Let’s Talk Iron Deficiency Anemia

It’s been a while since my last post, and life is busy as ever. I can hold my weight and have been focusing lately on hydration, quality foods and exercising. I do eat all the time, both a blessing and a curse. I’m still the skinny girl who indulges in the candy and seems to always be eating, but is still skinny. (This generally makes people mad!) As my life has moved forward, some folks know I have a stomach and others do not. It seems like too long and complex of a story to explain to most people in a short time.

My kids make fun of me for being such a slow eater. But honestly, forcing our family to take time to eat and enjoy our food isn’t a bad thing. It might take me a while, but it forces quality family discussion over food. I could think of worse things to happen. I’ve been attending the kids’ Valentine’s parties, planning a skiing vacation and keeping up with life. Life is still full of so many blessings, it is just wonderful.

The one big reminder I still have about not having a stomach is food getting stuck. As long as I chew well and try to never rush food, I’m fine. I try to stick to this theory. But every once in a while, I eat too big of a bite and it gets stuck. I salivate like Pavlov’s dog and go spit somewhere. Not very attractive, I know. But it’s one of those things I can deal with. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I just stop eating until I can tell it has passed. What’s interesting is that my brother never has this. If a food doesn’t agree with him, he experiences gastrointestinal discomfort more so than having to throw up.

Girl Scout cookie season has arrived, and I’m currently testing a question: “How many thin mints can I eat in one setting before I sugar crash or get dumping syndrome?” So far, I’m able to consume like 12 cookies and still be ok. It’s craziness. I think four thin mints have 8 grams of sugar, so that’s pretty impressive. I never could’ve managed that much sugar early post surgery.

Now onto the main topic… iron deficiency anemia! Woohoo! Are you as excited as me?

Anyhow, I went to see my surgeon, and they did a general blood screen. My gastrectomy by-passed my duodenum, where I have read most of the iron is absorbed into your body. This puts me at risk of anemia. I had been feeling incredibly tired and when I ran, it felt like my muscles just weren’t responding the way I am accustomed. I also looked up symptoms, of which I had pretty much everything: cracked corners of lips, sore tongue (think tongue on fire after eating incredibly spicy food), pale skin (paler than my usual pasty white), some mental fogginess and bad skin. I felt like the walking example of iron deficiency anemia, so I started adding an extra daily supplement of ferrous sulfate (This was a leftover over-the-counter supplement which I had taken during my pregnancies). I started feeling better and am still continuing feeling better even today. My energy levels are coming up, and I don’t feel exhausted all the time. My blood screen came back after 1.5 weeks of daily additional supplementation and I had a 9.1 hemoglobin count. I’m not sure exactly where you should be, but the pretty chart had a trend line with a reference point of 12. I assume you should be above a 12 to be in good shape. You could see my hemoglobin trendline just plummeting….into exhaustion.

So now I’m adding the daily supplement for 2 months to see if I can get back on track. The trouble with nutritional deficiencies is remembering just how long it takes you to get this deficient and then how long it will take you to get back. The struggle I have is the act of actually taking the supplement. When I take the full iron supplement, I don’t always feel good. It’s almost like a “sugar crash” feeling where you just want to go and lay on the couch. But I found out that if I cut the pill in half and take it in two separate, smaller doses, I don’t feel sick.

So far, my energy levels are up, my muscles feel like they’re starting to give me a bit more in my workouts, and my skin is starting to clear up. I will be continuing to watch this trend. My guess is after my iron is at acceptable levels, I’ll need to figure out exactly what a “maintenance volume” might be. Would it be 2 supplements per week or just 1? I will have to find out!!

On a side note, I completed my second half marathon without a stomach in January!! It was not my best time by any stretch of the imagination, but I got it done! I was tired at the start and didn’t have a running buddy. I FaceTimed my children 5 miles in, which made a lady running by me think I was crazy and talking to myself. 🙂 I was pretty bummed about a 1:54 finish time, but my surgeon bailed me out with good excuses. He said running with iron deficiency is like strapping weights to your arms, feet and then throwing a backpack on for good measure. The iron in each blood cell is what transports the oxygen to your muscles and takes away the carbon dioxide. If you have a deficiency, it’s like pulling a sub compact car up to transport passengers instead of the planned megabus. It’ll take twice as much blood to accomplish the normal oxygen delivery. So my excuse for this year’s half marathon will be iron deficiency anemia. I plan to correct this problem and try again next year!! (I’m already signed up.)

Sometimes it’s just about looking fast!

What’s better than a pre-race selfie?

So that’s a few thoughts about 20 months post gastrectomy. Thanks for following the blog!

5 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Iron Deficiency Anemia

  1. Dude, the iron deficiency is real! I really need to go in to get my labs drawn, but I’ve been lazy about going to the doctor to make it happen. From my last labs I knew that my iron was really low, but that was probably from post-surgery. Which iron supplement are you on? Keep me posted on how it’s working!

    Congrats on another half-marathon, you are a monster! And your time is ridiculously fast even for people with stomachs! You should sign up for a half out here in California and we can run it! San Jose hosts the rock and roll half marathon sometime in October… just saying! Or I should do a race out there!

    So happy to see that you’re doing well!

    • Ok, I looked up the San Jose race and it’s in September. I am very tempted to book it!!

      For iron supplements, it’s a film-coated red tablets of 325mg ferrous sulfate. We’ll have to see how it plays out, but it sure seems good. I had the energy to add mile 6 to this morning’s run! And my muscles were responding so much better!

  2. That Iron deficiency is no joke! The low energy, mental fog, pale skin, etc.. that was me to a T about 6 months post-op. I noticed that once I was able to get my numbers back into the normal range, its like everything started working well again- i could eat more, had more energy, slept better, etc. Glad you were able to get your numbers up with a simple oral supplement!

    • Yes! Very lucky the supplement appears to be working, at least as far as I can tell from energy levels,etc. From what I’ve read, it sounds like quite a few people don’t get their levels back with a supplement and have to do iron infusions every so often. My doctor is going to re-check my levels in 2 months to see if the supplement alone is working as it should!

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