Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Vegetarians

Long time – no blog! Well I was surprised, with a heavenly holiday away….. but possibly the main reason is exhaustion, all the time, everyday. Not pleasant. Also an array of other symptoms which shall be covered below.

A trip to the local Integrative Medicine doctor and a whole gamut of blood tests revealed among lesser evils “dangerously low” iron and haemoglobin levels, as well as a very low red blood cell count and of those remaining- badly deformed. Well that explained it – no oxygen in the blood = no energy! All the pranayama in the world is of no benefit because there is nothing for the O2 to attach to in the blood. An emergency drip was set up right there in the Dr’s room and a few hours later, I returned home feeling cold but pleased that the cause to all these ‘niggles’ had been found.

Now 3 months later and 5 double-dose Iron drips later, as well as Vitamin B complex and homeopathic injections I am preparing for another blood test on Friday. What will it be – iron up to normal yet – well it doesn’t feel that way, but I suppose it is much better than before. Some noticeable differences for me are reduction of Restless Leg Syndrome, hair not falling out, slightly better memory, nails not so brittle, sleep much improved. Other symptoms comprise dizziness, tinnitus, dull headaches, never mind the pale face and skin lesions – is all this iron deficiency related? – seems so, according to research that I am doing.

What is the cause I ask myself and the doc? All the other tests have revealed no loss of internal blood, menstruation has been over for about a year and half (menopaused!), so why the low iron? He says it can only be accumulative over years of being a woman and vegetarian! I think it is because I am not assimilating iron well, as I have always eaten pretty healthily as a veg! So a whole new avenue of research opens up…

A friend suggests allowing the villi in the small intestine time to recover from any damage by going Gluten-free. That is: give up wheat, barley, rye and oats. I have never been a big bread eater, so I go for it – not so easy – I discover there are very few days that our daily diet is free of these ingredients. That muffin, croissant or even granola for breakfast; chapattis that I have expertly learned to roll and cook; barley soup (so good for the kidneys); oatmeal –cookies/crunchies/ snack bars; cous cous; pasta; etc – guess what all have gluten. What is left – rice, brown rice, millet, corn/maize (mealies we call it in South Africa) and rice cakes and corn cakes… and more rice. But rice and corn are constipating aren’t they? Never having suffered from this new malady – now I count myself in. On top of that Iron supplements are also contributing – for 10 days after each drip I cannot go! Pain and suffering – these add to the exhaustion! Tried every iron supplement available – this week I’m on Pregnancy Vitamins (they are high in iron, and surely pregnant women must be able to evacuate). Eat some meat, someone else and the doctor says…. That doesn’t work either as my digestive system cannot tolerate meat after thirty years of being vegetarian, so gave up on that one too.

Ayurveda suggests a variety of herbs – none of which are available here; Chinese Medicine suggests low blood chi (energy) – and once again meat and grain products; herbal medicine lists many herbs and vegetables which I luckily have growing in my garden so include more of these into meals and drinks. Someone says spirulina is the miracle food (algae) – and as this is in a product that I manufacture, I take some of the raw ingredient and make it into a drink with molasses and orange juice (for Vit C) every morning. Barley green is another suggestions – only the kernel contains gluten – so I incorporate some of that too.

What more can a girl do? We will see the results next week when the blood tests are analysed.