and Vata doshas. Ayurvedic treatment focuses on restoring the balance of these doshas through dietary changes, herbal supplements & lifestyle modifications.
Ayurveda emphasizes a balanced and nutritious diet to support the body’s natural healing processes. In the case of pernicious anemia, foods rich in vitamin B12 should be incorporated into the diet. This includes animal-based sources like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may need to consider alternative sources of vitamin B12, such as fortified plant-based milk or B12 supplements.
▪︎ Herbal Remedies
Certain herbs are believed to support blood health and boost vitality in Ayurveda. Some herbs that may be beneficial in managing anemia include:
• Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): It is known for its rejuvenating and immune-enhancing properties. It may help improve energy levels and support overall well-being.
• Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): This herb is considered a natural blood tonic and may help increase hemoglobin levels.
• Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa): It is believed to support liver function and help in the production of healthy blood cells.
▪︎ Lifestyle Modifications: Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to promote overall well-being. This includes managing stress levels, getting adequate rest, and engaging in regular exercise. Stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga may be beneficial in supporting the body’s healing processes.
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