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It is surprising how many people suffer from anemia and how many more who although they are not medically labeled as anemic, do not have enough red blood cells to be totally healthy and full of vitality. Symptoms of a low red blood cell supply are apathy, chronic tiredness, shortness of breath, irritability, headaches, dizziness and the poor functioning of the cells and various organs of the body, due to the lack of sufficient oxygen. The body is thus more susceptible to illness.
A person with less blood cells will usually tire more quickly than one with more red blood cells, because the red blood cells are responsible for carrying the basic source of energy – OXYGEN to all the cells of the body. No oxygen, no energy. No oxygen; no life. Let us consider what we can do to increase our blood cell count and vitality.
CAUSES OF ANEMIA
The causes of anemia are many, not completely understood in some cases, and perhaps a bit complex to be examined in this article. Let us take a simple and logical look at what some of the basic causes might be.
1. One basic cause is the failure of the body to create enough red blood cells. This may happen for various reasons.
a. There might be a malfunction, inertia, or disease in the red blood cell creation centers in the bone marrow, which prevents them from functioning at their optimum level.
b. There may be a lack of proper nutrients in the diet with which to form the red blood cells.
c. On the other hand, one may have sufficient nutrients in the diet, but because of the poor functioning of the digestive system, may not have the ability to properly absorb these nutrients. Also there may be lacking specific nutrients which are necessary for the proper absorption of iron and other minerals. Vitamin C is very helpful in such cases.
2. Another cause of anemia condition may be the loss of blood through internal or external hemorrhaging. Some women who lose much blood during their monthly period, tend to have low red blood cells counts, because their bodies cannot produce red blood cells as fast as they tend to lose them.
3. Sickle cell anemia or Mediterranean anemia, as it is called in Greece, is exactly the opposite condition. The body produces red blood cells, but they tend to be defective and the spleen destroys them very quickly, leaving the blood stream seriously insufficient in red blood cells. In such cases, one should never take iron tablets as in other types of anemia, because the body is already toxified by an over dose of iron which has been salvaged from the broken down red blood cells in the spleen. People who have this disease (not the stigma) need to take blood every month, and usually do no live very long, as they eventually die of over doses of iron which settle into their organs and paralyze their functioning.
SOME NATURAL SOLUTIONS
There are various approaches through which an anemic person can start to revitalize his blood and his life. These will of course depend on the actual cause of his problem. So before he takes any steps, he should be clear about WHY HE DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH RED BLOOD CELLS. Once he understands the cause of his problem, then he can employ a combination of the following approaches:
1. INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF RED BLOOD CELLS CREATING NUTRIENTS IN THE DIET. All anemics should examine their diet and see that they are taking foods which will help their bodies to produce red blood cells. With the exception of those who have Mediterranean anemia or its stigma, other anemics should ensure an abundant quantity of iron, vitamin C and vitamin B12 in their diet. This can be done through Vitamin and mineral supplements or through eating foods which contain plenty of these nutrients.
Foods abundant in iron are: Raisins, all green leafy vegetables, spinach, lentils, broccoli, okra, squash, carrots, radishes, beets tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, apples, grapes, apricots, plums, strawberries, sunflower seeds, tahini, sesame seeds, peas, honey.
Foods abundant in Vitamin C are: Oranges, peppers, parsley, lemons, grapefruit, rose hips, raisins (black) apples, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes.
Foods with Vitamin B12 are: Milk, eggs, brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, kelp, bananas, peanuts, grapes, wheat germs and pollen.
In addition beet roots and beet tops tend to be very beneficial for anemics. The beets can also be taken as a juice with carrots. This is a healing and tonifying drink for all.
In addition one must be careful not to over eat. Overeating causes all the blood to go to the stomach and then there will be a lack of oxygen in other parts of the body. It is better to eat less but more frequently so as not to lose energy by overtaxing the digestive system.
As to whether meat or fish are necessary, I cannot form a definite opinion. According to orthodox medical advice, they are necessary but I know a number of people whose red blood cell count has drastically improved since they have become vegetarians. This may, however, be the result of the fact that they also practice physical exercises and breathing techniques regularly.
2. IMPROVE THE ABILITY OF THE BODY TO ABSORB THE PROPER NUTRIENTS
This can be done through taking Vitamin C and Vitamin B12 hydrochloric acid and maganese and doing various exercises, breathing and deep relaxation techniques which we will explain further on. You may want to check with your doctor to see if such supplement would be useful to you.
3. STIMULATE THE BODY’S RED BLOOD CELL PRODUCTION CENTERS
This too can be done through the techniques which will be given. It has been shown in research studies that regular practice of Yoga exercises increases the red blood cell count.
4. INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF OXYGEN GETTING TO THE LUNGS, through breathing techniques. Of course one should stop smoking so that the lung membranes wil be clean and the oxygen can more efficiently pass into the blood stream.
5. ECONOMIZE ON THE USE OF ENERGY. It is important that anemics do not waste energy unnecessarily. This will only tax their lungs and heart. Regular exercise is useful and healthy for maintaining health, but a great energy drain is anxiety and worry. The more calm a person is, the less energy he will lose in unconscious muscular movements and tension, and overworking of the mind.
6. INCREASE THE BLOOD SUPPLY TO THE HEAD, HEART AND LUNGS, so that these organs may function to their optimum ability. The following exercise, when performed daily, will keep the brain, heart and lungs very supplied.
7. VISUALIZE THE EFFICIENT PRODUCTION OF HEALTHY RED BLOOD CELLS.
Mental visualization may be a very effective tool in correcting anemic conditions. It has not been thoroughly tested yet, as to how much the blood cell production can be affected through positive mental visualization, but since we know that cancer cells have been destroyed and eliminated through such techniques, the possibilities are good. We hope to develop a research program with children with Mediterranean anemia this year to see if they cannot reduce the frequency with which they need to receive foreign blood, through such techniques.
TECHNIQUES FOR BUILDING UP THE VITALITY OF ANEMICS
The fact that yoga exercises can increase the red blood cell count has been shown in a number of research studies. One such study shows that those who were trained in yoga exercises had an increase of red blood cell count from 5.4 to 5.9 million cc after 6 weeks of training. During the same time period those who did ordinary gymnastic exercises experienced a drop of their count from 5.5 to 5.4
The following exercises may be useful to all anemics including those who have the Mediterranean stigma, but not for those who have the full Mediterranean anemia. Those in the last category can come into contact with us for a more simplified series of exercises which will not endanger an enlarged spleen.
Exercises should be done without food in the stomach once or twice a day.
1. UPWARD STRETCH – Stand with your feet together. Mesh the fingers of both hands together in front of you with the palms facing downwards. As you inhale raise your arms up over your head and stretch upwards. Hold your breath in that position. Then exhale as you bring your arms down in front of you again. Do this three to ten times according to your time and endurance. Do it slowly concentrating on your health. You can breath to the ratio 1:1:1:1 which means that the inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension should all be equal.
Benefits: Opens up the lung capacity. Removes tension stored inthe chest area. Stretches the spine upward freeing nerves which are compressed by vertebrae which are close together. Facilitates the emptying of the bowels.
2. SIDEWARD BEND – Stand with your legs apart about twice the breadth of your shoulders. With your right arm up in the air, inhale deeply while stretching slightly upwards. Now while holding the breath, bend to your left, letting your left hand rest somewhere on the side of your left leg. When you feel the need exhale bringing the body simultaneously back up to a standing position. Lift your left arm now, inhale and repeat the same movement to the opposite side while holding the breath. Be careful not to bend forwards or backwards. Imagine that you are standing between two walls, one in front of you and one in the back, so that you can bend only to the side. If you have a slipped disc or serious back problems, do not do this exercise.
Do it three times to each side.
Benefits: Tonifies the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, adrenals, glands and other visceral organs. Aids in emptying the bowels. Frees up the energy flow in the lower back and legs area.
3. STOMPING one foot and then the other on the floor, helps us to send a vibration into all the bones of the body and thus into the centers of red blood cell production. This should start out as a slow movement, consciously emphasizing the downward pulse of the foot as it hits on the floor. It can then gather momentum, simulating a Spanish dancer, who stomps his feet quickly in harmony with the music. Of course one should not overdo it or become exhausted. One can start with 10 stomping movements and gradually over the months increase it to 50.
Benefits: This vibration stimulates the bone marrow centers fo red blood cell production.
4. THE CAT – Support yourself on your hands and knees so that your body is like a table. As you inhale lift your head upward and your pelvis and buttocks backward so that your spine makes a curve downward. Hold your breath. Now exhale as you bring your head down and your pelvis and buttocks inward toward yrou head so that your spine curves upward like a cat when it is afraid or angry. Hold the lungs empty. Then inhale and make the opposite movement with the head up and the pelvis out. Hold. Exhale and bring the head down and spine upward. Do this as many times as you enjoy, without straining. (Three to ten times is sufficient).
Benefits: Releases the tension from the spine and neck. Stimulates the functioning of the adrenals, kidneys and liver Increases the efficiency of the digestive system.
5. SALUTATION TO THE EARTH. Sit on your knees. While inhaling, stretch your arms upward and backwards over your head. Hold your breath while holding the stretch. Now exhale bringing your arms downwards touching the mat and sliding forward, lifting the buttocks off the ground so that the things come up to a 90 degree angle with the earth. Remain in this position with the chin and chest approaching the mat, while holding the lungs empty (suspension). Feel the flexing in the upper back. Now, while inhaling, come back onto your knees, sit on them and stretch back again. Hold the breath in this position and then exhale coming downward and forward again. Continue this backward and forward movement as many times as suits you. (From three to ten times). Start with less repetitions and gradually build up to more.
Benefits: Tonifies the adrenals, liver and kidneys. Opens up the chest area and corrects the positioning of the vertebrae of the upper back. Stimulates the functioning of the thyroid. Brings blood to the lungs and heart. Corrects hunching shoulders.
6. PRAYER POSITION. Sit on your knees. Bend forward and place your forehead comfortably on the mat or floor. Adjust the position of your head and neck so that they are comfortable. If your buttocks can be resting on your calves, this is the optimum. If not, lift them as much as you need in order to rest your head on the floor. Otherwise, put a pillow underneath your forehead so that you are more comfortable. Those with stiff ankle joint may want to put a pillow underneath the ankles or between the ankles and buttocks. The position will gradually be made without these aids. Remain in this position, breath comfortably. This is a static position. There is no movement, only breath and relaxation. Remain for 3 to 10 minutes depending on how comfortable you feel.
Benefits: Blood flows to the neck, head, thyroid, pituitary, chest, heart and eyes. Relaxes the upper back and abdomen. Brings peace and rejuvenation.
7. HALF SHOULDER STAND. Place your mat or blanket close to a wall or any vertical surface. Lie down on your back, with your buttocks close to the wall and your legs resting upward on the wall. If you find it more comfortable, or want to bring more blood to the head and neck area, then place a pillow or two underneath the buttocks. Now there are various stages which one can perform according to his needs.
Inhale while simultaneously raising the arms up over the head and if possible placing them on the mat or floor behind you. Hold your breath in that position and then start exhaling as you bring your arms back down by your side. Do this ten times with a ratio of 1:1:1 which means that the inhalation, retention and exhalation of the breath are equal in duration.
Now inhale, hold your breath and turn your head as far as you comfortably can to the left. Hold your breath in this position. Then exhale as you return your head to the center. Do this to the ratio of breathing mentioned previously, three times to each side alternately.
After completing the previous stage continue to inhale, hold your breath and exhale slowly and deeply, with concentration on your breath. Do this until your breathing apparatus becomes tired. Make the breath as slow as you can, now making the square breathing (1:1:1:1) in which the inhalation, retention, exhalation and suspension are all equal. Do this for ten to twenty breaths.
When you become tired of breathing, then simply relax in this position. With your eyes closed, relax all the upper part of your body, with special attention to your shoulders, neck, head, face, cheeks, eyes and forehead. When the body is relaxed, you can imagine healing energy flowing into the organs which need help. Imagine light, love, peace and energy flowing into those organs and healing them. Consciously relax all your body. When the mind is relaxed and concentrated, begin to visualize your blood stream. Imagine or feel it to be deep red, full of red blood cells. Try to feel or see this as if it is NOW A FACT, A REALITY. Imagine also the centers in bone marrow where blood is being produced. Imagine that these production centers are producing abundant supplies of perfectly formed red blood cells. Imagine this for a few minutes. Then visualize yourself, your body in some activity, full of vitality, surrounded by a vibrant light. See yourself in a good mood, peaceful, healthy and full of energy.
Benefits: Blood flows down from the legs alleviating various circulatory problems of the legs. The blood flows through the lungs and takes more oxygen and then begins to flow into the neck, brain, pituitary gland, thyroid and parathyroid glands, through the liver, gall bladder, kidneys and all the organs of the upper part of the body. The muscles of the neck are relaxed, while all the organs are rejuvenated with a fresh supply of blood and oxygen.
If these exercises, breathing and relaxation are done everyday, I am quite confident that the quality of your life will improve. Move a test on yourself. Have your red cell count measured. Do the exercises for 2 months and then go back and check again to see if there is any difference. But you will probably not need to take a test to see the difference. You will feel it.
Give special attention to the breathing and deep relaxation. Do them with concentration. Do not rush to finish up your exercises. The time you spend will give you much more time in the form of the added energy you will have. You will become more efficient. If you have doubts about whether these exercises are safe for you, ask your doctor.