Am I Anaemic? | Iron Deficiency
Last week I rambled on in a post about how when I tried to quit all forms of sugar I got the worst migraines and headaches. After eating some energy balls with sultanas and honey, the migraine went after about half an hour, and I was like yes! that was it! However a dull headache sat in the back of my head for a few days only for the migraines to return with a vengeance on Monday.
Hang on a second? I thought these were sugar withdrawal induced migraines? As the week has progressed I've felt worse and worse, colleagues and friends have commented on how ill i'm looking, how pale my skin is and how poorly my complexion looks. (Oh my friends it really does look pretty poorly.)
My energy levels are at an all time low, I feel like the food I eat is only just fuel enough to get through the day and I don't seem to get as much energy from it as I usually would. I've had dizzy spells where I've been close to fainting. My skin hasn't been this bad since my teen years and my mouth is full of ulcers. I can't begin to explain the awful pounding headaches and migraines or the pain behind my eyes. I'm covered in bruises from head to toe and I've slept for at least ten hours a night for the past three or four nights.
After much persuasion from friends and family I went to the doctors yesterday morning. I had it in my head that they would listen to me and help, but I couldn't see my doctor which meant the doctor I did see wasn't fully aware of my medical history or how well I know my body. I don't have a great track record with most doctors.
Don't get me wrong, I will forever be grateful for the doctors who treated me in hospital when I had the tumour in my neck removed, however I will always resent the doctors who ripped down my immune system, with an ongoing supply of antibiotics and strong drugs to counteract the side effects of the even stronger drugs I had been prescribed over the years.
So yesterday morning I sat in a doctors office, and explained that on my last blood test the results had come back borderline for Anaemia - an iron deficiency. My doctor had previously told me that at the time there was nothing to worry about, but to really keep on top of my B12 and Iron levels, and keep an eye on any changes in my health and diet. Yesterday I asked if the doc could refer me for a blood test, just to check these levels and explained all of my symptoms. He glanced at me and stated "you're not anaemic, you have stress induced migraines."
Woah. Hang on a second.
I replied "I'm not stressed."
He replied "Whether you recognise it or not you are."
This doctor, had spoken to me for max 3 minutes, had not examined me, didn't know my medical history at all yet decided that I was having stress induced migraines.
He then proceeded to prescribe an anti depressant, paracetamol, one very strong type of drug for migraines and another for headaches.
And this is why I'm writing this post - it angers me so so so much. Doctors here are given a commission on drugs they prescribe, obviously some drugs are more valuable than others. It angers me beyond comprehension that I can be prescribed all sorts after a three minute chat.
"I'm not taking any one them. All I want is a blood test to check my iron levels." I said
He looked at me as if I was completely wasting his time.
"How long have you had the cold you've got?" He asked me
"About 6 weeks"
"What do you do for a living?" He questioned
"I'm an English teacher for children and adults." I replied
"Ah, that's why you're so ill. It's the price you pay for working with children." He said.
Once again his rudeness made my jaw clench and my hands ball up into fists. How was this man in front of me even in the health care profession?!
"I'm going to prescribe you with these drugs, please listen to me as I'd like to explain how you need to take them. The anti-depressant will help with your anxiety and stress levels..." He stated.
"Once again, I'm not here because I feel anxious or stressed. Please can you refer me for a blood test" I said
"Fine. You can have a blood test but you'll have to see your own doctor for the results. I'm still prescribing you with this medication." He replied bluntly.
They couldn't fit me in for a blood test for two weeks, and the results will take three weeks.
I left feeling deflated, confused, upset, a little lost and questioning myself. I was livid that someone could be prescribed highly addictive anti-depressants within the space of three minutes and not made aware of the side effects or long term effects of this particular drug. Especially someone who didn't need them in the first place!
I questioned myself, how was I feeling. Was I making this up? Was I imagining the symptoms?
I'm unsure if over the years my body has become more sensitive to changes in my diet and lifestyle, or if I have become more aware of the changes in my body - I think it's probably the latter. When I sit down and really consider why I'm not feeling well it usually always comes back to a change in my diet and lifestyle.
Around six months ago I went from eating meat or fish once a week to not at all, I think I just didn't feel like eating it and I had found a lump or two that worried me. As I had a high iron plant based diet over Summer it obviously didn't effect me, I was eating so much spinach in salads every day and plenty of pulses and nuts. When Summer ended though I stopped eating salads opting for stews and roasted veggies. My meals weren't high in iron but I hadn't noticed.
After work today I visited a naturopathic physician, (natural doctor) . I explained that I thought I could possibly have anaemia, I proceeded to tell her my symptoms. She asked me some questions about my current health and medical history, really taking the time to understand my diet.
She said that from my symptoms and the way I look - a very pale complexion, terrible skin and quite frankly very exhausted, that she was pretty sure I'm anaemic. She told me that if I eat meat the tumours in my body, some not there now, others very small, will begin to grow again. I nodded my head in agreement saying I was completely aware of this and that's why I follow a very strict vegan diet.
She then told me that a strict vegan diet isn't going to do me any good in other areas though, with no source of the vitamin B12 in my diet I would have anaemia, which long term, is very bad for the body. Anaemia is where there aren't enough red blood cells. For our body to generate them we need iron and we also need B12 as it is what helps to create these cells.
After chatting for a while longer she recommended some organic iron supplements which include B12 in them. She also told me to eat fish more often for the next few weeks until I'm feeling like my old self and then once to twice a week thereafter. She advised on a diet rich in pulses, spinach, nuts and dried fruit. She also said that cardio exercise is great as during cardio our bodies are forced to create more red blood cells to pump around the body.
It was so nice to have someone listen to me, for them to try and convince me of a diet I more or less follow - unbeknownst to them that I'm usually the one convincing others of the exact same things.
We know our own bodies better than any one, yes doctors are amazing people but it takes someone like the lovely lady today to listen carefully, and with your own knowledge of your body and their professional knowledge of medicine to piece together the story and try to find a solution.
This solution may not work, but I definitely feel that it's worth a go. I'll keep you updated on my progress. Until then, I'm going to have a few early nights, a very restful weekend and take care of myself. I think lots of bubble baths, blankets and Netflix is required.