Chlorosis: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

It was first described in the 16th century as anemia often found in teenagers and young women.

Chlorosis was also known as the green disease.

Despite the recommendation of specialists in the 17th century that the condition is treated with iron supplements, chlorosis was classified among the hysterical diseases.

In the late 19th century, the incidence of chlorosis increased. It became an essential topic in the medical literature, but the true nature of the disease remained unknown.

Many doctors believed that it resulted from a nervous disorder that affected various organ systems, including the blood-forming organs.

Iron medication became popular due to its therapeutic value, but its mode of action was controversial.

Stockman, in 1895 proposed that chlorosis was the result of a nutritional deficiency of iron, but his opinion was ignored for decades.


After World War I, the incidence of chlorosis declined, and the disease became unreported in the 1930s.

A century ago, a woman’s clothing, job opportunities, and living conditions collectively impacted her health.

The lack of understanding of the actual medical needs of women was due to a lack of information and research; living in this medical vacuum, women suffered.

The conspicuous absence of doctors treating women at the end of the last century compounded the serious misinformation and the lack of data.

In this setting, a popular and trivializing diagnosis frequently projected on women was characterized by terms such as “hysteria” and “nerves” that fell under the umbrella of neurasthenia.

Chlorosis was widespread among young women, affecting the delicate and not the strong.

In the first decade of the last century, it was discovered that chlorosis affected not only those in “the highest strata of society” and observed that the servants, who, as a rule, remain immune to it.

However, sewists and girls who work in factories, mainly those who had to live in poorly ventilated rooms and who, because of their work, were forced to remain in an unnatural position, also suffered from this disease.

Causes of chlorosis

The causes of chlorosis were multiple, but a significant factor was the drive to achieve a notorious hourglass figure and then endure the consequences of figure enhancement methods.

Women as covet today’s tiny cropped waists as they were a century ago.

The moment women observe that the scale moves and see the measurements increase in their bodies, a process begins where it does not matter to starve, count calories, diet, exercise, or anything to return to the figure of tiny feminine waists.

A century ago, the corset was quite effective in achieving this goal, the corset was designed to create an hourglass figure, but in doing so, it also put pressure on vital organs, preventing breathing, causing stomach problems, cancers, or tumors in the breasts.

It caused faulty circulation, poor health, and injury to the fetus. No wonder women had spasms, nervous prostrations, and seizures.

The natural shape of the body could not be improved with the use of the corset, which was a destroyer of health and which disfigured the body until its natural form was lost.

The chlorosis and neurasthenia of the time, and the use of the corset by women sparked much discussion in the naturopathic profession.

The use of the corset to make the waist tight, the diaphragm had limited action, so the lower portion of the lungs was not fully inflated.

The stomach and liver lack adequate space to carry out their functions since they need some space for their movement, and like digestion and respiration, they are impeded.

Tight clothing and laces hinder the proper return of lymph and venous blood to the chest area below the chest.

It was not surprising that many women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries suffered from many ailments that were characterized as hysterical.

Not only did the women suffer from the effects of wearing these brutal and inhuman forms of clothing, but their children also suffered from health problems.

Pelvic congestion, as well as pressure on these organs, helps powerfully to predispose and cause disease of these organs not only for the individuals themselves but also for their future generations.

It is a health problem that is also observed in the pregnancies of very young women whose children, due to the conditions of the thoracic space and the smallness of the pelvis, can have births and children with deformities.

Symptoms of chlorosis

The symptoms of chlorosis experienced by young women resemble those of anemia as it is a rare anemic disease characterized by a greenish tinge to the skin.

The first chlorosis symptoms are pale, almost waxy color of the gums and inner eyelids, a languid physical makeup, heavy walking, drowsiness, malaise, and unwillingness to work.

The weakness these young women feel can also be accompanied by heart palpitations with less exertion, tightness in the chest, and lethargy.

The quality of the blood was critical to understanding the complete picture of chlorosis.

Chlorosis affects menstruation, bleeding is pale red and produced dysmenorrhea or amenorrhea, and bleeding is more irregular, which significantly weakens the patient.

Often chlorosis was accompanied by seizures; patients with chlorosis also experienced epileptic seizures.

Imperfect digestion and insufficient activity of the skin and lungs were also symptoms of these diseases.

Diagnosis and treatment of chlorosis

Chlorosis patients were diagnosed as having pale and thin skin, greenish tones and lacking vital heat.

This was diagnosed as poor blood, and ‘the first goal was to stimulate appetite and circulation, plenty of fresh air was recommended and being outdoors as much as possible, and if they are in the room, it should be ventilated and allow access to rays of the sun and if not, stay a reasonable time.

The treatment of chlorosis, in any case, followed the healing principles of healthy nature, and more particularly, they addressed the cause, and the symptoms would resolve themselves.

They recommended a lot of exercises and avoiding sedentary life as essential to remedy chlorosis.

They advised that all girls, without exception, from the princess to the girl of the lowest class of the people, should help a housekeeper in all the work done by the maids.

We could certainly take this advice, as our current generation worries about vitamin D deficiency, yet they spend more and more time indoors doing sedentary jobs.

Another cure for chlorosis consisted of cold sitz baths that corrected poor digestion and regulated blood circulation.

The cold sitz bath was one to two minutes, and the time to take it was at night, which helped the patients sleep.

For those who were very weak and had very little vital heat, the water baths had to be gentle at first; in some cases, cold feet were one of the symptoms.

Warm foot baths with salt and wood ash were also recommended, and women with anemia were encouraged to walk barefoot indoors and outdoors during the summer and fall.

Another treatment was hot compresses. The first thing was to produce sweat.

A thick cloth, folded several times, dipped in hot water, and drained well, was placed on the stomach as hot as possible and covered well.

In the next twenty minutes, perspiration would generally occur. Then the fabric was wetted again in hot water and applied as before to increase perspiration. And when the whole body was sweating the spasms stopped, and the patient felt better.

Suitable and sufficient blood was the first condition of health. Healthy menstruation that lasted no more than four or five days, if it lasted more than four days, a sitz bath should be taken on the fifth day, at a temperature of 79 ° F, for ten minutes.

During this time, the body must be massaged or cooled by a shower.

If blood loss was excessive, instead of cold sitz baths, warm sitz baths should be taken at 96 to 104 ° F.

For the treatment of dysmenorrhea, a sitz bath was recommended. Initially with water at approximately 80 ° F, gradually using cooler water until the patient is comfortable at 60 ° F”.

Iron was used in various forms or quinine, to treat chlorosis.

The first naturopaths condemned the use of artificial preparations to ‘feed’ the patient and defended a non-stimulating diet of fresh vegetables, especially spinach and peas, rich in nutritious salts that strengthen bones and nerves, and lettuce prepared with lemon in vinegar place.

To increase the blood, powdered chalk or bone meal was recommended to be taken with vinegar and water twice a day, morning and evening.

A breakfast consisting of ground wheat was recommended; alternative options included a cup of cocoa or sour milk.

Lunch would include vegetables, some meat, and fruit with a glass of wine taken half an hour before lunch.

The snack consisted of cocoa or milk, and the dinner consisted of porridge, lettuce, and fruit.

Today, anemia and its weakness are related to bone marrow function problems, blood loss, malnutrition, and dietary deficiencies in iron, vitamin B 12, or folic acid, among others.

Treatment now consists of controlling underlying diseases and taking supplements of iron, vitamins, or medications that cause the body to make more red blood cells.