Selena Gomez is “exhausted” and “malnourished”

Last week Wizards of Waverly Place actress, pop singer, and current Justin Bieber girlfriend, Selena Gomez was hospitalized after her appearance on the Tonight show. At the time she complained of nausea and a severe headache. After running some tests, the 18-year-old was back  on stage Monday for a Santa Monica Place show she had cancelled because of her illness. Gomez told reporters at the concert:

“I was just very malnourished, so I was low on iron and exhausted.”

So, here we have a young starlet, malnourished enough to get anemia. Is anyone surprised by this?

What Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

The term “anemia” usually refers to a condition in which your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells. In a person with anemia, the blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. The most common cause of anemia is not having enough iron. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives the red color to blood. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Iron-deficiency anemia usually develops over time if your body doesn’t have enough iron to build healthy red blood cells. Without enough iron, your body starts using the iron it has stored. Soon, the stored iron gets used up.

After the stored iron is gone, your body makes fewer red blood cells. The red blood cells it does make will have less hemoglobin than normal.

Iron-deficiency anemia can cause fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms.Severe iron-deficiency anemia can lead to heart problems, infections, problems with growth and development in children, and other complications.

What Causes Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

Blood Loss

When you lose blood, you lose iron. If you don’t have enough iron stored in your body to make up for the iron loss, you’ll develop iron-deficiency anemia.

In women, low iron levels may be due to blood loss from long or heavy menstrual periods or bleeding fibroids in the uterus. Blood loss that occurs during childbirth is another cause for low iron levels in women.

Internal bleeding (bleeding inside the body) also may lead to iron-deficiency anemia. This type of blood loss isn’t always obvious, and it may occur slowly. Some causes of internal bleeding are:

  • A bleeding ulcer, colon polyp, or colon cancer
  • Regular use of aspirin or other pain medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (for example, ibuprofen and naproxen)
  • Urinary tract bleeding

Blood loss from severe injuries, surgery, or frequent blood drawings also can cause iron-deficiency anemia.

Poor Diet

The best sources of iron are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and iron-fortified foods (foods that have iron added). If you don’t eat these foods regularly, or if you don’t take an iron supplement, you’re more likely to get iron-deficiency anemia.

Vegetarian diets can provide enough iron if the right foods are eaten. For example, good non-meat sources of iron include spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, certain types of beans, dried fruits, and iron-fortified breads and cereals.

During some stages of life, such as pregnancy and childhood, it may be hard to get enough iron in your diet. This is because your need for iron increases during these times of growth and development.

Women of childbearing age are at increased risk for iron-deficiency anemia because of blood loss during their monthly periods. About 1 in 5 women of childbearing age has iron-deficiency anemia.

Inability To Absorb Enough Iron

Even if there’s enough iron in your diet, your body may not be able to absorb it. This may be due to intestinal surgery or diseases of the intestine, such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease.Prescription medicines that reduce acid in the stomach also can interfere with iron absorption.

What is the treatment for Iron-Deficiency Anemia?

Treatment for iron-deficiency anemia will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. Treatments may include dietary changes and supplements, medicines, and surgery. Severe iron-deficiency anemia may require treatment in a hospital, blood transfusions, iron injections, or intravenous iron therapy.
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes foods that are good sources of iron may help you prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Taking iron supplements (as your doctor prescribes) also may lower your risk for the condition if you’re not able to get enough iron from food.

For more information about iron deficiency anemia, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

 

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

1 Comment

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