Iron Deficient, Anemic Lady with Fibromyalgia! (Whoa…What?)
It’s good to be back! I have some amazing news! The riddle of my mysterious, continuous fibro flare has been solved!!! The not so good news (for me) is this is a chronic issue I will need constant medical intervention for. You may, too?
Hemoglobin and iron are proteins in the body. Hemoglobin is in our red blood cells and carries oxygen to your body’s organs. If our hemoglobin is low, this means we are anemic. Ferritin is a protein produced by the body that contains iron. If our ferritin is low, we have an iron deficiency.
I am anemic.
I am iron deficient.
Is there a correlation between fibromyalgia, anemia, and iron deficiency? According to a verywell Heath article posted February 26th, 2018, the answer is yes;
For people living with fibromyalgia, nutritional deficiencies can be an on-going concern. This is especially true among women with fibromyalgia of whom 90 percent have some level of iron deficiency. In fact, according to research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fibromyalgia can increase the risk of iron deficiency in women by as much as 88 percent.
Chief among the concern is the development of iron deficiency anemia. As the name suggests, this form of anemia develops when you lack a sufficient amount of iron in the blood. Without iron, your body cannot produce enough of the substance, known as hemoglobin, needed to carry oxygen to cells.
Why iron deficiency may be higher in women with fibromyalgia is not entirely clear, and some have come to believe that the association may be, at best, incidental. Despite the contention, it doesn’t negate the impact that anemia can have on a person living with fibromyalgia or the importance of diagnosing and treating the condition early to ensure the best possible quality of life.
I knew I was anemic, my hemoglobin would sometimes reach a ten (12-16 is the normal range for a hemoglobin test) but usually stayed around an eight. I never knew about ferritin, even what it was or did. I do now! Low ferritin had not been traditionally associated with fibromyalgia, nor had anemia, until 2016. But low levels of hemoglobin and/or ferritin for a person who has fibromyalgia can cause a severe flare. We will not get over a flare until we raise those levels.
Optimizing iron levels can have a significant impact on improving how we feel. We need to have our ferritin levels checked. (This is a separate blood test our doctor can simply order.) Some doctors will consider the ferritin test to be normal if it is over 8. My clinic labs report 15-205 being a normal ‘range.’ Iron researchers consider these ‘normal’ range numbers to be (and I quote) “insane.” The absolute, lowest optimal number for an acceptable ‘normal’ Ferritin level is believed to be 60.
There are 7 symptoms tipping us off to asking for a ferritin blood test.
- Hair Loss
- Unexplained Infertility
- Restless Legs (Ferritin levels under 60 have been associated with Restless Leg Syndrome, and you can calm your legs by optimizing iron and magnesium intake.)
- Cold Intolerance
Let’s add another log to the fire, the correlation between anemia and the need for intravenous iron infusion after Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery. Yes, weight loss surgery. (If you haven’t had weight loss surgery, feel free to skip this part.*)
(Let’s talk about the ‘fat-lady’ surgery. I had the RNY gastric bypass surgery in 2010 and I can say ‘fat-lady’ because I am one. This surgery is not a cure-all. You will go through months of psychological testing and nutrition classes if you plan on having this procedure. If you’ve had the operation and haven’t been tested and trained, your chances of long-term, weight loss success is extremely unlikely.)
Weight-loss surgery helps you lose weight and lowers your risk of medical problems associated with obesity. Bariatric surgery contributes to weight loss in two main ways:
- Restriction. Surgery is used to physically limit the amount of food the stomach can hold, which limits the number of calories you can eat.
- Malabsorption. Surgery is used to shorten or bypass part of the small intestine, which reduces the number of calories and nutrients the body absorbs.
Four common types of weight-loss surgery are:
- Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
- Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.
- Sleeve gastrectomy.
- Duodenal switch with biliopancreatic diversion.
*What are the symptoms of iron deficiency? (Many symptoms mirror a fibro flare.)
- Lack of energy.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Hair loss.
- Brittle nails.
- Pale or yellow skin.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Restless legs.
- Strange pounding sensation in your ears.
- Craving for ice or clay (pagophagia).
Iron has many important roles in our body. It’s important for the health of our hair, skin, and nails. It also helps make hemoglobin. This is the substance inside red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout our body!
How do we treat this?
We need to monitor our level of iron. We can develop iron deficiency and anemia at any time. Our healthcare provider should measure our iron levels at least once a year. (Every 3-6 months if you are deficient, and have fibromyalgia.)
Red meat, poultry, seafood, leafy greens, legumes, iron-fortified grains, and other iron-fortified foods are all good sources of iron. Dietary changes alone may not be enough to prevent or fix an iron deficiency. We may need an iron infusion. We must work with our healthcare provider to find the right iron supplement plan for us if we are deficient.
(Iron supplement can cause side effects. Many people have constipation and nausea.)
There it is. My issue, could it be yours? Yes, I am the iron deficient, anemic lady, with fibro! I knew I was experiencing side effects from a certain medication and was successfully taken off it. I was aware of my iron deficiency (in the past) and knew I was anemic. After having my blood tested last week, I found out I would need an iron infusion, again. I go to a medical unit in the hospital that handles infusions of all kinds. These cannot be administered like a common B12 shot. The iron is introduced into your system through an IV port.
I will be much more vigilant with my lab work and have set up a current account on MyChart. Some hospitals and clinics provide a site online where you can access all of your health records.
Do you have MyChart available for your medical records?