Iron (Wo)man

Recently, I discovered that I'm severely anemic. So much so that it's affecting the hemoglobin in my blood. As a result, the doctor has prescribed that I take 1,000 mg of ferrous sulfate daily - which, from what I understand, is a whole lot.

I don't know much about anemia or iron supplements but I've gotten a crash course this week.

According to WebMD, symptoms common to many types of anemia include the following:
  • Easy fatigue and loss of energy - YEP
  • Unusually rapid heart beat, particularly with exercise - YEP
  • Shortness of breath and headache, particularly with exercise - YEP
  • Difficulty concentrating - YEP
  • Dizziness - Not really
  • Pale skin - Um...I'm Italian. This never comes into play
  • Leg cramps - YEP
  • Insomnia - Not really
This is totally me.

And, since my anemia is specific to an iron deficiency, I may also have:
  • Hunger for strange substances such as paper, ice, or dirt (a condition called pica). - No. Just sugar.
  • Upward curvature of the nails referred to as koilonychias.- Oh....gross!NO! (thank baby jesus)
  • Soreness of the mouth with cracks at the corners. - Nope
Nature Made Iron 65mg, Equivalent to 325 mg Ferrous Sulfate - 300 TabletsSo, when I was at the pharmacy buying my giant jar of iron pills, the pharmacists (who I adore) and I got talking about how severe my anemia was. She asked, "What are your symptoms?" and I replied, "Well, I'm tired all the time - but, really, who isn't?"

And this is the truth of it. Ask anyone how they're doing and very often the answer is "I'm exhausted" or "I could use a nap" or something along those lines. We are such a culture of tired people that my symptoms were undetectable as an actual health issue without a blood test. I assumed that everyone fell asleep sitting up. Or got winded going up a slight incline.

On top of that, I'm "of a certain age" which means that many of those symptoms could have been (and might still be) attributed to girly-issues too. I guess we'll find out once my blood is back to normal.

Which leads me to my final thought on this subject - iron supplements SUCK. Or, more accurately, the side effects from taking iron suck. First on the list: constipation. I'm talking the kind that requires drinking prune juice to counteract it. What am I? 80 years old? Next: black poop. Trust me when I tell you, this is seriously disconcerting. And finally, my personal favorite: severe nausea. Like, "I can barely eat anything" kind of nausea or "I haven't been this sick to my stomach since I had food poisoning" kind of nausea. And it's constant. Now, one could look on the upside which is that, in the last few days, I think I've lost 5 pounds. But, really, not a good diet plan. I'm distractible enough without having the threat of constant puking hanging over my head.

Emergen-C Multi-Vitamin Cherry-Pomegranate Flavored FIZZY Drink Mix, 30 packetsI'm doing everything the doctor suggested - I take it after I eat and then put a little food on top of it and I've doubled my water intake. I'm even drinking Emergen-C to help the absorption of the iron. All of these help mitigate the issues a bit, but not enough.

Needless to say, I want and need to fix the anemia but there's got to be a better way. Being tired is WAY better than being pukey. I may try a liquid form of iron which is ridiculously expensive but might not be so harsh. Or, worst-case-scenario, I'll ask the doctor to give me shots. Even shots are better than pukey.

I'd be happy to hear of any tricks or tips you might have to helping with the iron pill side effects - anything to tide me over until I can talk to the doctor next week.

For what it's worth - get a blood work-up once a year. You'll never know what you might find.

- Alex (aka Iron Woman)


  1. Sorry to hear about this, but hopefully you'll be feeling better soon. Might I recommend Florajen's Probiotics? They have changed my life and makes everything in the digestive area perfect. Make sure you get the kind that are refrigerated. Willy St. Coop has them. It takes about a week, and then you will feel so much better. Good luck!

  2. Look into getting B-vitamin shots along with the iron shots, if you go that route. Be warned, though - the iron shots will be uncomfortable. Tilly the dog has had to have them due to anemia, and it's not a comfortable thing for her - and she doesn't react to shots (and if she thinks it hurts, it probably HURTS!).

    I feel for you - many of the symptoms you've described also could be masked by conditions such as asthma or COPD, further confusing the issue. Since I have severe asthma, I know exactly what those symptoms feel like - and it's not fun. But the nausea would be a thousand times worse.

  3. Marlena - Thanks for the recommendation! My dog actually takes Florjen for his gastroenteritis. :) I'm not sure this would help with the nausea because it's caused by the disolving iron in my stomach but anything is worth a try.

    NomadicH - We'll see what the doctor says. I'm going to try the liquid route first. Hopefully no shots. :)