Monday, June 18, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News

Doctor, doctor, give me the news
I've got a bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill
I've got a bad case of lovin' you
-- Bad Case of Lovin' You, Robert Palmer
Well, my love of running and challenging myself had led me to some interesting times. Luckily, a pill is "gonna cure my ill" in this case!

Performance problems at Jemez and then Chattanooga in the last month could have gotten me sad, mopey, and resentful. DNFs (Did Not Finish) are never easy. However, in both cases these races were still incredible experiences although still painful in the moment, and it appears a huge blessing to me in helping me learn more about my body!

Jemez 50K brought me home thinking, after my first ever exposure to altitude, that I suffer easily from altitude sickness. A runner friend suggested I get my ferritin (iron) levels checked since it can make altitude sickness worse, so I did. Blessing #1 for Jemez because it turned out my ferritin and iron saturation levels are very low.

However, Chattanooga Stage Race wasn't an altitude race. So with a doctor's appointment already scheduled for a few days after I got back, I headed off to Chattanooga. Only to have similar, although way less severe, problems. Blessing #2 for Chattanooga because now I knew in my heart, I didn't have an altitude problem made worse by iron deficiency - I had an iron deficiency problem that at Jemez had been made worse by altitude!

I called this morning and the doctor was able to fit me in right away instead of waiting until Wednesday. He confirmed that I had textbook symptoms of iron deficiency. I'm lucky that my red blood cell counts and hemoglobin are still in normal ranges so I do NOT have anemia. I have iron deficiency which is one of the possible causes of anemia. Just clarifying the wording here.

(By the way, I never would have known it if the doctor hadn't told me but my lab work had also shown my cholesterol is incredibly good. I guess that means more In-n-Out Burger and Pluckers Chicken for me!)  ;-)

I start iron pills (ferrous sulfate) 3 times a day with a glass of orange juice to aid in the absorption of the iron. The doctor said I might have already had somewhat lower iron levels but the very increased intensity of training this season, coupled with changes to menstrual cycles and my diet, have made this now a very visible problem.

I'm a mathematician remember, so I love my quantification of changes. So the doctor plans to retest my iron levels in 2 weeks. The hope is that in 2 to 4 weeks I should feel better generally and not be plagued with these symptoms out of long hard runs anymore!

10 comments:

  1. Glad to know it's an easy fix and you can keep moving on the trails. Good luck with it all!

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  2. So glad you got answers and that it's a problem you know how to solve!

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  3. I'm glad you got in to see your doctor. I'd shoot for 65 mg of elemental iron daily (or 325mg of ferrous sulfate). I hope you also make a conscious effort to get more iron in your diet(and go out and buy a cast iron skillet!). Did your doctor mention that high fiber, caffeine, and calcium decrease absorption of iron? You should probably avoid caffeine an hour before and an hour after your iron supplement. 2 weeks is probably too short to see much recovery, remember you didn't get that low that quickly! But hey, whatever works for you, and I'll be curious to see the results. My levels were only 4 ng/ml in April. I have not retested, decided to give it 3 months. Sarah

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    1. The doctor prescribed the 65 mg FE (325 mg Ferrous Sulfate) 3x a day. My Ferritin was a little higher than yours (11), but it seems anything under 13 is TOO LOW for an average person so much to low for us as athletes so it's splitting hairs. Good to know about the caffeine as I do indulge in a morning tall Starbucks mocha daily (my daily treat except for race weeks). Steve and I were never big red meat eaters and only had beef once a week so we're increasing that and more spinach salads for me too. :-) I'm amazed how many female runners are coming out of the woodwork to let me know they've dealt with this problem at some point. We want to retest in 2 weeks because if things don't start moving in the right direction it can imply uterine thickening or fibroids so we want to see that early if that's a possibility. :-)

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  4. Nearly the same problem Brent Poulsen has/had that he got banned from WTC for some time.

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    1. I think Brent's WTC ban problem was his low testerone that was tied in to his low iron levels. But yeah, the same symptoms are what got him to get tested in the first place, just like me.

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  5. That is so awesome that you already have an answer and you didn't have to wait til Wednesday!!

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    1. Thanks! Now the anxious runner in me goes, "can't we get this fixed faster?!?" ;-)

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  6. Glad you found an answer. It is always fun to see what you are doing next.

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