I will never forget the time I was diagnosed with anemia. I was 17, had pale skin, was always cold and fatigued. Even after a full night’s sleep, I’d wake up tired, wanting to go back to bed. Fortunately, my hands-on parents took notice and told me to see our family doctor. This is when I realized the importance of having healthy red blood cells.
My anemia was triggered by a combination of things. First, I was a strict vegetarian based on my love for animals and had not eaten meat, fish or poultry since the age of 14. I neglected to eat common meat substitutes, such as tempeh and tofu, and hardly ate fruits and veggies. Second, my menstrual periods were very heavy, and every month I felt like I would bleed to death.
When I told my doctor about my poor eating habits and heavy periods, she immediately tested my blood. After stabbing the pillow of my fingertip and taking a blood sample, the results showed that my hemoglobin levels were too low.
My doctor told me to eat a sensible diet and prescribed iron tablets. I had to take a small red tablet every morning on an empty stomach with water or juice. I was to do this for six weeks, and after this, she would retest my hemoglobin to see if it went up. My doctor also started me on birth control, stating that this would reduce my menstrual flow.
After taking the iron pills for six weeks, I had my hemoglobin checked. Luckily, this time, my levels were within the healthy range. My skin had gotten its color back, my period was less severe, I wasn’t cold anymore and I had energy to spare. I stopped taking the iron tablets, which by the way caused serious constipation. My doctor told me to continue to eat healthy, and although I still love animals, I gave up on being a vegetarian.
If you suspect that you have anemia, see your doctor immediately for a diagnosis. In addition to fatigue, you might also get headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat.
To prevent or combat anemia, eat healthy foods that are rich in iron, folate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin C. Examples includes leafy green veggies, beef, lentils and iron-fortified cereals and breads.
Mayo Clinic: Anemia