Is It Safe To Drink Coffee If You Are Anemic?

When you have anemia, you might have to avoid certain food and drinks to maintain your health. This is because some foods can make it harder to absorb vital minerals like iron. Some people believe that coffee is unsafe to drink if you have anemia. Whether that's true or false, it's best to have a good understanding of what causes anemia in the first place. Anemia is a condition that arises when the body does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin (via Mayo Clinic). Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. When there is not enough hemoglobin in the blood, the body's tissues do not receive enough oxygen, which can lead to several health problems, like anemia.

In fact, there are several types of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia, for starters, is caused by a lack of iron in the body. Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, and a lack of iron can lead to a decrease in the number of red blood cells. Vitamin deficiency anemia or Pernicious anemia is caused by a lack of vitamin B12 and folate in the body. Along with iron, these vitamins are also important for the production of red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia can include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat.

Can people with anemia drink coffee?

Caffeine, which is found in coffee, can affect those people with anemia, according to a 2018 study published in the Chonnam Medical Journal. After all, coffee contains some ingredients which might affect the absorption of certain nutrients. In addition, higher caffeine intake was associated with lower serum ferritin levels in adults of Korean descent. In other words, iron is found in ferritin, a type of blood protein, and low ferritin levels could indicate a lower-than-normal iron supply (via Mayo Clinic).

However, drinking coffee with a bread-based meal decreased iron absorption by 60% to 90%, explains a 1999 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. In fact, some types of anemia are associated with dehydration (per Medic8). When the body is dehydrated, it can decrease the amount of blood volume, leading to a decrease in oxygen delivery to the body's cells, per the Mayo Clinic. This might further worsen the symptoms of anemia. Therefore, those with anemia should do their best to avoid the drink altogether (per Healthline). 

Best food and drinks when you have anemia

Fortunately, if you have anemia, various coffee substitutes exist. The experts at Healthline recommend drinking prune juice and green juices containing spinach. In addition, focus on foods high in iron, explains Medical News Today. Some examples of iron-rich foods include meat and poultry, such as beef, lamb, and liver. Fish, like salmon and tuna, lentils, kidney beans, and black beans, are also good sources of iron. As for fruit and vegetables, be sure to pick up spinach, kale, broccoli, and citrus fruits. Citrus fruits, like oranges, contain vitamin C, which also helps with iron absorption, as per the University of Virginia Health.

Overall, eating a balanced diet is essential. However, It's vital to consider other factors contributing to anemia, like bleeding (per Medical News Today). Therefore, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of anemia and tailor your diet accordingly.