Anemia, Chronically Gone?
An amazing thing has happened, I've realized over the last year. Maybe I sound silly and superstitious, but I almost don't want to write about it, for fear my good fortune will reverse itself.
But I will because it's an important health update and despite how much I hate this overused word, it does feel pretty amazing.
Chronic anemia: finally fixed?
It appears that my chronic anemia, which I've had for over 20 years since getting rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is gone. I think it's gone? Or it's finally "fixed?"
My last iron infusions were in March 2020, I don't take oral iron supplements, I don't eat red meat, and all of my iron labs have been NORMAL since those last infusions.
What the heck? Is it a miracle? What's going on? I was even finally referred to a hematologist in early 2020 by my primary care provider, hence the iron infusions in March of that year.
Iron and hemoglobin labs
This has been pleasantly surprising news, although baffling to me until I think I finally figured it out.
In the past, taking oral iron pills never helped raise my hemoglobin or other iron labs much. Also, when I would have iron infusions in the past, they would work for a short period of time but then my hemoglobin and other labs would go back to being abnormally low.
Previous labs results
At one point during my not-so-distant past, my hemoglobin was 8! The normal hemoglobin range, according to the University of Minnesota's lab, is 11.7-15.7 g/dL. Since March 2020, my hemoglobin has hovered around 13-something. Last checked in July 2021, it was 13.2!
The other iron labs have remained in the normal range, too. This is great, but why? I remember thinking for months that it was really odd and puzzling, but I just happily accepted the change and worried about other things.
Check with a doctor first
While I'm not a doctor, of course, and I can only write and share things based on my own experiences, some months ago I thought I finally figured out the cause of my mysteriously improved iron labs and the eradication of the anemia I thought I'd be saddled with for life. VITAMIN B12!
By the way, I'm also not qualified to give anyone medical advice, so if you're anemic, please don't just start taking B12 supplements without talking to your doctor first.
I admit that I, um, did that, but then later confirmed with my doctors that it was fine to continue taking the B12.
Taking vitamin B12, B6, and folate
Why did I randomly start taking vitamin B12? Once COVID-19 hit, it triggered my anxiety and depression to extreme, severe levels. At some early point during the pandemic, I decided to start taking B12 to help with anxiety and my mental health.
I thought I had read somewhere that B vitamins help with anxiety and mood issues and I didn't want to take B-complex vitamins; so, I just decided to try B12. I've since added B6 and folate (not folic acid), with the approval of my doctor.
Did B12 help my anemia?
I've racked my brain and I can't think of anything else that would have consistently improved my iron labs so much. Normally, not eating meat and not taking iron pills, my hemoglobin and other iron labs should have tanked not too long after receiving the iron infusions in 2020. Nope.
I get my bloodwork drawn a lot, and every time since those infusions, my iron labs have been excellent. I was happily shocked each time I read the results. While I haven't yet talked to my hematologist about this (who has time for another specialist?), my gut hunch is that taking B12 every day has gotten rid of my anemia.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia
I thought the anemia was caused by my RA, and I even wrote an article about it back in 2016: "Anemia & RA." And maybe it still is, via a vitamin B12 deficiency.
I'm also confused about why no doctor ever had me start taking B12 or other B vitamins a long time ago. I guess this is yet another example that doctors don't always know everything and that you need to listen to your own body and be your own best advocate.
Interestingly, I just found an article from Johns Hopkins about the link between vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia: "Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia." I never knew this existed!
Is this what my problem has been all along? Why did no doctor ever bring up this possibility? I will be asking about this the next time I see my primary care doctor, integrative medicine doctor, or contact my hematologist (do I still need a hematologist?). Heck, I should probably ask my rheumatologist, too, I suppose.
Other culprits: stopping methotrexate and Kevzara
Other than adding B12 daily, the only other change or thing I can think of is that I stopped taking my RA medications sometime during the pandemic: methotrexate and Kevzara. That was an accident though, and a long story that I won't go into right now.
I also know that methotrexate depletes folate, which is a B vitamin, and I took folic acid for years (the synthetic form of folate, I recently learned) because of this.
Again, I'm not a doctor and I'm not trying to "play doctor," but my gut instinct tells me that adding vitamin B12 to my daily pill regimen is what helped to drastically improve my iron labs and keep them stable. But I don't know for sure and the doctors probably don't even know for sure either, I'm guessing.
Continuing my doctor-approved supplements
I don't want to experiment with this during Covid-19 and I want my iron labs to remain normal and healthy. I also do not want to go back on methotrexate during the pandemic if I can help it.
So, I will continue taking B12 every day along with other doctor-approved supplements and hope that my anemia stays away for good. I suppose one positive thing about the pandemic is that it helped get my anemia under control, in a weird roundabout way.
What strategy to fight fatigue is most effective for you?