Didja catch the news story not long ago about the kid who subsisted solely on graham crackers and chocolate milk, and whose doctors ran a kazillion expensive and fancy-schmancy tests only to finally, finally figure out this poor little guy had scurvy? SCURVY, for crissake. In the United States of America, circa 2016. This didn’t happen on some British Royal Navy ship 200 years ago, where all the sailors started having bleeding gums and a ship’s doctor realized lemon and lime juice seemed to put a quick & easy end to that. It happened here. Now. (All I know is, as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, the second I saw “bleeding gums” in the headline, I said to myself, “scurvy.” I read the whole article only to confirm what I already knew.) I can only imagine if this boy’s diet was so absolutely devoid of vitamin C to the point that he landed in the hospital with freaking scurvy, that there are probably several other essential nutrients he’s deficient in. I would love to write a scathing post about child nutrition someday, but that will have to wait. (Plus, since I don’t actually have any children, I sort of figure I’d be attacked like crazy for daring to even suggest that I have thoughts on the matter, so I’ll hold off for now. [But really, what does that even matter, anyway? What makes someone an “expert?” There are lots of male OB/GYNs. They don’t even have vaginas! But I digress…])
Since we’re on the topic of the most basic, obvious, fundamental aspects of nutrition, let’s talk about something I am an expert on: ME!
I am a proud carrier of O-negative blood, which makes me a “universal donor.” This means that anyone with any other blood type can receive my blood and be good to go. (Unfortunately, the reverse is not true: O-negatives can receive only O- blood. Heaven forbid I were in some sort of accident and needed blood, stat, if I got any kind of A, B, or AB blood, I would quickly face some seriously fatal juju. As an O-, my blood is in serious demand in blood banks, hospitals, and vampire drive-thrus. (Also, mosquitos. Those things love me. My blood must taste something FREAKING DELICIOUS to them, because if I’m outside for more than four seconds without being covered in a protective coating of industrial-strength DEET, I will receive no less than 8 to 10 mosquito bites. But I digress. Again.)
My point: I am a regular blood donor at the American Red Cross. As someone who is not routinely engaged in heroic acts nor generally doing anything positive whatsoever for mankind (unless ranting on my blog counts), donating blood is probably the single most important and satisfying thing I do. (Plus, as they say, “The life you save could be your own.”)
SO: I went to donate a blood several weeks ago and I got rejected because my hemoglobin was too low. (Not hemoglobin A1c, just regular hemoglobin.) This was the second time this has happened this year, and probably the third or fourth time overall. According to the Mayo Clinic, the “normal” range for hemoglobin in adult women is 12.0 to 15.5 g/dL. In order to be eligible to donate blood, the American Red Cross requires that you be at or above 12.5 g/dL. During this attempt to donate, the first reading was 12.0. They ran it a second time, taking the blood from a different finger, because, well, the human body is just funny like that sometimes. The second reading was even lower: 11.5.
Um, it’s not like I’m a vegan or anything. I eat plenty of red meat. I don’t eat a ton of it, but I certainly don’t avoid it. So I was pretty stunned when I left the office with all my blood still inside me, and without my free cookies and juice. (KIDDING, of course. I usually just take water and then leave. No need to load up on liquid glucose when you’re pretty well fat-adapted. [See here.]) As far as I knew, I had no signs or symptoms of low hemoglobin, but considering it had happened a few times before, something had to be up, and I wanted to know what that something was.