My journey with iron and Vitamin B12 deficiency and how at-home lab testing keeps my iron levels at an optimal range.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Base. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible.
Since I’m a Registered Dietitian, many people incorrectly assume that I never struggle with any nutrient deficiencies. “You must have a perfect diet” is something I hear all the time! The truth is there is no perfect diet, and even Dietitians deal with health issues.
As a matter of fact, I’ve struggled with iron deficiency my entire life. I was born with a genetic trait called thalassemia, which makes me prone to iron deficiency anemia.
Since there is a family history of thalassemia trait, my doctor knew to test for this at a young age. It’s easy to detect with a simple blood draw. In other words, I’m no stranger to being pricked and prodded with needles.
I’m excited to partner with Base to share more about my story with deficiency and introduce you to their at-home testing. If I had something like Base when I was going through my health struggles, it would’ve saved me so much time and money!
My story with iron deficiency
Throughout my childhood, my doctor’s always monitored my iron levels to make sure nothing got out of whack. Luckily, I rarely struggled with iron deficiency as a child, but I started to notice something was wrong when I was in grad school.
I developed an annoying habit. While watching TV at night, I would snack on ice cubes. I don’t remember the day it started, and it took me a few weeks before I recognized that it was “weird”.
But one day I turned to my roommate and said, “Have you noticed that I’ve been eating a ton of ice?” And he said, “Yes, it’s a lot.” After a quick Google search, a lightbulb went off and I figured out the culprit for my weird cravings.
To my surprise, craving ice is a symptom of iron deficiency. Many people who suffer from iron deficiency also develop PICA, a psychological urge to chew on a non-food items, like dirt, ice or clay.
I went to my primary care physician to have blood work done and found out that my levels of stored iron (ferritin) were extremely low-just 2 ng/mL compared to the healthy range of 12 to 300 ng/mL.
What caused my deficiency?
My doctor referred me to a hematologist to get to the root cause of my iron deficiency. Although I have the thalassemia trait that makes me more prone to a deficiency, it’s not a given that I will end up with a deficiency.
The hematologist did another blood work up on me and found that I was also deficient in Vitamin B12. I started to freak out and ask her a ton of questions, like whether or not being a vegetarian caused this, or maybe it was my long distance running?
She assured me that many vegetarians and long distance runners aren’t deficient in iron and Vitamin B12. To raise my blood levels back up, she put me on 325 milligrams of ferrous sulfate (a potent form of iron) and had me come in for Vitamin B12 injections every other day for two weeks.
After a month of treatment, I had another blood draw and my levels were starting to come back up to normal. The doctor never got to the route cause of my deficiencies, but she suspected the combination of my thalassemia trait doesn’t and plant-based diet contributed to it.
That was over 5 years ago. Now I take a daily dose of ferrous sulfate and Vitamin B12 supplements, and my levels are always normal.
How at-home testing can help
During the investigative phase, I spent hours going back and forth to doctor’s offices for check ups. Sometimes it was to meet with the doctor, but other times it was just to get my blood drawn and see if my levels were normal.
Not only was this extremely time consuming, it was also expensive and inconvenient. If I had the ability to test my blood from home, that would’ve made my life so much easier.
Recently, I was really excited to learn about Base, an at-home blood test that helps you figure out why you’re feeling “off”. Base has a team of doctors, scientists and engineers that translates blood data in an easier way so that you can understand, access and measure your health over time.
Now that I’ve gotten to the root of my deficiency issues, I tried out Base to make sure my levels were still normal.
The test kit comes with everything you need to test– alcohol pads, a lancet to prick your finger, gauze, a bandaid, a vial to collect the blood and shipping materials to send it all back.
Once you follow the simple instructions on the card to prick your finger (it barely hurts!) and collect the sample, you package it up, send it back and wait for your results. You get an email as soon as your sample is received and when the results are live.
The really cool thing is that the results are in the Base app. When you look at the results, you’ll also see insights about your vitamin levels with recommendations (nutrition, supplements, activity) sourced from clinical studies.
I tracked my Vitamin B12 and iron over the course of two months, so I could see if my levels dropped or stayed the same.
Who can benefit from at-home testing?
I really believe that most people could benefit from knowing more about their vitamin and hormone levels.
Many of my plant-based followers ask me how they can know whether they are deficient in certain nutrients. And I always tell them it’s as simple as getting your blood drawn. But Base has made that even easier with a blood draw from the comfort of your own home.
That said, if you believe you are suffering from an ailment or don’t understand your medical health or history, it’s best to consult a medical professional. But if you just want to get a better sense of what’s going on inside your body, try Base! And use code NATALIE20 to get 20% off your first month!