June 19, 2014

The Lean Day 11: {Take Your Vites} + How to Answer "So...Where Do You Get Your Calcium?"

*Let me preface this post by saying I'm not a doctor or nutritionist, I'm merely sharing my own experiences. Take what you want and leave the rest. 

Today's Lean was something I have a lot of experience with (and opinions on): knowing which vitamin and mineral supplements you may/may not need. As someone who has suffered from iron-deficiency anemia on and off since high school (both when I've been an omnivore and a vegan), this is something that definitely affects my everyday life. I'm not quite sure why to some people "vegan" is synonymous with "deficient in vitamins and minerals", since a whole-food, plant-based diet abundantly provides the nutrients we need. After all, we're supposed to get our nutrients from food, not pills. Since nothing makes a person more concerned about your overall health than them finding out you're vegan, my party/dinner table/random conversations go a little something like this:

Question for the vegan: So...where do you get your calcium?
Answer from the vegan: The same place cows do: dark, leafy green veggies. Spinach + kale = my jam. Plus, I chug almond milk like it's my job and it has more calcium than cow's milk. (Mentally I add a little "BOO-YAH!" to the end of that sentence.) 

Question for the vegan: So don't vegans like, have a reallllllly hard time getting enough B12? Doesn't that prove it's not natural to be vegan?
Answer from the vegan: 1) I really wish we hadn't been sat next to one another. 2) B12 is produced from bacteria, and since I don't eat veggies straight from my farm/garden/yard that have a little dirt on them, it can be a challenge. Plus, it's notoriously hard to absorb and common lifestyle issues like stress and alcohol can easily deplete it in the body

Question for the vegan: My cousin was vegan for a week and she got like, sooooooo anemic. Being vegan is like straight-up dangerous!
Answer from the vegan: That wasn't really a question....? But really, being vegan doesn't necessarily mean you're healthy. You can slurp Diet Cokes and extra large fries all day and still be vegan, but you'll probably feel disgusting and need to nap about 20 hours out of the day. 

{Note: after these questions are over, ask that person"Where do you get your fiber and antioxidants?" }

Now onto today's Lean: taking vitamins. Like I mentioned above, this is something I think about daily since I've been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia three times throughout my life. The first was when I was a french-fries and diet coke vegetarian in high school, the second when I was a straight up omnivore and lived with Elise, and the third this past spring when I was (obviously) vegan. 

When I got my most recent blood work back in February, my doctor insisted that I was anemic because I was vegan. I might have believed her if I hadn't also been anemic two other timesneither of which I was vegan and once when I was eating meat regularly. Not only did it not make sense, but I felt like she wasn't listening to me. My diet consists of so many whole, iron-rich foods that it just didn't add up as to why this was becoming a chronic issue. My morning power smoothie alone provided me with more than 50% of my daily recommended intake of iron, and that was just my first meal of the day. Even after I felt like I'd clearly expressed my concerns to her, she continued to tell me I needed to start eating meat again. 

I found a new doctor. 

The second doctor I went to actually sat down with me and asked me a million questions about my diet, lifestyle, favorite foods, and (embarrassing!) menstrual cycle. (As Elise can tell you, I get extremely grossed out by any sort of bodily-function talk. Even with doctors.) After about thirty minutes (thirty minutes!) asking me basically everything except my Social Security number and debit card passwords, she told me that my anemia was most likely recurring due to heavy periods. (Sorry if that was TMI. Just tryin' to keep it real with y'all.)

Which actually...made total sense, especially as to why this would have happened when I was vegan AND non vegan, and why it seemed to be a recurring problem. Did someone say "winner, winner,  chicken vegan dinner?". I sure did. 
//1.deva prenatal vitamin//2. deva B12 sublingual//3. garden of life vitamin code healthy blood//
4. deva vegan vitamin d//5. garden of life vitamin code raw iron
She wrote me a presription for iron pills, and when those ran out I started taking Garden of Life Raw Iron on a daily basis. (Note: I was instructed by my doctor to take over the counter iron pills until I could come in for follow-up blood work.) I don't know if it took some time for the prescription pills to kick in or if that stuff is magic, but after a week of the Raw Iron pills I went from coming home and sleeping 1-2 hours after school everyday to barely resting my eyes for 20 minutes. Big improvement. I had my life back again. When I went in for my follow-up, my iron count had significantly risen, but my doc said it would be a good idea to continue to supplement and come back in a few months for a checkup. 

Once my Raw Iron ran out, I tried Garden of Life Healthy Blood since it contained iron AND B12. Why take two pills when you can take one? I generally take a B12 supplement a few times a week (aka when I can remember), but it's not something I stress about since my blood results for that always come back healthy. Plus, I put nutritional yeast on everything, and it's chock-full of the stuff. In the winter here in Charlotte I also pop a vegan vitamin D, since the sun basically never touches my skin. (And even when it does, I'm wearing sunscreen and you should be too!)

While I'm still building my iron stores up, my doctor also recommended that I take a daily prenatal vitamin (don't freak, Patrick!) for it's high doses of B vitamins and iron as well. Based on how much I've loved my Deva Vitamin D, I'll be trying out their prenatal daily in my next order from Vitacost.

If there's one thing I'd like to get across in this post, it's this: be your own advocate when it comes to your healthcare, and don't assume that your doctor knows everything. Find someone who you feel genuinely listens to you and considers every factor before jumping to conclusions. And switch doctors if needed!

For more info (and sources for this article):

Cheers to health!


  1. Love everything about this so much. Love reading when I can hear you talking in my ears through your words. WAH WAH WAH I MISS YOU

  2. Love this post! So true - you have to be your own advocate for your health! Iron is something I've been recently taking supplements for - although now as regularly as I'd like, since I tend to forget often, but they do seem to help my energy levels!

    1. Thanks Lauren! I obviously respect the opinion of doctors but have obviously learned the hard way that they don't know everything. I have a really hard time remembering to take my iron as well (especially since so many things I eat during the day can inhibit it's absorption), so I find myself to be most consistent when I take it right before bed.


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