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Low Red Blood Cell Production

A deficiency in red blood cell production is the most common cause of anemia, and a lack of iron is the most common reason for low cell production. Iron is the basic atom of hemoglobin, the substance that gives blood its red color and is responsible for carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body. The normal level of iron in the body is 0.1-0.2 oz (3-5 g), depending upon one's sex and size.

Iron deficiency occurs as the result of inadequate intake of iron, loss of iron in young women of childbearing age through menstruation and child bearing, impaired absorption of iron, which may occur following removal of part of the stomach and small intestine, or because of a chronic loss of low volumes of blood within the digestive system through polyps, cancer, or ulcerations brought on by excessive aspirin intake.

Old and nonfunctional red blood cells are culled from the blood stream by the spleen. The cells are destroyed and the iron molecule within the hemoglobin is transferred back to the bone marrow for reuse, a classic example of recycling. Red blood cells that escape the body, however, take iron with them. Of the usual iron intake of 10-20 mg daily in the diet, about one or two mg is absorbed to replace lost iron. Absorption is increased in women who are menstruating or are pregnant.

People with iron deficiency anemia will have abnormally small red blood cells and low hemoglobin levels even though the total red blood cell count may be normal. Supplementary iron intake may resolve the problem, but surgery may be necessary if the underlying cause is a polyp or other area bleeding internally.

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