Four weeks ago I wrote about my iron levels and the frustration of trying to figure out why I won’t store the iron I get from food and supplements. A few of you have asked that I follow up with what I decide to do about it. I realize that this might be the first of many approaches that I will take, but these things take time and you have to start somewhere!
Again, I realize that if I were to stop running this issue would totally disappear, so that means that this is not a health issue, but rather a performance issue. And most doctors really don’t have time to worry about the whiny athletes who are fixated on being that last 1% healthier than we are. I get it.
The good news is that I found an Oriental Medicine practitioner in Greenville who specializes in vitamin absorption and was willing to take my case seriously! He used the same blood work I had done on August 8th, and performed an extremely detailed analysis using optimal zones, quite similar to the zones provided by InsideTracker, and he came up with a diagnosis and plan of attack.
Hypochlorhydria is a lack of acid in the stomach and that’s what Dr. Hendry believes that I have. Given that iron requires an acidic environment in order to be absorbed, he prescribed gastric enzymes to increase hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. He also decided that I could benefit from B vitamins, which increases iron absorption, and also Zinc and emulsified vitamins A, D, E, and K which might not have been adequately absorbed, also due to the lack of stomach acid. And additionally, he wants me to add a little apple cider vinegar to my diet and take a couple weekly B12 shots initially to get my absorption kick-started.
I love how thorough he was in identifying any possible issues and also easing my mind by showing me that liver and kidney function are optimal, so no damage from all the iron supplements I’ve been taking all these years! Phew!! Plus, his solution is one I haven’t tried before, or even thought about, so I am definitely willing to give it a try!
Before I went and saw Dr. Hendry, a few friends had also mentioned that they had had success in bringing up their ferritin levels by eliminating gluten from their diet. Knowing that this is something that people have suggested for years and I have been too stubborn to try (I love my bread and beer) I knew that I would really kick myself if I get to the end of my career and find out that it would have made a substantial difference.
So I’ve been gluten free for almost a month now. I have felt no difference in my energy levels, but I have noticed that I don’t crave sweets like I did before and Cole doesn’t complain as much about my stinky farts. ;-P But the real test will be at the end of September when I test my iron again and see if things have straightened out at all.
I also realize that depending on the results at the end of September, even if the numbers are better, I’ll want to isolate the variables and add gluten back after NYC to see if my numbers are still good with just the increased stomach acidity paired with intense training. Honestly, I don’t really want a gluten-free diet to be the answer, but if it is, it’s definitely worth it through the end of my career.
So those are all the updates for now. I’ll update again after the testing in September, and hopefully after a more successful race in early October!