Monday, July 7, 2014

Iron Deficiency Anemia, Exercise And Performance

Dale Matson

Two years ago I had a problem with anemia following sustained blood loss from surgery. Two months later, I was infused with 2 units of packed red blood cells. Even after the infusion however, my iron numbers remained low. I suspect this has been a lifelong issue for me and a blood bank technician once told me that if my hemoglobin score had been any lower, I would not have been allowed to donate blood. I had noticed that whenever I donated blood, it took about a month to fully recover my normal performance level and should have put two and two together.

After the infusion, I began treating my anemia with food and supplements to increase my hematocrit (HMT) and hemoglobin. What I have done since that time was to include lab tests specifically for anemia. What I discovered was that my iron serum (26) and iron saturation (7) were dangerously low even though my HMT and hemoglobin were nearing the low end of normal. What I have done since that time is to develop a treatment regimen designed to raise my iron saturation and iron serum and hope that the hemoglobin and HMT would increase in response to more available iron. My goal was to increase the iron supply in my body.

First, I would like to offer my symptoms of iron deficiency anemia that I experienced. My resting pulse of (60) was 20 beats higher than normal (40). I couldn't do my normal exercising with the same power and speed. I was very cold all of the time and needed an electric blanket in addition to a heavy comforter for sleeping. I needed a wet suit to swim in 75 degree water. I would get dizzy just from bending to pick up something. I had lots of headaches. My skin was pale. I think it affected me psychologically with a mild depression and anxiety too. Let’s just say the problem was pervasive and sapped my strength to the point that I was fatigued most of the time. I would sigh and yawn. Some folks told me I had exercise induced asthma.

I was simply not getting enough oxygen.  Athletes can have diminished V02 max because of this type anemia and their performance drops dramatically. I believe sometimes that is referred to as overtraining can be an exercise induced iron deficiency anemia.
Second, if you look up the numbers, you will find that incidence of reported anemia is greater than 10% of the population overall. I suspect that many folks are pre anemic or anemic and don’t even know it. The numbers are probably much higher. They may go to their doctor and report malaise, chronic fatigue or some other problem and not be identified as anemic. I believe anemia is grossly underdiagnosed.

Here is the good news. I was able to treat this problem using food and food supplements to the point that I am no longer anemic. I remind the reader that this treatment was with consultation from my physician and my sister who is a retired medical technician. The only problem with many physicians is that they learn their trade in a hospital, so “not being sick” is being “well” from their perspective. Unfortunately, not being sick is not necessarily optimum health. Please have your physician ok any food or supplements you anticipate using first.

The internet is a great place to conduct research and I received quite an education. The best source of iron is what is called Hemi Iron. Meat is a source, especially liver and beef. I decided to resume beef once a week. Another source of Hemi Iron is in desiccated liver tablets. The best Hemi Iron source that I came across is a product called “Proferrin ES available in limited amounts from Colorado Biolabs Inc. I promote it because I believe the three tablets per day recommended on the label probably did more than anything else to boost my iron (I am not a paid spokesperson). Hemi Iron is the most usable form of iron for the body. Iron pills, like ferrous sulfate are not absorbed well, were problematic for me and gave me tremendous heartburn. Others I have talked to about this have had problems with heartburn also.

You are also encouraged to avoid calcium within a two hour window before and after taking the iron supplements because it reduces the iron absorption. Vitamin C, folic acid and vitamin B12 are encouraged to help with uptake. I also take blackstrap molasses as a non-heme iron source and enjoy this “medicine” that tastes like licorice. Mixed nuts and dried fruit and leafy green vegetables are also sources I used. Finally, I also use a product called nutritional yeast flakes which are gluten free for B12.
It is now mid-July and here are the numbers for my iron serum (78) and Iron saturation (22. My treadmill speed is up to 6.5 mph from 4.5 mph with a lower average and maximum heart rate than before.

My symptoms are no longer evident and now I have reduced the amount of my iron intake to maintenance levels. There are lots of warnings about iron overload and that could be a serious problem for some. That is why I have had lab testing done every three weeks and paid for it out of my own pocket. I have used Econo Labs (I am not a paid spokesperson for them either). It is easy to set testing up over the internet and to pay in advance. They have a quick turnaround time and will email the results to you and your physician. The results are easy to read and normal ranges follow your results.

I posted this on another blog a couple of years ago and there has been enormous traffic, which says to me that lots of folks are looking for answers to their problems, which they can only vaguely define. If you are having these issues, start with a blood test. I believe many cases can be treated with diet and supplements.

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