Anemia...from running?

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I'm a 55 year old male who runs, more so this year than ever before. My iron levels have been falling a lot the past few months (hematocrit now at 30, hemoglobin at 10.0). Although it coincides with my increased running (and weight loss, too, by the way), I have a hard time imagining these are connected. As yet, the cause of my anemia is not diagnosed and the most likely causes are all unlikely. So I'm left wondering if "Runner's Anemia" is relevant. I can't imagine it, but in fact I often feel more tired if I run daily for several days in a row (e.g., I had to take 3 naps yesterday) but since I'm also dieting I wonder how much of that is from low blood sugar after morning runs. Also, I donate whole blood every 8 weeks and I'm sure that's not helping any and also confounds a diagnosis. I've stopped donating blood but continue to diet and exercise since I'm doubtful they are connected. So......

Does anyone have any personal experience with something like runner's anemia? Could it cause such a large loss of red blood cells to cause my hemoglobin level to fall that low?
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  • 1FitMom326
    1FitMom326 Posts: 228
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    I have many questions regarding this as well. I went through cancer last year, finished up chemo and radiation in November. I was slightly anemic in January when we did blood work. I was running and feeling pretty well. I ran over 60 miles in March and when April and May came I hit a wall. I could hardly breathe couldn't find the energy to run, my pace tanked and started getting nightly cramping in my calves. I went to my naturpathic dr and she did more blood work and my hemoglobin and hemocrit have dropped even more. Part of mine is due to the chemo and radiation but we also believe that my intake of vitamin B and Iron was not enough to accomodate for all my running. I got a vitamin B shot that helped a little but they suggested doing an IV this week to try and help. Would love to know if you find out any more about this.
  • galenofedgewood
    galenofedgewood Posts: 146 Member
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    Could it also be from your change in diet?

    Have you accidentally cut out too much iron?
  • musicmint
    musicmint Posts: 469
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    Anemia is from lack of good diet. I had it..started eating things like spinach,watermelon,prunes,cereals (iron fortified), raisins...stuff that were healthy and loaded with iron...then I was all better
  • Mustang_Susie
    Mustang_Susie Posts: 7,045 Member
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    Anemia is either from a dietary deficiency or blood loss.
    Running will not cause either of these but anemia can cause weakness especially with exertion.

    Since December I have lost 12 pounds (am at goal weight) and I donated blood at the beginning of May.
    I have only donated a couple times in my life and did fairly well those previous times but this last one really wiped me out for several days.
    I added iron to my macros so I could keep track.

    You may want to consider a multivitamin with iron and increasing your intake of iron rich foods to begin with.
    If this doesn't help, go back to your doctor to be tested for hematologic disorders.
  • 1FitMom326
    1FitMom326 Posts: 228
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    Anemia can be a result of running, here is a link to a post by a doctor that explains how it can happen.

    http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-prevention-recovery/ask-doctor-does-running-cause-or-contribute-anemia
  • vivaldirules
    vivaldirules Posts: 169 Member
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    I remain unimpressed by everything I've read about "runner's anemia". None of the popular claims appear to be substantiated by any evidence and so they remain as hypotheses presented as facts. The proponents should go into marketing or politics or modern "journalism". In my case, I now have a diagnosis for my anemia which involves a slow blood loss in my small intestines. If this is true, it should be resolved this month by cauterization during a small bowel enteroscopy, which I'm pleased about (although now I want to know why I have such a condition).

    As to how running could have made my situation worse, there is one site where I read a possible explanation of runner's anemia is that it's the result of greater blood loss from the substantial and sustained jostling that a distance runner experiences if he or she has otherwise modest bleeding in the digestive tract. That sounds plausible and might be consistent with my experience. But it, too, appears to be unsubstantiated by any evidence that I can find. Why is it that despite all the medical testing available, we still appear to be living in the dark ages?
  • __Di__
    __Di__ Posts: 1,631 Member
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    I'm a 55 year old male who runs, more so this year than ever before. My iron levels have been falling a lot the past few months (hematocrit now at 30, hemoglobin at 10.0). Although it coincides with my increased running (and weight loss, too, by the way), I have a hard time imagining these are connected. As yet, the cause of my anemia is not diagnosed and the most likely causes are all unlikely. So I'm left wondering if "Runner's Anemia" is relevant. I can't imagine it, but in fact I often feel more tired if I run daily for several days in a row (e.g., I had to take 3 naps yesterday) but since I'm also dieting I wonder how much of that is from low blood sugar after morning runs. Also, I donate whole blood every 8 weeks and I'm sure that's not helping any and also confounds a diagnosis. I've stopped donating blood but continue to diet and exercise since I'm doubtful they are connected. So......

    Does anyone have any personal experience with something like runner's anemia? Could it cause such a large loss of red blood cells to cause my hemoglobin level to fall that low?

    I googled and found this on a medical Q&A site http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-prevention-recovery/ask-doctor-does-running-cause-or-contribute-anemia - this is what it said about anemia and running:

    There is an entity known as pseudoanemia that occurs in runners. This is due to expansion of the plasma volume (liquid part of the blood) as a result of training; this causes a lower percentage of the cellular components of blood.

    There is a phenomenon known as heel strike hemolysis (misnomer, as this occurs in swimmers and other athletes) in which red cells break down, causing anemia. These are the main causes of anemia that are particular to athletes.

    Gluten intolerance (celiac disease) and other dietary issues may cause anemia as may a wide variety of health conditions. Additional tests to determine the cause and chronicity of the anemia are advised; ferritin levels are frequently performed to assess iron stores.
  • bumblebums
    bumblebums Posts: 2,181 Member
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    Well, OP, if I were you, I would at least set your diary to track iron intake instead of sugar (which is kind of useless) and take a look at how you've fared over the past 90 days compared to the RDA.

    The vegetarian sources of iron mentioned above are great, but you need to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C for non-heme iron to be absorbed. If that is a problem for you, eat red meat.

    Finally, I cannot imagine why anyone would let an anemic person donate blood.
  • vivaldirules
    vivaldirules Posts: 169 Member
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    Thanks. I've read that and went off trying to find where these explanations come from. In particular, the "heel strike" destruction of red blood cells which you can read about everywhere on the internet in runner's forums. I can't find any evidence of it anywhere in medical journals or anywhere that refers to any real data. Actually, that explanation sounds a bit silly to me - an old wive's tale maybe? - and so maybe that makes me overly skeptical of all the explanations. It's not like I have a big red bruise on my heels when I run where the remains of red blood cells have died. I can't find anything like that described anywhere. So unless someone cites a medical journal with data, I remain skeptical about all the explanations.
  • __Di__
    __Di__ Posts: 1,631 Member
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    Thanks. I've read that and went off trying to find where these explanations come from. In particular, the "heel strike" destruction of red blood cells which you can read about everywhere on the internet in runner's forums. I can't find any evidence of it anywhere in medical journals or anywhere that refers to any real data. Actually, that explanation sounds a bit silly to me - an old wive's tale maybe? - and so maybe that makes me overly skeptical of all the explanations. It's not like I have a big red bruise on my heels when I run where the remains of red blood cells have died. I can't find anything like that described anywhere. So unless someone cites a medical journal with data, I remain skeptical about all the explanations.

    No, that which I just quoted is from an actual medical doctor lol!
  • vivaldirules
    vivaldirules Posts: 169 Member
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    Well, OP, if I were you, I would at least set your diary to track iron intake instead of sugar (which is kind of useless) and take a look at how you've fared over the past 90 days compared to the RDA.

    The vegetarian sources of iron mentioned above are great, but you need to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C for non-heme iron to be absorbed. If that is a problem for you, eat red meat.

    Finally, I cannot imagine why anyone would let an anemic person donate blood.

    Thanks. I've been monitoring my iron, vitamin C, and folic acid, and vitamin B12 (also necessary for the metabolism of iron into red blood cells, apparently) intake lately but really an iron supplement (which I need to take since I had lost almost all of my body's stored iron) provide more iron than what I can eat.

    You're right about not letting an anemic person donate blood. They measure your hematocrit and if it's below 38 (?) they don't let you donate. My problem was my own stubbornness. I would fail that test and then take a lot of iron until I could pass it so I could donate. After the second time of going through that, I finally wised up and saw a doctor.
  • bumblebums
    bumblebums Posts: 2,181 Member
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    Well, OP, if I were you, I would at least set your diary to track iron intake instead of sugar (which is kind of useless) and take a look at how you've fared over the past 90 days compared to the RDA.

    The vegetarian sources of iron mentioned above are great, but you need to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C for non-heme iron to be absorbed. If that is a problem for you, eat red meat.

    Finally, I cannot imagine why anyone would let an anemic person donate blood.

    Thanks. I've been monitoring my iron, vitamin C, and folic acid, and vitamin B12 (also necessary for the metabolism of iron into red blood cells, apparently) intake lately but really an iron supplement (which I need to take since I had lost almost all of my body's stored iron) provide more iron than what I can eat.

    You're right about not letting an anemic person donate blood. They measure your hematocrit and if it's below 38 (?) they don't let you donate. My problem was my own stubbornness. I would fail that test and then take a lot of iron until I could pass it so I could donate. After the second time of going through that, I finally wised up and saw a doctor.

    Egads. You do realize that you are not helping anybody when you donate blood of that quality, right?
  • vivaldirules
    vivaldirules Posts: 169 Member
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    Thanks. I've read that and went off trying to find where these explanations come from. In particular, the "heel strike" destruction of red blood cells which you can read about everywhere on the internet in runner's forums. I can't find any evidence of it anywhere in medical journals or anywhere that refers to any real data. Actually, that explanation sounds a bit silly to me - an old wive's tale maybe? - and so maybe that makes me overly skeptical of all the explanations. It's not like I have a big red bruise on my heels when I run where the remains of red blood cells have died. I can't find anything like that described anywhere. So unless someone cites a medical journal with data, I remain skeptical about all the explanations.

    No, that which I just quoted is from an actual medical doctor lol!

    Yes, I know. That doesn't mean it's correct. It might be. But without a citation, it's just another internet post. I've "fired" doctors for not giving me sensible answers. They aren't immune any more than the rest of us.
  • __Di__
    __Di__ Posts: 1,631 Member
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    regarding heel strike hemolysis, a medical study was conducted to see if firm insoles could help:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3118226/

    That webpage is not just a Wiki page, it is a bona fide medical research page.
  • tjthegreatone
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    I'm a 55 year old male who runs, more so this year than ever before. My iron levels have been falling a lot the past few months (hematocrit now at 30, hemoglobin at 10.0). Although it coincides with my increased running (and weight loss, too, by the way), I have a hard time imagining these are connected. As yet, the cause of my anemia is not diagnosed and the most likely causes are all unlikely. So I'm left wondering if "Runner's Anemia" is relevant. I can't imagine it, but in fact I often feel more tired if I run daily for several days in a row (e.g., I had to take 3 naps yesterday) but since I'm also dieting I wonder how much of that is from low blood sugar after morning runs. Also, I donate whole blood every 8 weeks and I'm sure that's not helping any and also confounds a diagnosis. I've stopped donating blood but continue to diet and exercise since I'm doubtful they are connected. So......

    Does anyone have any personal experience with something like runner's anemia? Could it cause such a large loss of red blood cells to cause my hemoglobin level to fall that low?

    Alarm bells ringing here. 55 year old Western male, recent onset anaemia - needs urgent investigation. Please go and see your GP/family doctor (if you haven't already done so). You say that the most likely causes have been excluded - UK BSG guidelines include urgent endoscopy (top and tail ends I'm afraid), screening for coeliac disease and other blood tests as a bare minimum. Have these happened? If not please get your doctor on your case. Once everything has been excluded perhaps you can pin it down to running/extreme dieting or whatever, but at the moment I'd be dubious.
  • vivaldirules
    vivaldirules Posts: 169 Member
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    regarding heel strike hemolysis, a medical study was conducted to see if firm insoles could help:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3118226/

    That webpage is not just a Wiki page, it is a bona fide medical research page.

    Very good. I'll be reading through that and the references. Thank you!
  • tlou5
    tlou5 Posts: 497 Member
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    I have anemia which is well controlled with iron supplements (prescribed by my dr) which is due to lupus and celiac disease. I would recommend seeing a physician for clarification of what the underlying issue is before you do self treatment.
  • vivaldirules
    vivaldirules Posts: 169 Member
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    I'm a 55 year old male who runs, more so this year than ever before. My iron levels have been falling a lot the past few months (hematocrit now at 30, hemoglobin at 10.0). Although it coincides with my increased running (and weight loss, too, by the way), I have a hard time imagining these are connected. As yet, the cause of my anemia is not diagnosed and the most likely causes are all unlikely. So I'm left wondering if "Runner's Anemia" is relevant. I can't imagine it, but in fact I often feel more tired if I run daily for several days in a row (e.g., I had to take 3 naps yesterday) but since I'm also dieting I wonder how much of that is from low blood sugar after morning runs. Also, I donate whole blood every 8 weeks and I'm sure that's not helping any and also confounds a diagnosis. I've stopped donating blood but continue to diet and exercise since I'm doubtful they are connected. So......

    Does anyone have any personal experience with something like runner's anemia? Could it cause such a large loss of red blood cells to cause my hemoglobin level to fall that low?

    Alarm bells ringing here. 55 year old Western male, recent onset anaemia - needs urgent investigation. Please go and see your GP/family doctor (if you haven't already done so). You say that the most likely causes have been excluded - UK BSG guidelines include urgent endoscopy (top and tail ends I'm afraid), screening for coeliac disease and other blood tests as a bare minimum. Have these happened? If not please get your doctor on your case. Once everything has been excluded perhaps you can pin it down to running/extreme dieting or whatever, but at the moment I'd be dubious.

    Yes. Upper and lower GI were both clean as was a CT scan. A "pill cam" showed possible AVM to be confirmed and cauterized during a small bowel enteroscopy soon. Thanks for your concern.
  • neandermagnon
    neandermagnon Posts: 7,436 Member
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    I'm a 55 year old male who runs, more so this year than ever before. My iron levels have been falling a lot the past few months (hematocrit now at 30, hemoglobin at 10.0). Although it coincides with my increased running (and weight loss, too, by the way), I have a hard time imagining these are connected. As yet, the cause of my anemia is not diagnosed and the most likely causes are all unlikely. So I'm left wondering if "Runner's Anemia" is relevant. I can't imagine it, but in fact I often feel more tired if I run daily for several days in a row (e.g., I had to take 3 naps yesterday) but since I'm also dieting I wonder how much of that is from low blood sugar after morning runs. Also, I donate whole blood every 8 weeks and I'm sure that's not helping any and also confounds a diagnosis. I've stopped donating blood but continue to diet and exercise since I'm doubtful they are connected. So......

    WTF donating blood every 8 weeks.... and they're still allowing you to do that in spite of anaemia? I think that's the most likely cause of the anaemia!! Who are you donating blood to, why are they taking so much and why are they doing it in spite of you suffering from anaemia??

    The UK blood transfusion service takes blood from donors 3x a year, there are rare circumstances when they might take more than that from a donor, but any sign of anaemia they won't take blood from you at all. In fact my mum's been told by them never to give blood again as she failed too many anaemia tests, and she's basically genetically predisposed to it and they consider it dangerous for her to give blood at all.

    Really why are you even considering running as the cause when you're giving blood every 8 weeks....?? It won't be the running....!
  • KatieKeyres
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    If you have a pre-existing condition such as spherocytosis (I have this) running can cause anemia, as your blood rushing through your veins from the vigorous exercise that you're doing causes your fragile blood cells to break down at a faster rate, and also be processed through your spleen (and destroyed there) at a faster rate. It is not very fun to realize that vigorous exercise makes you anemic, especially when you're trying to lose weight. However, you would probably already know if you had something like spherocytosis, as it is something that you're born with and it has other symptoms that you would have noticed long ago. So as far as I know (and I did quite a bit of looking around for something else because I didn't want my spherocytosis to be the reason I had to stop running) that is the only medical thing that can cause anemia from running. Other than poor diet. So maybe if you change your diet a bit that might help. Try eating a bit more?