It’s What’s on the Inside That Matters

*Disclaimer: this post is to share my personal experiences and is not to be used for self-diagnosis.

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One day I was headed in to work on the bus.  It was crowded and I was in a standing spot toward the back, patiently waiting for my stop near the end of the line.  Just about half way through the 45-minute ride I started to experience gradual tunnel vision. The only other times I had gotten tunnel vision were in conjunction with passing out – exactly twice in my life. I started repeating to myself “don’t pass out.  DO NOT pass out,” since being on a crowded bus was not where I wanted to hit the floor; and luckily I had a railing to my back that I could lean on.  I did my best to casually breathe in and out deeply to increase my oxygen, yet still not draw any attention. Other than the diminishing view, I did not have any other feelings like I was going to pass out; I did not feel light headed or off balance.  At the next stop, where I new I could pick up a connection, I decided to get off and sit down on a bench right off the stop.  I got my bags, exited the bus, and sat down on said bench – figuring that I needed to eat breakfast and that the heat from the bus with the lack of food was to blame.  Sitting did not really resolve anything.  I regained enough vision to get on a connecting bus to my stop, got to the office and ate my oatmeal like a good kid, and only slightly felt better.  The tunnel vision went away, but something felt “off.”  That afternoon I made an appointment to see a new doctor – a Naturopath.

A couple of weeks later I was in my new doctors office and retold the story of my bus trip.  I had not had a recurrence.  I told her that I was sure it was a blood sugar issue since my mother has had acute hypo-glycemia at times and that’s what I associated it with.  She said “maybe,” and ordered a whole bunch of blood tests.  After the tests were done, I was back at the doctors and discussing how my blood sugar was fine but I did have severe anemia.  My doctor looked at me and said something to the effect of  “I am not sure how you are even here with me right now” because my iron was so low.  She ordered me to fill my iron supplement prescription on my way home and start right away, and if I could not do that then I needed to go to the hospital for injections immediately.  I could not waste another day.

There were other things I found out about with that series of blood tests that would affect my overall health: vitamin-D deficiency, and hypo-thyroidism were the biggies.  But the iron was the one that really surprised me because the symptoms were so very similar to hypo-glycemia. And this is now I learned that it really is what is on the inside that counts.

Iron in your blood is responsible for carrying oxygen to all your organs and tissues.  Without a healthy iron level, everything suffers.  The most noticeable symptom that I had, and would continue to have if I skipped 1-2 doses, was fatigue. Working crazy hours and chasing kids led me to believe I was just tired….but it was so much more than that. The oxygen was not getting to my muscles, my liver, my kidneys, my brain, or any other organ at the level needed – leaving my body to work harder for normal functions. After taking a crazy high dose of iron for about two weeks, I felt like a new human.  I was not as tired, and I had so much more focus on the world around me. My muscles worked, my brain worked.

So here is the moral to the story: don’t assume how you feel is something big or small, don’t jump to conclusions about what is going on with you, and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.  Get to an expert and really find out the truth.

I am a tremendous fan of naturopathic medicine and practitioners. The theme with a naturopathic doctor is to work through what the body is meant to do – there is more time taken to study deficiencies, healthy habits, and how to get your best self on track naturally.  Whether this is your preference or not, I have found that it is important to see a medical expert at least once a year to make sure all is working as expected.  We take our cars in for regular maintenance or when something just sounds wrong…the machines that are our bodies are no different. They need regular care and maintenance too!

Our bodies are meant to function and to perform great feats, not just to look a certain way.  Many fad diets, even those that are healthy plans, can had an adverse affect on a person because we are all unique in our make-up and in what our core needs may be.  Because of my extreme anemia, my doctor (a vegan) “prescribed” to me eating red meat at least three times per week…but if I followed some of the hot diets of the day, I would never meet the needs of my body.

Take care of your body as the mechanical work of art that it is! We are all unique and not one of us will ever look like the other. Focus on how you feel, how you function, and the performance of your machine…and it will change to look the way it’s supposed to look naturally.  Cultivate your health…it comes from the inside out.

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