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Author Topic: Severely anemic and vegetarism
cool87
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I had a doctor appointment today for a follow-up for on going fatigue, lack of energy, concentration problems and persistant headaches and just fought out that the cause of that is that I'm severely anemic, to the point that my iron reserve is almost 0, which is one of the last thing affected in iron deficiency anemia. He prescribed me iron pills.

The cause of that anemia is more than likely my diet which is a vegetarian diet albeit for the fish and chicken I seldom eat. The doctor told me that I REALLY had to change my diet and incorporate some red meat or I'll stay anemic for the rest of my life and will have to take iron pills continuously with all the side effects it may have.

The thing is I'm incredibly, and I really say incredibly difficult per what I eat. I don't eat red meat because I don't like it. My diet is very very much limited but I try to incorporate some green veggies but the iron in vegetables is for less easier to absorp than in animal food.

For those who are vegetarian, do you have any ideas of what food I could eat, beside red meat, that is rich in iron ? I don't know what to do, if I eat red meat, I think I would just vomit.

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atm1
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First off, I'm really sorry that you're dealing with this, but it is pretty common, and I've been through a less worse version.

Now, have you considered seeing a nutritionist? Even though they sometimes aren't cheap, a one time appointment to get some coaching on what you should be eating can be really, really helpful.

I'm a big fan of kale and spinach, which both are high in iron. I've also been able to get away with just the iron in a multivitamin to fix my anemia, so it's probably not as bad as yours... If you can get to the point where that's all you have to do, it's not so bad, considering multivitamins very rarely have side effects.

There is also the chance that if you just sit down and try to eat red meat in large quantities, you will just vomit. You should reintroduce it to your body slowly, in small quantities at first, so that your body gets used to digesting it again. I don't eat red meat, and once when I tried, I literally threw up that cheeseburger everywhere. Too much meat too fast is a bad idea.

You might also find that you need to make some big changes to get your iron levels up initially, but then it can stabilize. That's what happened to me, at least.

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strumpet
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lentils are. and shreddies, actually. dark coloured foods in general tend to be good sources of iron, but what you need to pay attention to is the KIND of iron. iron with an animal source tends to be absorbed by the body more easily than vegetable iron. sometimes pairing an iron rich food with a complimentary food can help it be absorbed more easily.
i'm afraid i'm no expert on this, but hopefully that will give you an idea about what you can research. there are ways to get proper nutrition without meat. try looking up vegan nutritional information.

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cool87
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My ferritin level is like at 3 and the normal value is 20-150. It's the last thing that gets down when dealing with iron-deficiency anemia and when your ferritin level is low, it's because you're generally dealing with severe anemia. It means that you've used pretty much all of your iron storage.

The doctor prescribed me a very high dosage of iron pills and he said that there wasn't really any other way to deal with it and that I'll have to change my diet on top of that if I don't want to deal with iron deficiency anemia for the rest of my life.

I've just a very very picky eater which doesn't help but I like pretty much every veggies so that's why I'd like a few suggestions to up my iron intake.

[ 06-03-2009, 09:17 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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dancrgrl
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I've been a vegetarian for years, and though I've never dealt with severe anemia, I've struggled to get the proper amounts of iron and protein from a vegetarian diet. I agree with everything that's already been said...it's definitely important to eat a lot of dark green vegetables (leafy green vegetables like spinach). Other excellent sources include a lot of legumes, like chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils, and even some cereals...you'd just have to get used to reading nutrition labels on food. And while these are not as good sources of iron, other sources include hard-boiled eggs (if you still eat dairy), asparagus, broccoli, brown rice, and peanut butter (which is also a source of protein).

I agree with atm1 about seeing a nutritionist. I see mine about every six months, mostly because about a year ago I was dealing with a severe electrolyte problem. But she has been really helpful with not only talking about good foods to eat but also with finding a proper balance of vitamins for me to take that don't interfere with my birth control or anything else. One word of caution with taking multivitamins: I was taking Women's One-a-Day or the store-brand equivalent for several years, and every day after I took my vitamins I'd be hit with bouts of nausea...I had my nutritionist test this, and it turns out that vitamins like that have a lot of additives that don't agree with my body. A really great multivitamin, which I've been taking for several months now, is called Source of Life...you can find it even in health food stores, and I often buy vitamins from a reputable online discount shop.

Good luck!

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September
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I'm obviously no doctor, but I've been pretty severely anemic for half my life, and it strikes me as odd that your doctor told you there's no way to deal with anemia save to take the iron pills. Especially given that high dosages of iron do tend to cause nausea, so it'd be really hard for you to take enough iron to make a difference. The point is, there IS an alternative to taking iron orally: you can get iron IVs. The first time I got that done, my doctor explained to me that doctors have been reluctant to prescribe them because there's been a high risk of veins collapsing, but there have been a lot of developments recently and the procedure is much safer now. So, it might be worth it to ask your doctor about that. That way, you can get your iron back up into a healthy range quickly, and then go about finding ways to maintain it (with the help of a nutritionist, ideally).

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cool87
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Yep, he did tell me about it but the way he presented it, it was really a last resort thing and he told me that it'd be preferable to take iron pills orally, that at least I have to try the iron pills first.

He didn't tell me how often I would have to receive the injection if the iron pills don't work but he presented it as it being even less funny than taking oral pills orally, in part because of my schedule. It did seem like he was a bit reluctant to prescribe it to me, even though it's safer now as you said.

[ 06-04-2009, 06:24 AM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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September
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Well, provided you do not have an allergic reaction, getting the iron IV really consists of lying down hooked up to an IV for about an hour twice a week until your iron level is back to normal (I was schedule for ten sessions, but was done after 7). That's what it was like for me, anyway. The biggest problem for me, really, was getting the iron mix for the IV, since the hospital didn't have it in stock. I had to buy it myself, and pay for it, too, as my insurance didn't cover it.

But either way, it sounds as if your doctor has presented it as an option, so maybe he'll come back to it if the iron pills don't help.

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Johanna
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bluejumprope
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I'm vegan and recently my ferritin tested really low too (7, I think) and my doc recommended Floradix. It's a liquid, no side effects, doesn't taste fabulous, but is okay. I haven't been tested again yet, but it feels like it's really working.

I'm not sure how hard it is to find; I got it at my co-op.

ETA: http://www.florahealth.com/flora/home/Canada/Products/R4771.htm
(Good stuff [Smile] )

[ 06-04-2009, 04:21 PM: Message edited by: bluejumprope ]

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cool87
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Thanks, I appreciate your feedback.

Did any of you experienced any side effects while being on iron pills ?

[ 06-04-2009, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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September
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Iron pills, at any dosage, always made me feel incredibly sick. Which is a very, very common side-effect. My doctor eventually found iron in liquid form that you dissolve in water (or better yet, orange juice, as vitamin C helps the body absorb iron) and that I can take without side-effects.

You'll just have to stay in touch with your doctor about side-effects, and experiment to see what works for you (different dosage, taking with or without food, etc).

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Johanna
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Heather
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One suggestion I have about eating more serious greens that helps me?

Ditch lettuce, and always do greens -- spinach, kale, chard, what have you -- instead. For instance, I usually do spinach instead of lettuce on sandwiches, kale instead of lettuce for tacos, etc.

I'd also add that my personal experience as a veggie and/or vegan for most of my life, and watching others, is that if a person can't live large with the legumes, dark greens and nuts, vegetarianism or veganism are not likely to be workable diets in terms of your health.

[ 06-05-2009, 10:16 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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bluejumprope
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Green smoothies--fruit smoothies with some greens thrown in--are also a great, delicious way to get more greens.

According to raw people the nutrients are more easily absorbed that way because the blender breaks down the cell walls of the leaves better than our teeth can.

My favorite smoothie right now:

2 bananas
1 pear
some frozen strawberries
big handful of spinach or kale
water to get consistency I like
(sometimes I add a splash of orange juice too)

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cool87
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Heather, why should I ditch lettuce or well trade it for other greens ? Isn't lettuce a good source of iron, not all brands but Boston lettuce ?

And I've personnally never heard of chard and kale. [Smile]

[ 06-05-2009, 04:10 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Heather
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Dark greens have more iron that lighter greens. And no, most lettuces are not as good of a source of iron as dark, leafy greens. But yes, Boston lettuce is one exception where it is a good source.

Here's two lists of greens w/good iron: http://www.bellybytes.com/recipes/greens.shtml

http://www.youngwomenshealth.org/leafy.html

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cool87
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Thanks ! I'll take a look at those, I appreciate it.

I just hope that by eating even more green veggies, I'll be able to keep my iron level steady, I don't think I'd be able to introduce red meat in my diet and I don't want to have to do that either because it disgusts me a lot.

I think it's feasable to not be anemic on an healthy vegan diet, even though the vegetable iron is far less easier absorbed, at least I hope so.

[ 06-05-2009, 04:29 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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cool87
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How long did it take for you before you started to notice improvements in your anemia symptoms ?

It's been a few weeks and I'm feeling as lethargic as before, among other things.

[ 06-15-2009, 05:05 PM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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If your iron store is seriously depleted, it takes a while for it to build up again. And since you're only taking pills, where it's hard to really take enough to make a big difference, you're really going to need to be patient with this.

Have you sought out a nutritionist, like others in this thread have suggested? They could really help you out by working out a diet for you that gives you enough iron and enough energy.

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cool87
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Not yet.

I've been taking my pills sometimes during meals because this is the most appropriate time for me to take them but the pharmacist told me to take them like one hour before meals or two hours after.

I'm going to try to do that and see if that changes anything.

It really *****, I feel very lethargic, feel sleepy all day long pretty much, have a lot of troubles waking up in the morning no matter how many hours I slept, have troubles concentrating and thinking clearly, my mind is very sluggish.

[ 06-16-2009, 06:34 AM: Message edited by: cool87 ]

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Djuna
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As has been said above, the iron in plant sources such as Boston lettuce or spinach is more difficult to absorb than the stuff in red meat (drastically so, actually).

One thing you can do is improve the proportion of that plant iron you absorb. So combine sources of iron (spinach and dark greens, nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads, cereals, dried beans or lentils) with, for instance, foods rich in vitamin C (such as oranges, lemons, tomatoes, red peppers or kiwi fruit). It's best if you do that in the same meal.

Also (and this is news to me) if you make sure not to drink tea or coffee at mealtimes, that will improve your iron absorption too.

As for nausea, maybe ask your doctor about either a prescription anti-emetic or something you can get over the counter. For instance:
quote:
* Bismuth subsalicylate (brand names: Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) may help treat some types of nausea and vomiting, such as from the flu (influenza). It’s also used for upset stomach and as an antidiarrheal (medicine to treat diarrhea).
* Certain antihistamines may help prevent nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness. These include dimenhydrinate (one brand name: Dramamine) and meclizine hydrochloride (one brand name: Dramamine Less Drowsy).

That lovely lot was found here.

[ 06-16-2009, 03:22 PM: Message edited by: patrickvienna ]

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