I tested positive for anemia (the most common sign of celiac disease that can be detected by basic laboratory tests) when I was a 8 or 9 years old and so my doctor had me start taking iron supplements. It was this awful liquid medicine that tasted like bad rust. I don’t think she purposely prescribed me the grossest medicine that she could find, I just was too young and didn’t know how to swallow pills yet, so I’m assuming that the rust stuff was the only option available. And ever since then, the diagnosis of anemia has been a constant for me in every blood test that I’ve taken. I have a blood test done and surprise! I’m still anemic.
There are other causes of anemia, but iron-deficiency anemia is what I’m talking about here. The symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia that I experienced (which are all verrry similar to the symptoms for hypothyroidism, which I also have) are essentially fatigue, weakness, moodiness, and dizziness.
I never really thought about why I was anemic. I just was. So, this diagnosis, unfortunately, did not lead me to investigate anemia, nutrient malabsorption and ultimately discover my celiac disease or any of my other food allergies. But that’s not to mean that I didn’t learn a lot from growing up anemic. I did. And what I learned is this:
My food *cravings are a sign of something and I should pay attention to them.
If that’s a vague lesson, that’s because it has to be. I don’t know always know what my cravings are a sign of. I just know that they are a sign of something and it would behoove me to pay attention to them so that I can try to figure it out.
Growing up, I treated my cravings as something to be suspicious of instead of landmarks on a path meant to help me find my way. And it’s not a huge surprise to me that I was suspicious. Food cravings are complicated. They are about our desires, which we must be comfortable with. It’s difficult not to judge ourselves for wanting something that maybe we think that we shouldn’t. But they often are a sign that we need something for our health (in this case, for me, iron-rich foods). Or a maybe they are a sign that we need to eat less of something (again, in this case, anemia was one of the first signs for me of celiac disease, even though I didn’t know it at the time. And the anemia and cravings meant that I should stop eating gluten and grains). Ignoring our cravings in these cases will do more harm than good.
This was all really confusing. And without a wealth of other people’s experiences and holistic doctors who write articles and put them on the internet, I would never, even after I was diagnosed with food allergies as well as anemia, have put all of this together.
Even though it’s not perfect, cravings are a part of the language that our bodies have to communicate with us. So, even though we may not quickly make the connection between what is what being communicated and why, it’s important to pay attention so that we can learn and begin, in a very practical and not at all “woo woo” sense, to know ourselves.
Up until this year, I have craved sweet potatoes and red meat, which are iron-rich foods, pretty constantly. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. It didn’t bother me. But I noticed it and I figured that I was just one of those people who needed to eat a lot of meat. Full stop. And then this year I noticed (about 4 months ago, which is about 2 1/2 years into eating grain-free as well as gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and soy-free) that I don’t crave red meat the way that I used to. I can now, for the first time in memory, have a meal without meat and feel satisfied and full when I am done.
I am assuming that is a positive sign. I don’t know how to test my “positive sign” theory since the only test I know of for leaky gut is one that I can’t take because it’s partially made of lactose, but I’m assuming that this change in craving means that I am healing. My gut is healing. After being fully grain-free (going just gluten-free didn’t cut it) dairy-free, sugar-free, and soy-free for almost 3 years, I am finally absorbing the nutrients that I am taking in. I can’t even tell you how good it feels to even think that the health issues that I have had since childhood, that I thought I would continue to struggle with for the rest of my life, are starting to heal. I am so, so grateful.
Melissa over at Gluten Free For Good wrote a fantastic post that explains very clearly from the cellular level why and how iron-deficiency anemia affects you. If you’re interested, you should read it.
Also, if anyone knows of a test for leaky gut that doesn’t involve drinking lactose, I would love to know!
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Filed in: Lifestyle