Day in the Life: Vitamins

I posted yesterday that I finally admitted that I have asthma and began using an inhaler before exercising. Walking uphill became easier.

The second change came a few days later, when the new ARNP got the results of my blood tests. “You have a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. Do you eat eggs and meat? Or are you a vegetarian?” Yes, I eat eggs and meat – had been craving them muchly the last few years – but I was still deficient. It seems that I don’t absorb vitamin B12 very efficiently, which led to anemia.

I started taking vitamin B12 supplements. I still do, every morning.  (I absorb less than most people, but “some” of “a lot” works out to “enough”.)   At a follow-up appointment she also urged me to take Vitamin D supplements, because I’m on the low side and we live north of Toronto.

Within 1 week of starting vitamin B12 supplements, I had more energy, more endurance, and stopped craving meat and eggs all the time.  Instead of insisting on eggs and meat for breakfast, I began eating things like fruit and yogurt.

What I’ve realized since then was that my activity had been limited by the lack of B12 and the asthma. Now I’m not. Now I’m limited only by my current fitness level – and I can improve it.

The scary thing?  The B12 deficiency was only found because I changed my medical practitioner.

You see, a few years ago I noticed I was feeling run down all the time.  It’d been a gradual thing.  More sleep, dealing with sleep apnea, exercise – all would give me a small boost, but not get me back to where I used to be.

Most commonly, people with anemia report a feeling of weakness or fatigue, general malaise and sometimes poor concentration. – Wikipedia entry “Anemia”

I complained to my then-ARNP.  She checked to see if I was hypothyroid; when the TSH came back normal, and she pointed out I had a history of depression and I was, of course, morbidly obese.

Common early symptoms [of B12 deficiency] are tiredness or a decreased mental work capacity, decreased concentration and decreased memory, irritability and depression.
Wikipedia entry “B12″

She suggested upping my antidepressant dosage, that I exercise more, and perhaps look into weight loss surgery.  (Because of course having a surgery that itself can cause vitamin deficiencies is exactly what I needed!) (*pounds head on desk*)

It could be that if I were thin, she’d have looked for other answers to my fatigue.

Or it could be that if I were thin, she’d have settled for “Let’s try upping your antidepressant, and I’d suggest you exercise more, and see how that works.”  (This being in the grand tradition of “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”.)

But considering that B12 deficiency not only leads to anemia (with fatigue and weakness) but to nerve damage which can result in dementia, I am very glad I decided to see the nurse practitioner closer to home that a friend spoke well of, and who normally tests vitamin B12 levels because “so many people are eating less meat these days”.

 

Fish oil capsules from spcummings on flickr.

Fish oil capsules. Photo taken by spcummings on flickr.

 

So, on an average day, I take Vitamin B12 & Vitamin D.   These deficiencies are NOT caused by being fat.  But both affect my overall health and activity level.

I also take:

The glucosamine & fish oil are horse pills, so they tend to end up making for a largish handfull in the morning.

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18 thoughts on “Day in the Life: Vitamins

  1. When I was in college I started to feel tired ALL THE TIME, like let me sleep on the floor under my desk in class tired–I went to the doctor who told me (without examining me in any way) that, because I was fat I had sleep apnea and needed to lose weight. He offered no treatment or recommendation beyond that. Because I was reasonably sure I didn’t have sleep apnea (he certainly hadn’t offered to have me tested for it, or treat me for it, or any such crazy thing!) I just lived with horrible, grinding exhaustion.

    I’m sure it won’t surprise you that over a year later I was diagnosed with severe anemia. Of course by that time my grades had gone from A/B to solid F (and I pretty much lost a year of my life). I still have to take iron & B12 or things go wonky.

  2. living400lbs – did you have low red blood counts too? I’m wondering if that’s what’s up with me – I’ve got a visit with a hematologist Monday, because my red cells and platelets are low. Some of my net research indicates a B12 deficiency/anemia as a possibility.

    I’m in denial of the other possibilities ATM :) The sky is a nice light purple in my world.

  3. At this point I don’t think I have sleep apnea, but I don’t really know for sure. I mostly have decent energy and I don’t seem to have symptoms (daytime tiredness, etc.) but I know I snore and I sometimes forget to breathe when I am awake, so I’ve wondered if I should get tested.

    I’m worried about the CPAP, though, because I have so many problems with shoulders, neck, etc. that I have to sleep in very particular positions (I also have a claustrophobia-like fear of having anything over my face, which is probably my REAL issue. I can’t even wear a snorkel mask.) So I figure, if I DO have sleep apnea, maybe I would feel even better if I had treatment, but if I can’t tolerate the treatment, why put myself through the pain (ACK!) of dealing with doctors to find out?

  4. @eviltammy – Yes, my red blood count was low & and some of my red blood cells looked “off”. Apparently that can happen with b12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency, or both, but there are other causes of anemia as well.

    @Elizabeth – I understand. I was glad to find that most sleep apnea masks only cover the nose, because I feel “safer” knowing I that if the power goes out I can just open my mouth.

    It IS possible to snore and not have sleep apnea. It’s also possible to control mild apnea with a mouthpiece that positions the jaw, or with the over-the-counter “snore tape” things.

    What caused me to get into the doctor was that I was told I would noticeably stop breathing during the night. Besides being bad for things like oxygen absorption, this seriously interferes with your sleep because the normal reaction to “not breathing” is to start to wake up to breathe – moving from stage 3 or 4 sleep to stage 1 – which makes it hard for you to get enough deep sleep.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Well, the hematologist just seems to think I’m one of those people who run low :) Apparently, my test results for the last 4 years or so are the same – my doc apparently wanted to get me checked now that I’ve got insurance again.

    Next week is my follow-up on my sleep study and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with CPAP. Going to be interesting :)

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  13. Yeah… B-12 deficiency tends to be genetic. Either that or you’re not eating enough of it for a LONG time, which was obviously not the case with you. So I don’t understand this logic of “let’s not check her out properly because she’s obese!” Of course, I never understand that logic…

  14. 465lbs – 41 years old. I have a similar issue with my B12 and can’t get any answers out of anyone. I am taking B12 sublingual supplements and since the last blood test my b12 seems fine but I still have anemia and iron levels are not very good. I have been given so many possible reasons it was caused but none of them “fit”… I would love to chat with you one on one if possible. All my doctors are stumped.

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