Yesterday I posted a photo on my Instagram story of me in a hospital bed. The photo was taken May 26th of this year, and for any of you who follow me on social media, you would have seen me bright-eyed and cheery the following day at Vancouver’s Veg Expo. Funny how things can change from one day to the next. I may have felt “fine” on May 27th, but my body wasn’t fine- and isn’t fine right now.
Why routine blood work is so important.
This story actually starts 7 or 8 years ago. I wasn’t a vegan back then (it’s been about 6 years since I transitioned) but I was in my later teen years and for reasons I can’t remember I had a blood test done. I’m not sure why I did honestly. Perhaps I wasn’t feeling well, (or maybe it was routine at the time) but I had my blood tested and found out my iron levels were very low. I remember the doctor saying I was very close to being in the hospital because they were that low.
Just a side note- there isn’t a difference in iron levels when vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters are tested and compared. Across the board, some meat eaters have high levels and some have low, to the same extent as vegans and vegetarians. Some people just absorb iron much better than others. Sources of iron from animal products are said to be more easily absorbed by the body, but again, there is no difference in iron levels when looking at both meat-eaters and those who avoid animal products. Plus, the carcinogenic effects of animal products on the body outweigh any absorption advantages meat might have over vegan sources of iron. Not worth the risk in my opinion.
Back to the story. I find out as a late teen my iron levels are low, and when I turn 18 I move out of the house and forget to supplement iron for most years. Here and there I did, but for the most part when I went vegan my only supplement was vitamin B12 (that is non-negotiable when choosing this path).
Fast forward to March of 2017. I decide I would like to get my breasts enhanced and a blood test is required before they will book the surgery. I am told my iron is too low for surgery, and to start supplementing and within a month I was okay’d and I had my breasts done. I never thought to ask what my iron levels were before, and what they were after. I wasn’t focused on iron at all at the time.
As another side note, over the last year I have tried to up my fitness. I ran during my high school years and deeply miss it. I haven’t run in a few years now. I also wanted to start biking and invested in a Specialized bike in April of 2017 with the intentions of riding it back then… In actuality I walked the bike to my condo, and subsequently never used it. To this day, I moved it to Vancouver and have still never used it. I want to, but something has been holding me back. Same with running. I really want to run, but for the past couple of years I have been telling people I feel my body is too heavy for my legs (which is crazy because I’m pretty small) and I’m short of breath. I thought I didn’t have enough muscle, and in February of this year I hired a personal trainer to build up my leg muscles so I could start running again. It’s not like I couldn’t run at all… But it was hard to run more than a few minutes and my legs were incredibly sore, as well as it was hard to get enough air. It was so much harder than back in high school.
Moving on to more recent times. My digestion has been suffering for the greater part of the last year and has continued to get worse as the months go on. For the most part I food combine properly and am well-researched in regards to health so I couldn’t (and still can’t) figure out what was going on. It might be stress-related since I have had so many changes over the past couple years and tend to hang on to stress instead of going with the flow. It might be a number of things. When I moved to Vancouver, I finally decided enough was enough and I needed to deal with this. I had asked for a referral to a gastroenterologist in Calgary back in February and never heard anything back (I love Canada but public health care isn’t the greatest), and decided to pay for private health care here. I went for a colonoscopy on May 26th (where the photo I posted was taken) and when the results were given to me I balled. My internal body structure is perfect (which was bad news since now the possibilities are endless as to what is wrong). My doctor recommended I get my blood tested for multiple things (calcium, b12, iron, a measure of digesting fats etc) and I just learned my results this week. I had the results forwarded to a doctor here in Vancouver, and she said everything came back perfect except for my iron levels.
The dangers of low iron levels
I am not well versed on all the proper terms for iron, but essentially if you have low iron it interferes with your ability to make hemoglobin. Your intellectual performance can drop as a result but the most typical signs are weakness, shortness of breath and paleness. Low iron levels can also raise your risk of developing blood clots. My doctor explained to me there is this healthy iron range of 80-100 for the average person and I am at a 4. I asked her to repeat the number, because she had an accent and it wasn’t clear. “Four? You mean 4-0 right? Like forty?” “No. I mean four as in before five. You need to deal with this now.”
Iron doesn’t affect digestion. So I definitely originally felt the $2000 I spent on a colonoscopy was a waste- but it wasn’t. If I hadn’t of done that I wouldn’t have gotten my blood tested and wouldn’t have found out I am pretty much the walking dead in terms of energy and optimal health. As someone who is a health coach, I take vitamin b12 and D daily, as well as probiotics, digestive enzymes, maca, green powder, and have completely overlooked the importance of iron in the body. I went raw vegan a couple months ago and have an incredibly abundant, healthy diet but I am weak and cannot run because my energy is directly affected by the low iron. This has completely shaken me to the core. If you know me, I’m a pretty loud, energetic person and this has blown my mind. I was referred to a private office that does iron infusions. My first appointment is Monday. Iron infusions are said to be better than iron shots because they are more easily tolerated. They recommended four and I can do 2 maximum a week. I may need one or two more infusions afterwards, but once my iron levels are back to a healthy range, I won’t need to continue to do them. I will just supplement daily with a product like Floradix found online or at local health stores. (Note: Floradix has honey, Floravital does not)
Why I am sharing this is because I am in an extremely bad state and didn’t even know it. I’m a GLOW GETTER, so I continuously push through fitness and go-go-go through life without even noticing I’m not doing well. My body has known I don’t have the strength to bike even when my brain didn’t know why I wasn’t using it. Your body is so smart glow getters. So so smart.
I encourage all of my followers to go get their blood tested NOW because you just never know. I haven’t made it routine to get this done. I’m so lucky I did now. Trust me, I felt “fine” so don’t ignore this if you feel this way too. But what If you could feel INCREDIBLE just by finding out something is low and you work on fixing it? I should be feeling like a new person within a couple weeks of my last infusion. For any of you wondering the cost, it is free if you go through the government but that takes months (and I don’t have the time). I paid $440 for the iron they use itself today, and that will be enough for my four sessions. In addition, it will cost $125 for each visit at the clinic so just under $1200 with tax for all four infusions. It really wouldn’t matter how much it costs though, health is something I will never set a budget for. Our health is all we have.
Here are 10 tests to check when getting blood work done:
- Complete Blood Count with Differential and Platelets
- Comprehensive Chemistry/Metabolic Panel
- Folic Acid
- Iron, total and TIBC
- Lipid Panel (checks total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides)
- Methylmalonic Acid, Serum
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D3, 25 Hydroxy
I am looking forward to sharing how I am feeling a month or two from now after all is completed. I’m looking at my bike right now, and dreaming of running this summer if all goes well. To think I didn’t know I am at my worst state right now, and to find out I will be a new person soon is crazy! I am so excited. Scared but excited.
I thank all of you who read this to the very end. I know it isn’t the end of the world- but this is my life, and I just want to reach as many people as possible to ask them to make it a habit of getting regular blood tests to ensure everything is a okay. Please share with family and friends. I love you all.
10 suggested blood tests from Rawsome Healthy.