A study published earlier this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed improvements in energy levels of women who took supplemental iron, even though they were not anemic based on the current lab standards. The authors not only commented on possibly readjusting the laboratory definition of anemia but further studies maybe warranted for fatigue even with a normal hemoglobin levels (a marker for anemia).
In case you are unfamiliar with this condition, anemia is when the body has inadequate red blood cells or hemoglobin to oxygenate the body sufficiently. There are many reasons this can develop, a few of which are inadequate dietary iron, blood loss from long and/or heavy menstruation, a bleeding hemorrhoid or Celiac disease. Anemia results in fatigue, pallor, decreased stamina, shortness of breath with exertion, lack of motivation and possibly depression.
This small statement, in my opinion, is great news for the evolution of the current medical model. Lab values need to be adjusted, retested and challenged to adequately do what they are supposed to do; help us identify imbalances in the body before they become problems. Prevention is stopping the disease process from occurring, not just cutting out the damage. This change in the lab value and the way anemia is tested for, if it were to happen, should help more women to feel healthy and strong, while giving more insight to potentially hazardous processes that may be occurring.
Celiac disease is a great example of this, chronic and unresponsive anemia is often indicative of this condition. The immune reaction from gluten will affect the small intestine, where iron is normally absorbed leading to a decrease in absorption which eventually results in iron deficiency anemia. If your doctor doesn’t think you are anemic based on out dated lab ranges, they may not take the time to investigate why you have anemia and miss an early stage disease process. The longer the disease processes is allowed to continue, the more extensive and serious the damage.
If you are experiencing any of the above conditions or symptoms, it is important to have a full blood workup done. Iron supplementation is not safe for everyone so identifying the need is just as important as determining the type of anemia. Some women have excellent stores of iron but their body is missing the co-factors to put that iron to use, resulting in all the symptoms of anemia but mostly normal blood work results. This is another reason to have a thorough workup done.
Anemia is usually easy to treat and provides immense improvement in your quality of life. If you think you may be anemic, or you are anemic and not given a full workup or treatment plan, you should come in. We’ll do some blood tests and get you feeling better quickly.
By Marsha Hamilton
1. Paul Vaucher DiO MSc, et al. Effect of Iron Supplementation on Fatigue in Nonanemic
Menstruating Women With Low Ferritin: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal. July 9, 2012.