What dietary history should be obtained in patients with suspected anemia?

Updated: Nov 26, 2019
  • Author: Joseph E Maakaron, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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A thorough dietary history is important in a patient who is anemic. This history must include foods that the patient eats and those that he/she avoids, as well as an estimate of their quantity. A meal-by-meal description is necessary to obtain appropriate estimates. Even then, patients frequently attempt to deceive the physician because of embarrassment regarding dietary idiosyncrasies or financial restrictions. In these circumstances, having a close and concerned family member participate in the dietary history can often be helpful, because this person is usually more objective than the patient.

Specifically question patients regarding consumption of either clay or laundry starch. This history will not be provided spontaneously. These substances render iron less absorbable. Changes in body weight are important with regard to dietary intake and can suggest the presence of malabsorption or an underlying wasting disease of infectious, metabolic, or neoplastic origin.

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