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pyxichick
02-15-2007, 09:09 PM
Hey all,

I'm wondering if anyone has ever had experience with a low red blood cell count. I get my bloodwork done every three months due to the medication I'm on for Ulcerative Colitis. My Dr. said everything looked good on my last report, but it shows that I'm low on the red cell count. My hemoglobin and hematocrit are in the normal (albeit lower end) range. I've been anemic before, and know that it makes exercise really difficult. But now that I'm not technically anemic, I'm wondering if the low RBC is having adverse effects on my training.

I'm only obsessing about this right now because I felt like crap the whole time during my last 23 km. ski race, and it just occurred to me that it might be a deficiency.

I'm also wondering if anyone has gone from being a vegetarian to an omnivore and experienced any increase in performance. I don't like the thought of having to eat meat, but if it will help get my blood count up, I may consider it.

Thanks,
Kate:)

Eden
02-15-2007, 09:21 PM
I should think it would adversely affect your training/fitness - red blood cells carry oxygen all throughout your body and if you don't have enough then you probably won't be able to perform at your best. (and think about guys who get accused of cheating - they are often doing things to increase their hematocrit, since it does give you and edge even to have a little increase). It could be that not anemic is not enough for average joe couch potato to notice, but since you are an athlete you may feel the lack more acutely.

LBTC
02-15-2007, 10:23 PM
{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Kate}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

I'm sorry you felt like crap during your last race. I wouldn't at all be surprised if it's the low red blood cell count - makes lots of sense to me.

Eden is right about your athleticism and how much more the variation could be affecting you than the average person. Have you discused with your doctor the amount of exercise that you do, and how you've been feeling? It makes me wonder if there are any simple, non-invasive ways of improving the count that the doc would want to do when he/she sees the whole picture?

I'm afraid I can't answer your question about changing eating habits either. I've always been and always will be an omnivore. :p There are times that I crave meat and I just know I need protein.....and so I have some! It's a good thing!

Good luck and keep us posted on how you feel and what happens with your blood count.

Hugs and bright red butterflies to pump you up!

~T~

Duck on Wheels
02-16-2007, 06:36 AM
{{{{Kate}}}}

I too can readily see where a low red blood cell count can hamper your performance. After all, the job of the red cells is to get oxygen out there to your muscles and cart lactic acid and CO2 away. Fewer red blood cells means less energy to the muscles. That's why unethical top athletes take blood transfusions or EPO before competitions (if they can get away with it).

A bigger question, then, is why the low red blood cell count. If the rest of your blood work looks fine (enough iron, enough B12, and so on), then you may have a low count due to internal bleeding. With UC, that would be no big surprise. I suggest you talk this over with your doctor, see if there are other indications that your UC is flaring, or if not exactly flaring then maybe nevertheless not totally under control. If so, then ask if there's anything you can do to push it further into remission.

Meanwhile ... great that you're nevertheless out there riding and staying in shape! That'll help, whatever your UC throws at you!

annie
02-16-2007, 12:08 PM
Kate,

Another idea to help add iron to your diet, other than becoming an omnivore, is to cook your food in cast iron. Some of the iron actually leeches out into the food. Cooking eggs this way is particularly effective. Wouldn't hurt to give it a try! I love the way food cooks in cast iron.

Annie

Dianyla
02-16-2007, 09:56 PM
Seconding the suggestion to have your iron levels tested and if indicated begin supplementing with it. The first most likely cause of anemia is menstruation. The second most likely cause is gastrointestinal bleeding. It sounds like you've got both situations.

Eating more red meat, especially organ meats like liver :eek: will also help bring your levels up. These dietary sources of iron contain heme-iron which is readily absorbed by your body. All vegetarian sources of iron as well as iron supplements contain non-heme iron which is absorbed but not as easily. It's important to get tested before taking any heavy-duty iron pills because it is possible to have an overload of iron.

Also make sure you're getting enough B12 and vitamin C, those are important cofactors to utilizing iron.

mudmucker
02-17-2007, 07:24 AM
Hey all,

I'm wondering if anyone has ever had experience with a low red blood cell count. I get my bloodwork done every three months due to the medication I'm on for Ulcerative Colitis. My Dr. said everything looked good on my last report, but it shows that I'm low on the red cell count. My hemoglobin and hematocrit are in the normal (albeit lower end) range. I've been anemic before, and know that it makes exercise really difficult. But now that I'm not technically anemic, I'm wondering if the low RBC is having adverse effects on my training.

I'm only obsessing about this right now because I felt like crap the whole time during my last 23 km. ski race, and it just occurred to me that it might be a deficiency.

I'm also wondering if anyone has gone from being a vegetarian to an omnivore and experienced any increase in performance. I don't like the thought of having to eat meat, but if it will help get my blood count up, I may consider it.

Thanks,
Kate:)

Interesting, your hemoglobin is in a normal range and you say your not technically anemic at this point but your red blood cell count is low. Somewhere I thought I heard from one of my doctors that extremes of what is a normal range (high/low) might vary by a few points as an opinion. So you say you are at the lower part of the range - maybe that is just too low for you and should be suspicious of the result. I don't know the +/- latitude in testing for bloodwork results.

I'll relate my experience. I get my blood tested every year due to former thyroid issues. I seem to have had a propensity for iron anemia most of my life. I've been athletic and active all my life and I remember as a teen at one point I was feeling exhaustion and then tested for iron levels. It was the first time I was iron anemic. Started taking supplements on and off. Life goes on and I've been iron anemic several times through the years. I usually attribute fatigue to my often insane working hours so it goes undiscovered until the bloodwork. In my 20's, 30',s and early 40's I basically ate vegetarian although I don't declare that I am because I do eat meat. But for a good long time I didn't eat red meat.

One day in 1998 at age 38 I had gone for a very simple 12 mile bike ride and rested in a field under the sun and it had felt like I severely bonked. I wondered why after such a short ride I was so out of breath and tired. I was later diagnosed with pernicious anemia - which is a B12 deficiency. Somewhere along the line I lost the enzyme to absorb B12, which is responsible for manufacturing healthy red blood cells (I believe quality not quantity of cells). But they can fix it - I just have to get an injection every month because I can't extract it from food. The development of pernicious anemia is more related to the thyroid issues rather than former iron deficiencies. If I forget to get the B12 injection on time by a few days, it can be almost debilitating. I get symptoms of joint pain rheumatism, sleep patterns become disrupted and the kind of fatigue that neither sleep or nutrition can remedy. Needless to say, my performance on a bike and in life in general drops rapidly 3 days before the injection vs. 1 day after. So I pay attention. The B12 is addressed and I decided to address the iron a little better. I adjusted the diet and now (to some dismay) incorporate red meat once a week. I incorporate the meat because as Dianyla mentioned, it is the heme-iron that is effective and is more available in red meat as opposed to plants. I don't think this is in my head but I swear I feel a little bit better, stronger, and have a little more energy by doing this. So as I have more time on the weekends, I'll do my long rides or my long xc skis on Sat and Sun, and eat beef on Sunday evenings. So I have it once a week with maybe some leftovers the next day. Small portions.

pyxichick
02-17-2007, 12:49 PM
Thanks, everyone for the support and confirming what I already suspected.

I've been taking iron supplements every day for two months now, and b12 tablets for maybe two weeks. I was feeling fine for most of the past two months, but suddenly last weekend, I just lost all energy and haven't seemed to regain it. Hills that I used to ski up with no problem are now so difficult that I have to rest halfway up.

There has been a little flare up of UC, so I'm sure that's not helping.

The only reason it's bumming me out so much is that I have the Birkie next Sat. and my doctor appt. is the week after.

Well, maybe the good that will come of this is that I can address the problem soon and get it under control in time for a good cycling season!

I appreciate the responses.

Kate :)

ChickWithBrains
02-26-2007, 02:50 PM
Don't overlook another source to beef up those red cells: FOLATE! Found in green leafy veggies and multivitamins. Anemia where the red cells are very little is iron-related in many cases; anemia where the red cells are a bit too large are related to B12 or folate. Go broccoli go!

Another thought: you might not be able to beef up your numbers a whole lot if your colitis is active -- even if it's better than the bad flares. Anemia of chronic disease is real, and a pain in the butt. Just do your best, keep exercising and taking good care of yourself! (Don't forget the kale and spinach!) :p

Celeste
02-27-2007, 07:43 PM
My DH was anemic for a while and he boosted his blood with Liquid Chlorophyll. And it worked great!! We proved it with a blood test before and after taking this supplement.

So, if you can't eat enough of the leafy green stuff. Drink it! Just a teaspoon a day mixed in some water and drink it down. It is minty fresh and even helps the breath too. :D

The brand he used was Nature's Sunshine, Liquid Chlorophyll and we got it from our local health food store; or herb store.

It may sound strange, but it really worked for him to boost his blood. Good luck to you. I hope you feel better soon. Hugs to you.