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Good news and bad news.
The good news: Knowledge is power. And with every passing day I feel I’m a step closer to figuring out my health, figuring out what makes this wacky body tick so I can actually head out into the world feeling good, feeling like I can conquer everything in front of me.
The bad news: Health feels like playing some twisted version of Whac-A-Mole, where not only does something keep popping up every time you figure something out, but sometimes it’s two things. Three things. Ten things!
And before you know it, your down twenty rabbit holes reading anything and everything you can get your hands on for a specific topic, and it starts to take over a bit of your life.
Then There Was Iron…
Thank goodness, in the world of health we’ve made some major strides over the past few years. I got my deviated septum fixed, something I had wanted to do for decades. I lost a whole bunch of weight, something I had been trying to do for a while, but finally cracked the code by just learning to chew my food more. And most importantly, I conquered my crippling sciatica that made the simple act of sitting one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced.
But despite tremendous strides forward, there was always this educated suspicion that I was on the beginning of a long road, and had plenty more room to go.
That recently became very clear when I noticed a bit of a pattern after some bloodwork.
My iron was low, and getting lower. No, not dangerously so. If you just looked at one blood test, you’d see I was still in the normal range. And that’s the very simplistic way most people, and sadly, most doctors, look at things. There’s no problem… until there’s a problem.
But I took note.
What The Hell Is Ferritin?
Now, I’ve been exploring health and fitness for some time. One thing everyone tries on the path to optimum health is supplements. Some people swear by these little expensive pills. Others think they amount to extremely expensive urine. And as much as I’d like to trust the first group, after trying so many different things, none have ever made a noticeable difference. At least not a positive one, anyway.
But when my iron was on the brink of the red zone, and I started getting headaches and feeling cold in my hands and feet, I took some iron, and the problems went away very quickly. You’d think this is enough to be concerning. My iron levels were in the red, I was having clear symptoms that connect to iron deficiency, and iron helped the problem. What more evidence could I possibly need?
But my doctor was unperturbed.
He said that so long as my ferritin was not in the problem zone, there’s nothing to worry about.
I said to myself these utterly important words, “What the hell is ferritin!?”
But I let it go. I figured if I got another headache, I’d take some more iron. And if my ferritin ever went low, I’d contact the doctor once again.
And sure enough, shortly afterwards my ferritin went into the red zone too.
Waiting for a Problem
Big take home from this and so many other stories: Doctors tend to look at things as they are, not how they might be soon. If your blood sugar is progressively going up, they’ll ignore it until you’re pre-diabetic. If your TSH levels are off, they won’t start worrying about things until you have a thyroid disease.
And here in my case, I saw the writing on the wall. Something was wrong, but the system says we wait until there’s a real problem, not the likelihood of a problem.
So he had me do an experiment and then get tested again in two months. I wasn’t allowed to take iron or any other supplements for the duration.
Now, the strangest thing happened when I saw my results. For a moment, I got really excited. My ferritin was no longer in the red zone! My body was self correcting. My diet was doing the trick. Everything was back on track and…
Something seemed odd about the number. Upon further investigation, my ferritin had actually gone down further! Really low, in fact. But it was no longer being labeled as red… because they shifted the numbers!
That’s right. Things were actually getting worse for me. But the system went from saying “This is a problem we need to address” to “You’re fine, don’t worry about it”.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that I was all better now… the doctor was willing to pursue things further.
But the process we started is going to take forever.
And The Process Moves On Forward
I need to visit two more specialists. We’ve learned our lesson in this wacky country. Sure, I can get an appointment in a week. But any doctor who’s worth anything will not be available quickly. No, if you want quality care, you’re going to need to be exceedingly patient. So I have to wait a couple of months before my appointments. And I’ll need to get my blood checked again.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading like crazy about iron, and it’s rather complex and discouraging.
I’m supplementing daily, but it’s an enormous mess. You see, getting iron to absorb into the body is like some wild puzzle to put together. You need to consume the iron with certain nutrients, while simultaneously avoiding others. So best to take it with other specific supplements on an empty stomach… however, iron without food often causes stomach upsets.
So I may or may not be slowly but surely solving the problem, and I won’t know for several months, and in the meantime I’m often sitting an entire workday with my stomach killing me.
No End In Sight
I would like to believe with the right supplementation my body is correcting everything and I’ll be back on a great path soon… but the headaches still pop in every once in a while. And I don’t know why.
I’d like to think I’m on a good path. A healthy path.
That with the right pushing and effort I’ll get where I want to be.
But every time one thing falls down and gives reason to be happy, something else pops up and gives me reason to panic.
And I worry every day that the pursuit of health is just a windy path with no end in sight.