Update on “vegan around the edges”

26 Feb

In one of those “this was really helpful in a really not-fun way” moments, our experiment with being vegetarians with “vegan around the edges” ended up with me finding out I have pretty severe iron deficiency anemia. Now, I’m not saying that caused it. Looking back, it was probably a 16 month progression, almost a comedy of errors. But the vegetarian/vegan diet pushed me completely over the edge, so that I finally quit blaming my symptoms on a variety of other things (“I’m getting sick;” “I’ve just been sick;” “I’m 46;” etc) and took myself to two doctors demanding some explanation for why I was exhausted all the time.

I looked a lot like Thyme, except I didn't sleep on my shoe

When I say exhausted, I no longer mean what I used to mean, which was basically, “Wow, I’m tired, think I’ll go to bed early, and get back at it tomorrow.”  What I now know as exhaustion is my eyes tearing up when I’m in the middle of Costco because I am so completely exhausted that I honestly can’t see how I’m going to get out of the store without collapsing. When going up the stairs makes my heart pound. When going to a couple of stores in the morning, back to back, puts me completely out of commission, mentally and physically, for the rest of the day. And it’s why I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks.

So I had a complete blood panel, and everything was fine. I went to my lady doctor next, and said, “You’ve got to do/find something!” She sent me for a vitamin D and B12 check, and at the last minute checked “anemia.” Which was kind of weird (in a God way) because my hemoglobin and hematocrit from the finger prick were ok. Low normal, but normal. And lo and behold, the next day (Friday before last), she tells me my ferritin level — the level of iron your body has stored — is way low.

Really delicious beans... just not enough iron

Now, in a weird way, this was a relief. First of all, I would have gone on blaming it on other things had we not done our veg experiment. Second, it’s treatable. My son had the same thing after a prolonged bout of pneumonia several years ago. Third, it meant I wasn’t doomed to feel like that in perpetuity, which brought in the most important element – hope. I hadn’t realized I’d lost hope, but I had.

I’ve been taking a prescription iron called Irospan, and I am feeling much better. I overdid last Wednesday, because I actually felt normal for the first time in months, and as a consequence didn’t have good days on Thursday and Friday. But yesterday was pretty good, and I’m hopeful for today. I’m taking it easy, being thankful that my brain seems to be working (and my son won’t keep saying, “Mom, you told me that already!” all the time!).

Of course, I’m back on meat. Which I love, so that’s not exactly a hardship!  My husband is too, although I think he’s mostly doing vegetarian for breakfast and lunch (although not vegan). He was feeling pretty low on energy too, and eating too many carbs to try to compensate, so he decided it just wasn’t sustainable. My son is overjoyed!

Our traditional Christmas Eve beef wellington... yum!!

This is not an indictment of the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. If it works for you, there’s a lot of enjoyable things about it. But the best thing about it for us was that I have been diagnosed and am being treated, and life is getting back to normal. Which is a huge blessing, even if it seems in a round about way. I guess God does work in mysterious ways, after all!

2 Responses to “Update on “vegan around the edges””

  1. Beth February 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Isn’t that funny? Really, God does work in mysterious ways. Glad you are feeling better, and getting your iron levels back where they should be.


  1. Is my iron rusty or what? « The View from the Sunroom - March 5, 2012

    […] 17, but who’s keeping track) I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia (you can see my post here). This was actually a great thing, as it allowed me to start taking supplements and I feel ever so […]

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