Okay so the title may be a stretch, but hey, making a discussion on blood work and vitamins humorous is kind of impossible.
For many people, getting blood work done is a major fear, but for us IBD sufferers, it can be a pretty routine part of our lives. For the first few years after my diagnosis, I just waited for the doctor to call or looked for the line that indicated whether my levels were low or high in the results. A few years ago, I got curious and tried to decipher what these numbers really meant, and while some things are still confusing, there are a few things I always look for in my blood work results, because they have been the best indicator when something isn’t right.
These tests help my doctors determine whether inflammation is occurring in my body, how my body is responding to treatment, as well as whether my hemoglobin and iron levels are stable or if a transfusion is needed. Frequent blood work is critical for those on drugs such as 6-MP and azathioprine, which can lower your white blood cell count and red blood cell count. Your red blood cell count helps detect anemia, among other functions, something a large majority of us suffer from, even when ‘healthy’; while your white blood cells help your body curb infectionsby fighting off bacteria, germs and viruses.
Blood work is also a large part of diagnosis, giving doctors a bigger picture of your overall health. But, not all Crohn’s patients have to get their blood work measured routinely, so if you are newly diagnosed, this doesn’t mean you are going to be heading to the lab on a weekly basis, everyone is different. When I began reading about what these levels meant, I found it important to look at the target numbers for my age and gender and while these target intervals vary by lab, these are the healthy levels and areas that I generally measure my results against:
- CPR aka C-Reactive Protein: 0.0 – 4.9 mg/L
- Hemoglobin: 11.1 – 15.9 gm/dL
- Iron Saturation: 15 – 55%
- Ferritin: 15 – 150 ng/mL
- Iron, Serum: 27 – 159 ug/dL
- Vitamin B-12: 211 – 946 pg/mL
When my hemoglobin or iron levels are extremely low, sometimes a blood or iron transfusion is required. When my CPR numbers are extremely high, certain anti-inflammatory medication and steroids are generally how I get this number to lower quickly. To help offset the chance of this happening, there are a number of supplements that you can take. The supplements I take routinely include:
- Iron (this is the only way I can even make the radar with appropriate iron levels)
- Vitamin D/K2
- Biotin (I still have high hopes for my hair 🙂
Othercommon deficiencies include: Folic acid, Zinc, Vitamins A, B, E, K, Potassium and Sodium. Crohn’s sufferers who have had their ileum removed can lack proper amounts of B-12 and may receive injections in order to make up for that deficiency. Similarly, Zinc deficiency is common for those who have had their jejunem removed. If you have never heard of those words, that’s okay, they refer to two different parts of the small intestine, and are areas commonly affected for those with Crohn’s.
A lot of this has been trial and error for me. There have been some supplements I take because I always have and I tolerate them well, but some just didn’t work out and my body was not absorbing (or so I guessed based on comparing blood work from certain periods and talking with my doctor). So keep modifying until something best fits your life. Supplements are also exactly that, a supplement to your daily diet and lifestyle. If you continue to eat terrible and don’t take your medication (if that is part of your treatment plan), it cannot be expected that things will be much better.
Stay tuned for day 6!