Oh, don't pretend like you don't have one!
I’m not quite sure what caused it or for how long I’ve actually suffered from it, but it’s a truth I’ve come to terms with, you guys: I have iron-deficiency anemia.
This means my blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells, so my cells aren’t getting enough oxygen. Sigh. Sigh, sigh, sigh.
Symptoms of my condition include fatigue, lightheadedness, paleness, brittle nails, hair loss, trouble concentrating, and grumpiness (I actually just found out about this one, and it explains a lot--gotta make a quick phone call to my ex-boyfriend).
I believe my anemia kicked in when I was 18 and I started to play around with a vegan diet. This period coincided with my soap cravings. That’s right: I wanted to eat soap. Its scent triggered an incredible craving for it that the deepest inhale couldn’t satiate. I ended up tasting it once, but it turns out, soap doesn’t really taste the way it smells.
Anyway, I learned that craving inedible things, like soap, is a not-so-uncommon condition called pica, and it generally points to a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
But even after I learned about pica, I still didn’t put two and two together.
Then, one day a couple years ago, I accompanied my sister to the doctor for a routine checkup or an MMR vaccine or something. Who knows/cares--this is about me. During the appointment, I was experiencing one of my usual zone-outs wherein my head feels too heavy to hold up, so I rest it against a wall or table and I let my eyes roll to the back of my head or just stare out to oblivion.
The doctor glanced at me and said, “You look a little pale.”
PALE?! I’M THE TAN SISTER! My older sister has been mistaken for Irish before, by someone who clearly wasn’t aware her last name is Gonzalez.
So, they did some blood work, and a few days later, my anemia was diagnosed and a daily dose of iron pills was prescribed.
Let me tell you, iron pills are ruthless. The first time I took them, I went from looking zero (nah, like two) to nine months pregnant in one day. Needless to say, I felt, both physically and emotionally very uncomfortable. I figured dealing with anemia symptoms was the better alternative.
The lightheadedness/fatigue/trouble concentrating is one thing. I find myself relying on caffeine and adrenaline to get things done most of the time, so I amp myself up or try to scare myself for a jolt of adrenaline to kick in.
But the brittle nails? Pallor? Hair loss? That’s a whole other issue.
BEAUTIFYING FROM THE INSIDE
I make sure to stock up on foods rich in iron (for the blood cells), antioxidants (for the skin), and omega-3 and biotin (for the hair and nails).
Basically, I just throw anything green (kale, spinach), berries (blue-, rasp-), seeds (almonds, chia, flax), and powders that promise to work miracles (spirulina, hemp protein) into a blender and hope for the best.
BEAUTIFYING FROM THE OUTSIDE
I also try to find products that are made up of these same ingredients, because many of them work well on the surface, too. I like:
- Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Corrector: It's full of antioxidants, and its ingredients help my skin look more even when discoloration is emphasized by "paleness."
- Organix Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Amplifying Lotion: The biotin I take internally helps future hair, but this stuff helps the hair I already have feel less wimpy.
- Vaseline Healthy Hand & Nail Conditioning Lotion: If you're going to moisturize your hands, you might as well do it with something that has vitamins and keratin to strengthen your wholly nonthreatening nails.
These foods and products are good for anyone, anemic or not. But if your skin looks a little drab, your hair is clogging up the shower drain, you’re generally pretty tired, and you’re, uh, craving soap, get yourself checked out.
Have you dealt with the more visible symptoms of anemia? Let's hear your tips and favorite products, ladies!