Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Iron Woman

I had my annual physical last week. It went well. I'm healthy. Got my blood work results back yesterday and my cholesterol looks good. I think there is still room for improvement there, but I'll take it!

One number came in very off. It's something I've dealt with on a minor level for years but now it's serious and I have to pay attention. Iron. My doc says the lowest he likes to see it is 10. Most things I'm reading set that low bar around 30-60. The scale goes as high as 250 or something. My iron?


On the one hand, this is great news because it really explains a lot. I've been feeling very run down the past month and had no clue why. I just thought I was fighting off some sort of bug. Turns out that my tiredness, my lack of motivation, my draining energy was most likely related to having very low iron. Christy pointed out that's it has probably been steadily declining so I didn't notice a sudden drop. This also explains the weird spells I've had recently- feeling anxious, jittery, dizzy... just... off.

I've always been borderline anemic. But the most it ever meant was that I couldn't ever donate blood and that I craved steak about once a month. It wasn't ever a big deal.

So what would cause the change now? No easy answer on that but I do think there is one factor, one change made in the last year that is adding to this problem.


Turns out, low iron can be caused by endurance training, hard workouts, etc. Here's a great article on the subject. Go read it- I'll wait here. Did you read it? Good. It describes everything I've had going on. It answers so many questions. You might recall that I had a frustrating run on Monday. This iron thing... explains so much of it. Just this past Sunday, I was feeling off all morning. I was kind of dizzy and light headed at times. I expressed to a friend that I felt jittery or anxious- just "off." And now I can look back and see that I hadn't eaten a good breakfast and my iron must have been really low and that it was impacting me. And the same holds true on Monday. And in previous weeks.

But here's my frustration... I feel like I keep having these excuses for not improving in my running. First, it was an IT band issue due to running form. Fixed that. Next, it was exercise induced asthma. Fixed that. Now, it's iron deficiency. A friend pointed out that these are diagnoses and not excuses. I agree. I also feel like I keep finding something wrong, fixing it, and then I find something else wrong.

I just want a run where everything is right.

As Christy pointed out, I'm still in a better place. I'm still able to do more and be more active. I was venting my frustration about finding all these stupid health issues since exercising. And that if I hadn't started exercising so much in the first place, maybe I never would have even had breathing problems or maybe I wouldn't have exacerbated the low iron thing. Maybe being one of those couch dwellers would have been a better....

NO! Um... hello? Snap out of it!! Glad I have a friend like Christy who can point out my stupidity- in a kind and loving way, of course.

Yes, exercising is increasing my awareness of stuff that doesn't work exactly right in my body. But if I wasn't on this healthier track... just think of the more serious health issues I would most likely be facing!!

So there are no plans to become a true Ironwoman. But hopefully this is yet another step taken on this journey. Hopefully this is yet another fix that will help me achieve my goals, make some progress, and feel strong and healthy again.



C. Beth said...

First of all--I'm impressed with your cholesterol. And it's great that your HDL is HIGHER than it was last year--kudos for raising the good cholesterol!

I'm so glad you discovered the iron thing. Now that you know how to handle the breathing issues, and you can start taking's like different pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I know it's a frustrating journey, but I'm impressed and proud that you've stuck with it even though it's been hard.

Call Me Cate said...

It's certainly frustrating to keep coming up with new issues, but better that they be these kinds of issues than heart disease, diabetes, horrible blood pressure or cholesterol that can come with living an unhealthy lifestyle.

Keep at it, Liz. Your posts and tweets act as reminders to me that I need to keep making progress in this area as well. I actually blogged about my weight a bit today. Being healthy is worth a little frustration or inconvenience every so often.

Amy said...

Wow! A 4? And they didn't want you to come in for a transfusion? Oh dear, get on those leafy greens and iron supplements like right now. I bet you'll be feeling so much better in no time. (Of course if I would take my own advice, that would be a wise thing. My iron is chronically low, too.)

Alison said...

Mmmm, steak. ;)

kbiermom said...

"Ogres have layers." I totally get that you are tired of having layers :)

I read the article, and was a bit confused -- does exercise induce anemia only at triathlete levels of exercise, or can it occur in any of us as a result of overtraining? I've been wondering for some time if overtraining has been a factor in your struggles.

And I wonder, too, if anemia is the cause of the symptoms that were diagnosed as exercise-induced anemia? With a hematocrit of 4, there's no doubt you need to treat the anemia. Maybe once you get your iron raised, you could experiment with skipping the inhaler?

I was borderline anemic when I tried to donate blood in Nov 2008, but I've been able to donate twice so far since I started running a year ago. That's only anecdotal data, but I take it to mean that exercise has either been good for my blood iron levelsm or at least hasn't hurt. FWIW :)

Unknown said...

With iron that low a daily multi vitamin with 100% of your iron would be good. Also, I would say toss a handfull of fresh spinach in a salad a couple of times a week. It gives your salad a nice different taste and texture and that stuff is FULL of iron! Good luck and good job on your physical!

Eternal Lizdom said...

kbierman, I read it (and have read other sources) that indicate it's more about what endurance training means to the individual. So someone going from sedentary to running 2 miles everyday could have the same reaction that the gal in the article did. I haven't had a huge jump in my training- so I think mine's more of a scale slide kind of thing.

Katherine said...

At least low iron is an easy fix. Hang in there and don't get discouraged.

Indianalori said...

When I got basal cell carcinoma last year (very non-lethal), I called to have a good cry with my uber-healthy friend, and I complained that I had changed everything about my life, and I STILL got cancer. Again. And she replied, "Last time you had melanoma. Deadly. This time you got basal cell. Never deadly. Next'll just get a bad rash." WHY hadn't I thought of that? It took me years to get unhealthy, so it's fair to say, it may take me a few years to yank my way out of it.

Hang in there...and for heaven's sakes, get a transfusion or 2. FOUR?! You must feel like hell honey! Just a bump in the road...wishing you well,

Indiana Lori

Tracy said...

I had some REALLY low iron levels during this last pregnancy... what really helped me (besides taking a daily iron supplement in addition to my multi) was buying a few cast iron pans and cooking at least one meal a day in cast iron. Especially foods that are already rich in iron like beets, beans and dark greens.

Lentils are super fast and easy... toss in some frozen spinach, cooked in cast iron and you'll have a TON of very absorb-able iron right there.

We also cook dark greens at least every other day now as a side dish: olive oil, mustard seeds, turmeric, diced onion, chopped greens (frozen work great and are easy because no prep!) and saute until greens are done. salt to taste.

Good luck! you're really doing an amazing job with your health!