Anemia and Lupus: What You Need To Know


  • Anemia and Lupus are rooted in the same problem: inflammation.
  • Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that manifests in many different symptoms. Today we are talking specifically about the symptom of Anemia.
  • A significant percentage of Lupus sufferers also develop Anemia. Research suggests there is a connection: inflammation.
  • Anemia of Inflammation is commonly misunderstood as Iron Deficiency Anemia, which leads to potential issues with the gold-standard treatments for Anemia, according to research.
  • Purified bovine lactoferrin has been shown to improve symptoms of Anemia of Inflammation.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans and an estimated 5 million people worldwide, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. While Lupus mainly develops in women of childbearing age (roughly around 90% of sufferers are women) it can also develop in children, teenagers and men.

Lupus is a systemic disease–meaning it manifests locally but affects the whole body rather than a single organ. There is a complex interplay among several of the body’s important signaling pathways, which can result in a diverse range of symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Transient rash
  • Kidney complications
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia.


Anemia: A Review

Anemia is a blood disorder in which bone marrow fails to produce sufficient hemoglobin to meet the bodies demand for oxygen.

When the proinflammatory cytokine Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is overexpressed (meaning it is present in higher than normal levels) it triggers the liver to produce a small protein (peptide) known as Hepcidin.

Hepcidin subsequently blocks the body’s ability to move iron from storage in cells to the blood for delivery to the bone marrow where hemoglobin is made. For long decades we have mistakenly called this Iron Deficiency Anemia. The vast majority of people are not iron deficient but instead have iron sequestered in tissue due to aberrant inflammation.*

For women the common threshold for the diagnosis of Anemia is when the hemoglobin content in one deciliter (10th of a liter) of blood falls below 11 grams. That threshold in men is 12 grams.* Accordingly, anemia can run a full spectrum of severity, often falling to 9 grams and lower.

The Connection Between Anemia and Lupus

The scientific literature says that 50% of people with Lupus are Anemic, but does not elaborate on whether or not those 50% experience the same severity of Anemia. It is quite likely that they do not.

Anemia is very common in Lupus, and for some patients it is a constant feature of the disease.  For others it comes and goes with disease flares.

We view anemia in Lupus as classically Anemia of Chronic Disease (ACD). This type of anemia is commonly called Anemia of Inflammation, and inflammation is the connecting factor of Lupus and Anemia of Inflammation. It is also possible that there is a direct relationship between fatigue in Lupus and in Anemia.

The Research: Treating Anemia of Inflammation With Purified Bovine Lactoferrin

Valenti et al conducted several clinical studies in several hundred pregnant women treating for iron-deficiency anemia (which in view of study results is now specifically considered to be Anemia of Inflammation). Highly purified bovine lactoferrin was the “treatment” and ferrous sulfate (iron) was the control supplement.


The Results:

  • These studies demonstrated a significant increase in hemoglobin in anemic pregnant women in a 30-day period. Most of the subjects were given 200 mg of bovine lactoferrin daily, and others were given up to 400 mg daily. While this amount is sufficient for daily supplements, other investigators in different disease settings have given up to 6,000 mg daily without observation of any toxicities or adverse reactions.
  • Lab results also demonstrated the increase in Interleukin 6 (IL-6), a proinflammatory cytokine, with iron supplements but IL-6 decreased with lactoferrin supplements. This is because Iron, a readily oxidisable substance, is quite clearly inflammatory.
  • The investigators also conducted the identical study in non-pregnant women with the same results, demonstrating that the results are completely independent of pregnancy.


Lupus frequently manifests with what is commonly called a “coagulation disorder” and more specifically known as Acquired Thrombophilia. Lupus sufferers with this condition can experience abnormal blood clots such as deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks or strokes.  Valenti et al studied the use of bovine lactoferrin in anemic pregnant subjects with a similar condition known as Hereditary Thrombophilia (Factor V Leiden) and reported very similar results in terms of hemoglobin response.

Researchers also reported a striking difference of miscarriage and late pregnancy loss between the women treated with bovine lactoferrin (0 pregnancy losses) and oral iron supplementation (8 pregnancy losses). You can read their study results here.

These studies have provided a large body of evidence on both the safety and efficacy of highly purified bovine in resolving anemia during pregnancy and anemia of inflammation by non-drug, natural means. For more information about these studies, read about their findings related to Pregnancy Associated Anemia.  

Patient Tips For Treatment With Purified Bovine Lactoferrin

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that 250mg of purified bovine lactoferrin can be taken twice daily to treat symptoms of anemia of inflammation.

However, Lupus is a difficult and complicated disease. For this reason patients should always be careful with “self medicating” by using nutritional supplements. As with any supplement, there are some precautions patients should take before adding purified bovine lactoferrin to a regular treatment plan:

  • Talk To Your Physician First – If you are interested in taking purified bovine lactoferrin to treat symptoms of anemia of inflammation associated with Lupus, talk with your physician before using supplements.
  • The Best Patient is a Well Educated Patient – There is no known cure for Lupus, and we may not have many tools to manage the symptoms, so do what you can to educate yourself about the disease and treatment options educated patient.
  • Monitor Your Symptoms – It is advised that patients carefully monitor their other Lupus symptoms and that they immediately stop taking lactoferrin if any of their symptoms worsen.



About Purified Bovine Lactoferrin

Purified bovine lactoferrin is a versatile supplement that can relieve symptoms associated with:

  • GI-Tract Issues including diverticulitis
  • Compromised immune health
  • Damage related to aging
  • Anemia

The effectiveness of purified bovine lactoferrin depends on the purification process of the supplement. Acacia Purified Bovine Lactoferrin is produced with extremely careful purification processes and is virtually free of endotoxin.  

Additional Notes and Disclaimers

1* This view of anemia is not universally accepted.  Many physicians still prefer to have their anemic patients take iron supplements to raise their hemoglobin, which it frequently does. If you can tolerate oral iron and get by the cramps and constipation that is a workable solution.

2*Scientists differ on the exact threshold for anemia, with many defining it as 13.5 and 13.0 grams respectively.

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