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New to anemia, a bit confused and worried

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Old 11-05-2003, 06:34 AM   #1
Kerry B
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: uk
Posts: 21
Kerry B HB User
New to anemia, a bit confused and worried

Hi, Im a 31 yr old female and I was diagnosed with IBS about 18 months ago. After some blood tests taken basically to find out what the possible cause of my IBS I was told I was iron deficient (1mg). The doctor who ordered these tests didnt seem too concerned about my low iron and told me to take ferrous sulphate. Ive had experience with ferrous sulphate and what with having IBS told my doc I didnt want to take the iron pills because of the nausia and constipation problems they cause. Dr said ok and to find another way to get iron ie from a health food store and in my diet. In the mean time I was sent to a gastro dr who after looking at my past health notes..having three children, heavy periods and poor diet, said I should take birth control pill to reduce bleeding, improve my diet and then my iron would be ok. This was in february of this year. Yesterday I went back to my dr after a follow up blood test to see how my iron was and she said it was at 3mg. Unlike my other dr she seemed concerned by this and wants me to do a stool test for blood. Also she wants me to go back to the gastro and also be tested again for celiac because although I had a blood test for this which was negative she said sometimes it can be wrong.
My question is really, Im pretty worried about how serious the causes of my low iron and bowel problems...are they linked? If I raised my iron level to a normal level would my IBS go away or visa versa? Im trying not to worry myself to death about the possible causes...Ive got to wait 4 wks for the stool test results...surely I would be feeling a whole lot worse if it was serious? I dont feel that bad except a little tired. Something else that might be a cause of my current low iron could be that after the birth of my youngest 2 and a half yrs old, I hemoraged(sp), hb was 6 so I had a transfusion and was let out of hospital at hb of 9...could it be that I never really got better just got used to feeling crap? Could someone put my mind at ease abt the possible causes of low iron (except poor diet cos my dr said it wouldnt be that alone)?
Sorry to ramble, thanks for reading this!
Oh one other thing, what is the normal iron level? my dr said between 20 mg and 250mg...that right?

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Old 11-05-2003, 02:53 PM   #2
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PaNik5717 HB User
Hi Kerry,

I wrote a response earlier, but the boards have been acting a little funy with the new format. So, I will try again. I have actually been anemic from blood loss and my iron levels haven't been monitored as much as my hemoglobin and hematocrit, so I am not entirely sure about low iron levels. I am guessing you are talking about ferritin. Mine is always low and my TIBC should be high to try to get more iron.

Anyways, being deficient in iron - if it isn't from diet - is usually caused by one of two things. Either the iron is being used up to make more blood because of blood loss somewhere, or your body doesn't absorb it well. In your case, it seems like they are trying to search for a source of blood loss. With IBS, it seems like a good idea to check out your digestive system for any source of blood loss. And, to help your body build up it's iron stores, slowing down your periods can help a lot. I don't think having more iron will help you with your IBS. I would think it would be the other way around since it would seem that IBS can lead to blood loss somewhere along the way. I can't say that I know that much about IBS, but it does seem tough to treat. That may be a good place to focus on.

Eventually, with low iron levels, I believe you will become anemic, especially since you don't take iron tablets. There won't be enough iron to help in the production of red blood cells. You can at least work on your dietary iron for now. Make sure you are eating good meat sources of iron because they absorb better than the vegetable sources. You can mix the two for optimal absorption. Also, add vitamin C whenever you are eating iron and keep calcium out of your stomach when you are trying to absorb iron. I like milk with my meals, but I have had to insert it at snack time to make sure I am getting it, but not getting it at the same time as the iron. I have also decided that chile beans made with pinto beans, red meat, and actual red chile are an optimal meal. The meat helps the beans absorb and the vitamin C in the chile helps them both. Maybe the rest of you could try a recipe with tomatoes or red peppers if you can't get red chile.

Old 11-06-2003, 06:16 AM   #3
Kerry B
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: uk
Posts: 21
Kerry B HB User
PaNik, Thank you for your reply.
Yes I agree that the Ibs has more likely caused the anemia rather than the other way around and probably wouldnt have any effect on my ibs if I corrected my low iron. Ive been trying to get my Ibs under control ever since I was diagnosed and have mucked around with my diet...eliminating certain foods and concerntrating on getting enough fiber that Ive forgotten about all the other vitamins and minerals I need so have probably made a low iron count even worse. My dr prescribed me ferrous gluconate which I read on here was easier on the stomache so will give that a go...although my dr also said that iron tabs wont help much if my low iron is caused by bleeding inside somewhere.
Ive had a barium enema which was fine, showed no disease, so that rules my digestive system out as far as Im aware, but would a stomache ulcer maybe the cause and show up with blood in the stool?
I think more likely Im just not absorbing the iron due to my digestive system just not working right, but my dr mentioned something about having a possible food intolerance to something that enhibits the aborbtion of iron like wheat. Is this true and has anyone else had experience of this?
So from your post saying that low iron eventually I would become anemic...Im not anemic at the moment just low in iron? My other test results were fine.
Thanks again for your help.

Old 11-06-2003, 07:24 AM   #4
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PaNik5717 HB User
I did the same thing as you. I was trying to get my hypoglycemia under control and focused so much on protein that I probably wasn't getting enough iron. But, I became severely anemic. In that case, I believe there has to be something else going on, like blood loss or malabsorption. Otherwise, every vegetarian would be severely anemic.

A lot of people have stool tests as well as other tests like colonoscopies, not just the enema. I'm not sure what it takes to diagnose an ulcer, perhaps the reverse of a colonoscopy...some sort of camera through the whole digestive system. amwood was telling me about her tests in our post about hematologists. Ulcers can be a significant source of blood loss, so it would be good to rule that out. It seems like that blood might be digested and blood in the stool would come from the intestines, but I have no clue really.

There are people on here who have problems of absorption, but I would also think that would result in anemia sooner and not just iron deficiency. If you still have normal blood counts, your body is probably getting the iron and using it up. You can find people here with the different problems with absorption and you can probably find more info on-line to see if that might be you. As long as your red blood cell count isn't low, you are right, you aren't anemic, yet. The definition of anemia is having a low red blood cell count. This is usually determined by the amount of hemoglobin or hematocrit in the blood. These are the red parts that help the blood transport oxygen. You don't want to get to the point where you don't have enough of them. Get the iron problem fixed before that!

Good luck.

Old 11-07-2003, 10:27 AM   #5
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Wa., U.S.
Posts: 369
Pootsi HB User
I don't know if you know this but IBS can sometimes be confused with Endometriosis.
Because, endo can be on the bowels which in turn cause IBS symptoms.
And the symptoms of endometriosis is Very heavy periods, painful cramps before, during and after your period. The ibs symptom, is usually most active around that time of the month. Plus, feeling the need to pee a lot, bloatiness all the time, fatigue. Sometimes pain with sex.
I have endo and use to be in an endo board, these syptoms you described, plus pain, was Very common in there. Very heavy periods are not suppose to be normal.
I had Very heavy periods and bad cramps from the time I was a teen, I use to pass out sometimes. Come to find out I also developed anemia with the iron def. The cramps with periods (for me) disappeared. Years later found out I had endo, which caused quite a bit of damage in my reproductive area. Luckily I was able to have a child before the severe damage, cuz Im now infertile. I was the opposite, I had constipation all the time. But it's more common to have the ibs.
It may be a possible explanation, lot's of woman don't know they have it til something odd like this happens, or pain.
When I found out I had it, it was because I had mid-cycle bleeding, turned out be a cyst on my ovary due to endometriosis, they also found the endo lesions everywhere. The cyst was pressing against my colon, which caused it to narrow in that area, which was why I was constipated a lot.
Im much better now and taking b.c. to keep estrogen levels, balanced, and periods a lot lighter, it helps with pain for others with endo also.

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