Flashback to 5 years ago. I was always tired, my skin looked like crap, my hair was very thin, I was always cold and I would constantly chew ice. Yes, chew ice. This was all due to my severe iron deficiency which ultimately caused my anemia.

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. People who have anemia are often weak, have cold hands and feat, suffer from shortness of breath and other endless symptoms. The most common form of anemia is iron deficiency anemia.


Photo by Becky Hughes

5 years ago I had no idea what was wrong with me. I had a healthy diet — I ate my veggies and was not a vegetarian. I went to countless Doctor visits where I got B12 shots (an injection of the nutrient B12 that is given by a Doctor to increase energy) and attempted to figure out what was wrong with me. They thought I had a gluten intolerance (not it), that I was bleeding internally (nope), or that I possibly had an internal inability to absorb iron (maybe).

In an effort to figure what the hell was wrong with me my doctor suggested I get a colonoscopy and endoscopy… Cringe. The results did not give any insight into why I was not absorbing my vitamins — I was back to square one.


Photo by Spoon University

Next I was sent to a hematologist (blood specialist) who I hoped would have the answers. Basically she told me that I needed to treat my anemia by doing iron therapy once a week, a method of delivering iron by infusion through a vein. Slowly, after a few months of treatment, I started to notice some of my symptoms go away.

After a year of trying to figure out the truth we still didn’t really learn what caused this whole thing. The doctors had no idea. Living with anemia is not fun. I did not feel like myself for many months. I was tired all the time – I literally had to be in bed at 9:30pm during high school or I would feel exhausted. Luckily, naps helped a lot. When I look back at pictures I see the difference in my hair, it was thin, weak and had no volume.


Photo by Helen Poon

Ultimately, we had to come up with our own diagnosis. In 2011 I went on antibiotics for acne, as suggested by my dermatologist. I took the liquid form of amoxicillin for many months, drinking it like a smoothie because it cleared my acne. In reality, it turns out that under no conditions should amoxicillin be used for long term usage. The antibiotics slowly destroyed my stomach lining and I could not absorb my vitamins.

The side effects slowly started to go away, it did not happen overnight. Once I finished my iron therapy, I noticed almost an instant increase in my energy and overall mood because the vitamins went directly into my bloodstream. However, my hair was a different story. I remember my hair dresser thought I fried the crap out of my hair with a straightening iron because it seemed so damage. Today, my hair is finally back to pre-anemia days. But my stomach is another story, every so often my stomach will feel as if nothing has changed and I’ll be in burning pain after eating. Sadness.


Photo courtesy of std-gov.org

If you have any of these symptoms it is possible you may not be absorbing your vitamins, even if you eat a balanced diet. In the end I stopped taking the antibiotics, slowly began to rebuild my stomach lining by taking probiotics and started to absorb vitamins again. This may not be your diagnosis, but hopefully my story reminds you to always make your health a priority.