The iron have me so bazodee…literally!


My heading is the lyrics from a song about steelpan music: the “iron” is the steelpan music and “bazodee” means overwhelmed, confused, dazed in Trinidadian. Now, the original song was about enjoying steelpan music, but my heading means that my actual iron levels are low and I am literally overwhelmed, confused and dazed.

A few weeks ago, I collapsed in the washroom. I passed out for a few minutes and when I woke up, I had twisted my ankle and bitten through my lower lip. After getting bloodwork done and going through the agonizing twenty four hours after being told I had to come in to discuss the results and when I actually met with the doctor, I was told that there was virtually no iron in my blood. Sigh.

As a vegetarian, we’re always reminded that we need to keep up our protein. I do try to include protein in every meal and those close to me know that I’m always lecturing about protein in meals. Somewhere along the line, I guess I lost sight of the iron part of things. The doctor met with me and discussed the levels and while he didn’t try to make me start eating meat again, he did ask me a few times if I would consider eating meat, “not that I want to judge your lifestyle”. Hmmmm…

I can’t actually fathom chewing on and swallowing a piece of chicken or bacon or salmon. I actually can’t. Now I know the body is resilient and if I wanted to, I probably could actually do it, but the reality is that I’m not going to. The fact remains that I have been a vegetarian since high school and can’t go back now. If I can incubate a human and take care of two of us on this diet, I can surely take care of myself, right?

So like the lactose intolerant revelation a few months ago, now there’s this bombshell. I mean, seriously? Does my body want me to eat nothing at all? Sigh. To add insult to injury, since last year, I have given up juice and pop and have stuck to drinking only water and tea: I go through a cup of orange pekoe in the morning, 750 ml a day of green tea at my desk at work and then I drink unsweetened homemade iced tea at home (that I brew myself) and on doing my iron absorption research, I’ve come to find out that properties in tea (tannins) inhibit iron absorption. Here’s the kicker: tannins only affect iron absorption in iron found in non-meat sources. So essentially, because of the all-day tea drinking, my body has not been able to absorb any iron I’ve been consuming. What the f….annoying!

So now what? Now what do I do? I fear I might have to become those meal-planning, own-food-bringing, nutritional-content-scrutinizing people. I don’t have time for all of that! Can’t I just eat three beets and call it a day? I never want to reject food or bad talk food or shun food. I like to eat!! I have been doing research and my loved ones have been providing a lot of information and advice for me to consider, so that’s good, but I still can’t be bothered! hahahaha…I’m kidding.

Over the last three days, I’ve had to make changes. I have to take my iron supplements twice a day with food, but not with dairy (since that inhibits absorption) and try to have it with Vitamin C (which helps absorption), but after one hour of having tea, which affects absorption. It’s like an algebra formula! I just want to eat!!!!

Okay, enough with the whining.

I’m not invincible and despite how free-wheeling I want to live my life, diligence and organization are necessary. The amount of attention my body needs is growing and so to be healthy, I have to make a concentrated effort. No more fainting spells and low energy because I have my life to live. I have a son to raise and a job and a boyfriend and hobbies and this blog and my family and my Fitbit to keep busy. I don’t have time to have low iron!!! Right now, I have to work hard to get the iron levels UP and then maintained! That will take some effort, but pretty soon, it’ll be automatic and my body will be happier and I will be happier. This low iron thing is not going to keep me bazodee!

So on I go, one meal at a time.

Have a good week!



If loving you is wrong….

Meanwhile, this whole time I’ve been lactose intolerant. Can you believe that?

As is the tradition in our family and in most Trinidadian families, I suspect, every morning, to greet the day, we have a steaming cup of Lipton orange pekoe tea with two teaspoons (or tablespoons, who cares?) of sugar and a healthy spoon of condensed milk or a generous pour of evaporated milk or a splash ‘water milk’ as my Mum called it, which I think would be equivalent to ‘regular’ 3.25% milk in North America. I don’t really know. The point is, it wasn’t lactose free milk and I’ve had milk most days of the year. Couple that with the milk and cheese in the weekly Trinidadian staple of macaroni pie (which is our version of baked mac and cheese), I have consumed A LOT of dairy in my lifetime. The thing is, not knowing that my body did not really care for milk and its by-products, I just pressed on with my daily tea and cheese on everything.

Flash forward to this job I’m at now where a couple co-workers are lactose intolerant. They often bring in milk for sharing for coffee and it’s invariably skim milk or lactose-free milk. Because I never thought it needed it, I have never really had skim milk before. Besides, it was too watery for my tea. Anyway, one day, my co-worker was talking about the effects of milk if consumed and I stood there, wide eyed and stupefied. It sounded like my morning routine! That was when I suspected my body had a hard time with lactose. I went out and bought a 2 litre box of lactose-free milk and ate a bowl of cereal just to see if I would notice the difference. Immediately after having that bowl of milk, I felt the difference. I didn’t feel bloated. I didn’t feel gassy or had an upset tummy. I felt ‘normal’ and then I knew! It made me think for a long time. What else have I been doing that’s not good for me but I kept doing because I didn’t know any differently? How long and in what other ways have I been ignoring my body and its needs? Hmmmm

Flash forward to December: eggnog season. Hmmm…eggnog. I’ve ALWAYS liked it. In Trinidad, we make this thing called ponche de creme, which is like three kinds of milk and eggs and RUM. I have always enjoyed sips of the drink, but because of the alcohol, I didn’t get to really enjoy it (I don’t drink alcohol at all). When I moved to North America where you can just buy litres of its equivalent with no alcohol, I was all over that like a dirty shirt! I looked forward to December where I could have cups and cups of the stuff. This time around though, I knew that while my taste buds enjoyed it, my stomach was NOT looking forward to eggnog season. What should I do?

What do you think I did knowing what I know? I bought litres of the stuff and drank it all.

The point of this story is that sometimes you do bad things to yourself over and over again without even knowing it and then wonder why things aren’t good. Then again, sometimes you do bad things to yourself over and over again fully aware of the repercussions, but you make that conscious choice! It’s called being a human.

Having said all that, realistically, I can’t live my life without cheese, so, I pick my battles and make that conscious choice to be bloated and gassy (sorry to the people I will be around). I don’t over do it. I try to have green tea at work, so I cut down on the milk consumption and I do buy lactose-free milk for home now. I will take the bullet for cheese though.

I know it’s wrong, but I don’t want to be right….