Thursday, February 09, 2006

Is this a steak I see before me?

When the doctor's office calls to say you need to come in to discuss your blood work, it's not such a good feeling.

I gave up 4 vials of blood last week - and then on Monday the doctor's office called. She wanted to book an appointment Thursday or Friday to discuss the results.

A feeling of dread. I've never had problems show up in my blood before. Do I have some A serious illness?? I tried not to fret, but there was a dark shadow on my thoughts.

I only recently got a family doctor. Never had one before. This is all very new to me. She actually seems to care about my health, my general well-being. She remembers my name and things I told her on prior visits. She is also no-nonsense and old-school. I have a feeling she would not suffer fools - in her patients or her friends. I like this about her.

"I am assuming something about you," she said as she sat down across from me in her sunny, little office. "You don't eat beef, do you?"

"No, I don't."

She then showed me my blood counts for iron and B12. "Maybe if I show you the numbers, you'll start eating sensibly," she said. Iron should be over 110 - mine is 40. B12 should be 150, mine is half that. These numbers were circled on the print-out of my lab results, like errors on an exam.

I told her that red meat makes me sick and I usually throw it up. She said she had never heard of any medical reason for that. She didn't deny that I might throw up from eating red meat, but she had never heard of a loss of enzymes that wouldn't enable me to digest it. "But I always say I don't know very much," she said with a modest laugh. (I have the feeling she knows very much indeed.) She said the medical field is so vast, that each person can only know a little bit of it.

But, as for me, she wants me to go on iron and B12 supplements and get my blood tested again in 3 months.

Supplements I bought on my way home. Can't wait to start the iron ones tomorrow. The National Institute of Health's Dietary Supplement Fact sheet lists "side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dark colored stools, and/or abdominal distress". Well hopefully if I can get my iron up quickly so I can stop taking them. But what's this? 3 1/2 ounces of chicken liver has 70% of my daily intake. Love that chicken liver.

I should maybe state here for the record that I have been a mostly vegetarian for years. I'm learning to eat chicken and fish, but I like my them disguised by plenty of spice. I also have a real problem with the texture of meat and can't shake the image of chewing through what was once living flesh.

Yet it seems I am paying the price for my squeamishness. Both iron and B12 deficiency are caused by lack in diet of meat, fish and dairy products.

Still, the B12 lack doesn't seem so serious. Although the NIH Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet warns that B12 deficiency can lead to "anemia and dementia". And I should really try to avoid that dementia thing. There is hope though: 3 ounces of mollusks have 84.1 micrograms of B12 - which is 1400% of my recommended daily intake. Skip the supplements and had over the mollusks.

Is it time to reconsider a vegetarian diet? Am I destined to become a meat eater?

I'll let you know in 3 months.

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