A little over two months ago, my blood work revealed what my hematologist referred to as “a critical iron deficiency.”
This isn’t something new to me – with the exception of the use of the word “critical”. I have always been borderline anemic, and thanks to my Greek heritage, I have been told for years by various medical providers that I have “thalassemia minor”. WebMD defines thalassemia as “an inherited blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen.”
In other words, I did not inherit my father’s blue eyes or his blonde hair; instead I got his quirky blood.
Additionally, “surgeries designed to promote weight loss, known as bariatric surgery, typically involve a gastric bypass procedure and have shown high success rates for treating morbid obesity. However, following gastric bypass surgery, many patients develop chronic anemia, most commonly due to iron deficiency.”
In complete honesty, I am not sure that if I knew this fact back in 2003 when I had a gastric bypass, it would have stopped me. I was more concerned with losing weight quickly – and while hindsight shows me that the weight loss I experienced was both quick and astounding, it was also temporary and taught me nothing about food and my body.
In 2003, all I understood was that anemia is “a condition characterized by an abnormally low number of red blood cells or deficient levels of hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein found in red blood cells that helps facilitate the travel of oxygen throughout the body.”
In 2003, the only symptom of anemia that I knew about was fatigue. I knew nothing of “persistent headaches, dizziness, vertigo, chest pains, shortness of breath, sensitivity to cold in extremities, and increased dental decay.”
In 2003, I never thought about how in 8 years I would need to stay in the hospital for a longer period of time after my hip replacement to receive iron transfusions – and how I would need iron pills and another transfusion while in rehab.
But it’s not 2003 any longer; it’s 2018 and it’s time to confront the problem.
Scheduling “iron infusions” through the hematologist’s office gave me a 4 week window to prepare.
“The traditional Chinese medicine view of blood deficiency (xuexu) doesn’t correspond completely to the modern medical concept of anemia. IN TCM, blood deficiency syndromes can be elaborated as belonging to one or more of the major organs, adding certain symptoms, specifically:
- If the patient has a heart blood deficiency, there are symptoms of restlessness, agitation, disturbing dreams and forgetfulness;
- If the patient has a spleen blood deficiency, there are symptoms of a lack of appetite, and mental fatigue;
- If the patient has a liver blood deficiency, there are symptoms of spasms, and dry and withering nails.”
All of this sounded so similar to what my acupuncturist has been telling me for months; between explaining about my heart, spleen and liver issues, he was kind enough to not use the word “deficiency” knowing that my inner Drama Queen would go berserk.
Now, sitting in front of him, holding my written blood work, and thinking I had 4 weeks to prepare, I paid close attention as he explained (again) that “for anemia therapy, acupuncture needles are inserted at the pathways of qi flow to the stomach and spleen system. Needles can also be inserted at other meridians to enhance the flow of qi to the liver. The liver, according to TCM, is the organ system that maintains good flow of blood throughout the body and is also the organ system where blood is stored.”
Additionally, “for the resolution of anemia using Chinese herbal medicine, single herbs and herbal compounds may be used. Different kinds of herbs can help boost or improve the production of qi and therefore, the quality of blood.”
I felt confident I was on the right path – between acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and following an approved food list, I was going to come out ahead. When my 4 week delay was increased to 8 weeks due to a continuing shortage of the iron drug, I still didn’t worry. I knew I was on the right path; I felt better, I was thinking better, and my energy was, albeit slowly, increasing.
Two week ago was my first infusion, and as routine, a CBC test to measure my levels before the first infusion was done. While still low, the report showed that TCM had indeed raised my hemoglobin levels across the board. I was happy and convinced even further that I was going to beat this thing.
I had the first infusion and then came home. I felt fine for about 24 hours, and then slept through the rest of the weekend and through most of Monday. Anemia-tired is not simply being tired, it is feeling so drained that everything is an effort. I was concerned, but not overly so. A quick text to my Acupuncturist resulted in his response “to listen to my Body. If it is tired, I should rest it.”
Just an aside: My Acupuncturist doesn’t fully understand that “my Body” is a hypochondriac and slug with obsessive-neurotic tendencies. Many times, it’s probably best to ignore much of what my Body says, but I did sleep, I did rest, I continued with my herbs and I did eat the right foods. I scheduled my next appointment with my acupuncturist after the next infusion.
Last week was my second- and last – infusion. I must admit that as much as I hated having to get up at 5 AM to be at the hospital by 7, I was looking forward to this as I used to look forward to my weekly weigh-ins when I had a successful week of following whatever diet plan I was on at the time. I sat through my second infusion after another CBC test and was given the results as I checked out.
Scanning the report in the Waiting Room, I saw that my iron had gone DOWN from the previous week; down below the levels of what I was almost 9 weeks ago.
The nurse explained that “sometimes your body needs to adjust”, that “I should not worry” (too late), and that “the Doctor would see me for a follow-up in October.”
I drove to my acupuncture appointment in a tearful fog.
Let me say this at the outset: as young as he is, my Acupuncturist has a fully developed skill set for dealing with tearful, frightened, angry, frustrated and melodramatic older women.
I was waiting for a clinical and precise explanation, a justification I could live with even though I was half-hearing anything he said. And it was because of this, when he stopped me mid-wail and left the room to come back with a small glass vial, that I finally shut up.
He had me hold out my right arm and resist his pressure pushing my arm down. I did. Then he gave me the vial and told me to hold it in my left hand and we repeated the resistance with my right. My arm was much weaker. We did this three times with the same results: each time I held the vial, my arm was weaker.
Which naturally led me to shriek, “What’s this vial?” Calmly, he explained it contained an extract of iron.
Stunned again into silence, he had me face the wall and while I still clutched the glass vial in my hand, he applied acupressure, at different speeds up and down my spine. This he did multiple times as well, having me vary my breathing as he hit each vertebrae each time.
Finally, he had me face him again and repeated the muscle testing; to my surprise I was able to resist his pressure pushing on my arm while holding the vial.
Convinced now that there were TWO unhinged people in the room, I listened as he explained it was his belief that I was not absorbing the medicine – the iron – I was receiving because my body was blocking it. As he inserted his acupuncture needles, he further explained that each individual body has an internal magnetic field, and what he did – via kinesiology, acupressure and now acupuncture – was designed to make my body more receptive to the iron.
He sent me home – with new herbs – with new foods to incorporate into my diet – with a reminder to think positively and a desperate need to understand more about what transpired during this appointment.
“NAET, short for “Nambudripad’s Allergy EliminationTechiniques” is a non-invasive, drug-free, natural solution to alleviate allergies of all types and intensities, using a blend of selective energy balancing, testing and treatment procedures from acupuncture/acupressure, chiropractic, nutritional and kinesiological disciplines of medicines. In NAET theory, ‘allergy’ is defined in terms as to what a substance does to the energy flow in the body. Allergies then, are the result of energy imbalances in the body, leading to a diminished state of health in one or more organ system. Contact with an allergen creates a blockage in the body’s energy pathways, which are called meridians. This energy blockage cause interference in communication between the brain and body via the nervous system. This blocked energy flow is the first step in a chain of events which can develop into an allergic response.”
In other words, in NAET terms, my body was “allergic” to the iron medicine I was receiving because my body was blocked.
Kinesiology is used in NAET “to detect and compare the strength and weakness of the body in the presence and absence of any substance. A measured weakness in the presence of a substance is due to the effect of an allergy to the item the person is touching. This simple method can be used to detect an individuals’ allergens.”
“The treatment consists of tapping along both sides of the spine in a descending movement, four times, while the patient holds the chosen allergen. During the first tapping sequence, the patient inhales and holds his breath. During the second, he exhales and holds his breath. During the third sequence, he pants and during the fourth, he breaths normally. Next, the patient’s response is checked by means of muscle testing. If the treatment is successful, the muscle remains strong. If weak, the procedure is repeated.”
Does it work?
All I know for sure is that I did not sleep away three additional days after this second infusion. I did not nap each day at 4 PM. I was able to make three water aerobics classes. I probably won’t know my actual iron levels until I go back for more testing, but right now, feeling as differently as I do from last week, I have to admit NAET makes sense to me. And while I have read some really negative reviews of NAET, there are some astounding success stories as well.
The second thing I know for sure is that my Wellness Center has some incredibly talented and extremely patient TCM doctors and that I am incredibly grateful that they continue to treat me, as well as to answer my texts and emails!
- Dr. Landon Agoado, Care Wellness Center
- Dr. Robert Herbst, Care Wellness Center