Tired? Anemia might be the blame.

Anemia

Anemia

Unfortunately, if you have an autoimmune disease, it’s likely that you also have Anemia which can make you feel extremely tired, one of many symptoms.  In case you’re not familiar, Anemia is a blood disorder where oxygen is inefficiently carried to lungs, tissues and other organs.  The process starts with our bone marrow.

“Conditions such as infections, inflammation, and cancer particularly suppress production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.”-Merck Manuals

“Anemia is the most common extra-articular manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), estimated to occur in 30-60% of patents.  Two primary types of anemia, iron deficiency anemia and anemia of chronic diseases (ACD) are seen in RA patients.  The retrospective study of 225 patients with RA showed that 64% of patients were anemic, and 77% were found to have ACD and 23% to have iron deficiency anemia.

ACD is an inflammatory anemia and inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNFa are thought to play important roles in anemia in RA.  However, it is still unclear how anemia is induced and which cytokine is most important.”-Springer-Verlag 2008

If your anemia is from inflammatory cytokines, your best bet is to get your disease under control and talk with your doctor about other options including B-12 injections.

“Erythropoiesis is often suppressed in chronic inflammatory diseases due to expression of hepcidin, a regulatory hormone that limits the availability of iron for erythropoiesis even when dietary iron intake is sufficient.” –FibroGen

Taking B-12 and iron supplements can be helpful for some people.

“Low hemoglobin may be a temporary problem remedied by eating more iron-rich foods or taking a multivitamin containing iron.”-MayoClinic

And I know personally, that taking B-complex vitamins along with iron does help with my energy level.

In addition to iron, your body needs folate and vitamin B-12 to produce sufficient numbers of healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in these and other key nutrients can cause decreased red blood cell production. Additionally, some people are unable to effectively absorb B-12.”-MayoClinic

Another worry is pregnancy.

“If you’re pregnant, you’re at an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia because your iron stores have to serve your increased blood volume as well as be a source of hemoglobin for your growing fetus.”-MayoClinic

Even more worrisome than your anemia during pregnancy is how it will affect the unborn child.  According to Health&Wealth, “Anemia during pregnancy can cause growth retardation of fetus.”

So what are your options?

1.  Get your disease under control (easier said than done of course)

2.  Avoid alcohol

3.  Avoid antibiotics if your anemia is severe, “Certain medications, such as some antibiotics used to treat infections, also can break down red blood cells.”-MayoClinic

4.  Get blood-work done before conceiving so you can take necessary precautions.

5.  If you do have anemia, find out what kind you have.

Sometimes there’s not much you can do.  Even chemotherapy drugs can contribute to anemia.

The Alternative Route Can Be Lonely: A venting story

Choosing your own path isn't always easy

"Landscape at Twilight" by Van Gogh

Even though my RA is pretty under control, I still have setbacks emotionally and physically from time to time. If I overuse my body or don’t sleep enough, I might wake up with sore ankles, stiff and swollen fingers and aching wrists. This is a breeze compared to the indescribable pain and debilitation I used to experience. The other day I became upset when my favorite RA blogger didn’t put me on their blogroll. (I have since been put on the blogroll but my point is, is that it made me realize I was feeling insecure.) It really occurred to me how alone I am on this particular path. I may visit my support group frequently to read posts, but my contribution over time has become less and less.

Over a year ago I had met two other women on Daily Strength who started taking LDN at the same time I did. We were a bit fearful and excited that the new drug we were on would change our lives. We were right. Soon enough , one of the women dropped out of the group. Her symptoms of RA had mostly disappeared and so she no longer needed the support group. She was active with horses and life. I love support, friendship and sharing, especially online. So even if I were to go into complete remission, I don’t have any intention on leaving Daily Strength. It helps to remind me how lucky I am that I feel as good as I do. The other women stayed in contact with me for some time until she went into complete remission. She no longer needed LDN or Antibiotic therapy anymore. Although she had the occasional swelling of a finger she felt she needed a break from the support group, i.e., a break from the reminder that RA had ever existed for her. Maybe I will feel that way if remission hits me completely, where I no longer need a supplement or a drug. Here’s to hoping. But until then, I definitely need people to lean on.

A couple of recent events have made me feel even more alone. I am lucky to have people visit me on this site and share their appreciation and for that I am very grateful. I met an older man at a BBQ and his daughter, thinking we’d have a good time talking, let me know that he had RA too and that I should tell him about my blog. I knew instantly that this might not go as well as hoped because taking alternative therapies is hard to talk about to someone who isn’t. I know first hand what that feels like because I’ve been on the other side. Although some people have been helpful with suggestions, most people have lead me to dead end streets. Avoiding the nightshade family is a good example of a suggestion I tried that didn’t work.

And here in front of me was an older, N.Y. crass, kind of dude. I knew we were going to butt heads. So I tried my best to find our common ground. We talked about methotrexate and what dosage he was on, etc. When he found out I was taking other things and not even seeing a rheumatologist he started hounding me on how I needed to see a doctor….. Sure I’d love to see a doctor I told him, but I don’t have insurance. He continued to hound me anyway. I explained again, “I don’t have insurance and besides I feel so much better now.” He certainly was not interested in what I take at all. He was talking down to me like I was a kid.

He even said the dreaded, “You’re too young to have RA.”

Obviously he was in the dark with his own disease, a crime in my opinion. I tried to switch the subject asking, how bad his RA was when he was at his worst. He had never experienced RA in any other joints besides his hands…lucky man. It didn’t even occur to him that RA can affect other parts of the body. I tried to explain to him that the dosage of methotrexate that he was on, 7.5 was honestly a real breeze and if that’s ALL that I had to take to keep my RA under control, I never would have gone looking for alternative medications. We also talked about the onset of RA. His happened slowly over time. Mine happened almost overnight.

He told me, “Well it doesn’t sound like you have RA. You have something else.”

Oh boy…now for some really frustrating conversation! I had to let him know he was wrong and this kind of overnight arrival of an autoimmune disease like RA was really quite common. He wasn’t part of any support groups nor did he know anyone else with RA. Luckily the chat ended civilly but I was ready for it to be over the moment it began.

This wasn’t the first time that conversations along these lines have happened. On the other side of the spectrum, on my support group a person who joined was claiming Monavie healed everything. I told her I tried it for a month and it did nothing and that maybe I was willing to try it again some other time in the future but it was too expensive, and that I had found other products like Acai Berry V-8 at the grocery store that I figured may work just as well. I’m extremely rational when it comes to taking supplements or medications. I research, reasearch and then research some more! I have never found anything substantial on the positive effects of Monavie. We went back and forth, her frustrated that I wasn’t defending Monavie and telling me medicines are terrible for everyone. I don’t agree with this and I never will and it doesn’t matter that I’m taking alternative treatments. Every human body is different and I can’t say for sure what is best for someone else. I eventually told her what I took. She continued to sound like a sales person and she probably is, stating what I was taking couldn’t possibly help me. I eventually just stopped posting hoping she’d go away.

So what group do I belong to? I don’t really feel like there’s very many people to chat with about my trials and errors.  I have Hashimotos too, and I’ve had that for years. That’s hardly expensive compared to my RA. I try to remind myself that if I was on a biologic, I would be spending enormous amounts of money.   It still feels lonely though not to have my own personal support group where we talk about RA, Serracor-NK, LDN and other supplements we are giving a shot.

So thank you all for reading out there… you are my support and I’m incredibly glad to have you.

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