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Iron Deficiency, Negative Bloodwork, Nausea

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Hi everyone,

I've gotten a lot out of reading some of these posts, so I thought I'd see if anyone had any good advice based on my specific circumstances.

I guess I have noticed having a sensitive stomach and often needing something to settle my stomach after meals, like mint tea, for a while, maybe a couple of years. I have also had the feeling of not being full ever. And then when I'd come to sit down to a big meal, I'd only be able to eat a medium sized portion. And then 30 minutes to an hour later, I'd feel hungry again. This really started to get aggravating and distracting.

I was also really susceptible to sinus headaches. At the end of the workday or if I started feeling hungry - sinus headache.

I'd also been feeling distracted, forgetful, and unfocused, with sluggish thinking since last year. I'm doing my PhD, so that's a big problem. I always used to be able to count on my mind being sharp, and it really hasn't felt like that, especially in the past few months, with the addition of depression and anxiety. I'd never really been an anxious person before. Along with this was dizziness and lightheadedness that persist a lot of the time in a minor way and occasionally in a major way.

In early January, I was having a particularly bad day for hunger, but I tried to eat lots. In the evening I went to visit someone in the hospital and after standing in the room for about 10 minutes had the overwhelming feeling of hunger, nausea and then I nearly passed out. Thankfully I avoided the awkwardness of passing out in a hospital by sitting down for a few minutes.

After the hospital incident I decided there must be something going on with these symptoms and I needed to figure it out. Everything just seemed to be getting worse. I was aware of gluten intolerance because I have a few friends who have it, but I'd never really looked into specific symptoms. I also wondered about it because I am a big craft beer fan and it just seemed like every time I'd drink beer, I'd get more sick more quickly than the time before. Just unreasonably sick from the small amounts of alcohol I'd be consuming. I thought there must be something in beer that was bugging me but it could only be the grains, yeast or hops since the vast majority of good craft brews don't contain anything else.

I went to the doctor, and she ordered me some blood and urine work and ran some tests (mono, some other stuff). I requested the celiac screen since I'd been speaking to my friend about it and started realizing how similar my symptoms seemed to be. My doc seemed skeptical but she added it. I was feeling pretty crappy almost daily at this point, nauseous and sluggish. Got the result back that I was iron deficient. I'm a woman in my mid-twenties who (until now) was a 90-95% vegetarian, so you'd think that wouldn't be surprising, but my diet was pretty decently high in non-animal sources of iron, and I'd had bloodwork done before (within the last year) and had nothing come back.

Started the iron supplements, but also decided to try gluten-free and see if it made me feel better, since I had some important stuff coming up for school that I had to be feeling my best for. After a few days of both the iron pills and gluten-free I felt SO much better. One day I woke up and it was like a miracle - no depression, no sluggish thinking, no hunger. This was a Friday - the next week I was eating out a lot and was trying to get lots of iron and avoid gluten so I ended up eating meat a lot more. I felt great that whole week. Then on the following weekend (last weekend) I got my celiac bloodwork - negative (everything else my doc tested was negative too). My boyfriend suggested it could just be the iron that was helping, and since my stressful week was over I decided to test and see. I definitely didn't feel sick immediately after having bread, but then the next day after having it for breakfast and lunch I felt really gross. I went back to gluten-free to hopefully try a more controlled challenge later, but I was feeling pretty nauseous and off up until today (but the hunger thing seems to be gone!). Early in the week there were a few things I had that could have been cross contaminated (quaker rice cakes not labeled gluten-free, salad dressing..) so I got stricter since Friday or so. Today I feel better.

So, I guess my question after all of that is - for people who have experience with iron deficiency, can it cause nausea? Is it possible that all of this is caused only by iron deficiency, and/or a lack of meat protein? Also, I know that it's very possible to get false negatives on the bloodwork, but assuming I don't have celiac, could gluten sensitivity cause an iron deficiency?

Going back to the doc on Wednesday, and hoping to try a controlled challenge soon where my boyfriend gives me something to eat that only he knows is gluten-free or not. Has anyone tried a challenge like this? I'm trying to eliminate the placebo/hypochondriac effect.

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