Carissa and I have this saying about our husbands. “It’s worse when they are on board”. Those of you who have had to convince your spouses that dairy is the devil or that Monsanto GMO corn is a terrifying world-wide science experiment, may resonate with our finding that as hard as it is to convince your partner, sometimes it worse (for us) once they buy in. Questions like “Don’t Skittles feed yeast”, and statements like “I find Magnus’s digestion is better when we give him his probiotics twice a day”, only come from the well-informed, invested parent. It is very gratifying to have a spouse come on board after committing 8 years of training to become a naturopathic doctor and 10+ years of practice. However, it’s sometimes is worse when they are on board…
Last week I had some time off with my kiddos. I had a few days to go swimming and hit the park with the whole crew. On Thursday afternoon, I was exhausted. I had conversations with SAHM (stay at home moms) and complimented their skills in staying home full-time with their kids. I chalked my fatigue up to my adrenals as it has been a stressful (and exciting) year with the opening of our new clinic. I figured I would pick up some Medi Herb Rhodiola Ginseng when I got back to work to give myself a much needed boost for my stress system.
So on Thursday afternoon, instead of heading back to the pool or hitting a trail with my kids, I put on a movie, begged the older two to play quietly and had a little snooze on the couch. When my husband got home, he chastised me lovingly for my “laziness” and got everyone ready to go off to the pool. Well, I was irritated. SUPER IRRITATED. Didn’t he realize how tired I was? Hasn’t he seen the hours I have put in at the new clinic and covering for Carissa’s maternity leave? Grrrrrr! I was in quite a mood when I donned my bathing suit and got in the van for our big family swim. I was still exhausted and now I felt guilty about sleeping instead of doing something fun with the kids. I told him I was irritated by his comment and that I felt like my fatigue was justified. I am a busy working mom. Can’t a girl snuggle in with the baby (now 2 ½ years old) and have an afternoon nap?
He responded with, “I think you should get your iron checked”. Well, this didn’t improve my mood but as I sat there suppressing temperamental responses, I gave some though to what he said. I have been iron deficient before, during my second pregnancy with our beautiful princess, Illyana. I was allowed to nap then without being reprimanded, however lovingly, but I slept A LOT. Until I realized how low my ferritin level was, I would sleep when I got home from work, wake-up and go back to bed. I also remember feeling really morose and unmotivated, feelings that had been creeping along the edges for me in the last few weeks. Hmmm. Is this yet another case of my brilliant husband turning his brain power to MY world of health and wellness, and being right? Grrrrrrr! As I thought more and more, I put some pieces together. My shortness of breath, my difficulty sleeping. I thought they were all completely adrenal related but what if low iron was part of the problem?
So, I took 4 iron pills committed to showing my hubby that he was wrong. I am the expert, after all. Well, I felt better the next day. After 3 days taking iron, I am waking up more refreshed and feel more energetic. I also feel my mood and motivation improving. I am going to stop supplementing today and get my ferritin and iron tested next week because it is important to supplement iron appropriately. Too much iron can be dangerous. But it turns out my husband was right and despite being irritated, I am glad I have been able to open his eyes to the value of eating well, taking some supplements to help prevent disease and decreasing the toxic load in our home. The side benefit in this case was having him point out to me that sometimes fatigue isn’t just fatigue.
Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency
- Signs and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia depend on its severity. Mild to moderate iron-deficiency anemia may have no signs or symptoms.
- When signs and symptoms do occur, they can range from mild to severe. Many of the signs and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia apply to all types anemia.
- The most common symptom of all types of anemia is fatigue (tiredness)
- Fatigue occurs because your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to its many parts.
- Anemia also can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, coldness in your hands and feet, pale skin, and chest pain.
- Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency may include brittle nails, swelling or soreness of the tongue, cracks in the sides of the mouth, an enlarged spleen, and frequent infections.
- Some people who have iron-deficiency anemia develop restless leg syndrome (RLS). RLS is a disorder that causes a strong urge to move the legs. This urge to move often occurs with strange and unpleasant feelings in the legs. People who have RLS often have a hard time sleeping.
Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency more commonly found in children
- In infants and young children, signs of anemia include poor appetite, slowed growth and development, and behavioral problems like hyperactivity, difficulty focusing and irritability
- Children who have iron-deficiency anemia may have an unusual craving for non-food items, such as ice, dirt, paint, or starch. This craving is called pica.
- Iron-deficiency anemia can put children at greater risk for lead poisoning and infections.
- Iron stores are measured using FERRITIN. Ferritin lower than 40 can result in irreversible cognitive impairment for children
Causes of iron deficiency
- Dairy intake has been inversely related to iron deficiency – more dairy = less iron absorption
- People diagnosed with celiac are often unable to absorb iron, those reactive to gluten may also have impaired iron absorption
- Dietary deficiency – see foods high in iron
- Very heavy menstrual bleeding, long periods, or other vaginal bleeding may suggest that a woman is at risk for iron-deficiency anemia
Foods high in iron
- Here’s a list we provide our patients
What to do if you think you or your child may be iron deficient and how to improve absorption of iron
- Get your iron and ferritin tested
- Follow directions from your MD or ND to supplement safely
- Chronic iron deficiency is often a sign of digestive impairment. If you can’t keep your iron stores up, consider speaking with a naturopathic doctor to assess your absorption
- New research suggests that iron fortified foods and formula change the balance of good bacteria in the gut. The BREAST MILK GUT MICROBIOTA AND IMMUNITY PROJECT has studied the intestinal flora of infants who were given iron fortified food. The result shows an overpopulation of pathogenic species like Clostridium Difficile.
- It is crucial to give your infant and children foods rich in iron. Introduction of free range, organic, antibiotic free meat is highly recommended soon after starting foods. Iron fortified foods increase inflammation in the digestive tract increasing risk of immune responses like eczema, allergies and asthma.
Yours in good health
Dr. Sonya, Natural Care Clinic