Desolation

Trapped inside a web of fiery gravity
that fuels all our needs
Chaotic energy
that sucks the life from H to He
- Solar Confinement, Bruce Dickinson


Coffee.

Tea.

Or Fe?

My energy has been on the decline over the past several weeks, despite efforts to counteract it, namely additional coffee and large doses of B-12. My shortness of breath came back, again, this Thursday, prompting additional concern: "it's been almost three months, and it's happening again."

So, it's not a lack of stimulants, and it's most likely not a lack of B-12. I tried switching to tea, and adding decaf into the mix, but it didn't help. It is possible, and likely, that I'm facing some burnout from the caffeine, and I need to wean myself down or off of it for a while. It doesn't explain the shortness of breath, though; if anything, the tea should have helped with it, since theophylline is a bronchodilator.

I keep thinking back to last July and August; I had committed myself to working toward and then completing a Whole30 (which I didn't complete, go figure), and I started feeling amazing on the Stryder's 5K runs. These are runs through lush forest; it's in the evening, but you can't escape the humidity. The thought of trying to do that right now is beyond me. I can't fathom it. I haven't even run in weeks, because I can't convince myself that I won't burn out after 5 minutes, either from energy or a crushing feeling in my chest.

I trust my body; if it says something is going to be a Schei├če-fest, I believe it. I know sometimes I have to push through things. This isn't one of those times.

So, what does that mean?

I'm deficient in a nutrient, I think. Calorically, I've been OK. In terms of general macro and micro-nutrients, I've measured myself, and I'm at or above acceptable levels in almost all nutrients, and I supplement for the rest.

So, it's something that you can get enough of from a numbers standpoint, but still be deficient.

OK, well, B-12 is one that you can get the RDA of and still be deficient. Mega-doses bypass any digestive issues, though, by allowing some of the B-12 to be absorbed directly through the intestinal wall, without relying on intrinsic factor or possible damage to the ileum (where it is typically absorbed). I don't think I have damage to the ileum, but my body goes haywire with wheat ingestion, despite multiple negative celiac tests, and I have a hard time ruling it out.

So, I've been taking ~1 mg of B-12 twice a day for two weeks now, and my energy and concentration have not improved.

My protein intake on a typical day is around 100g; I know that as a vegan athlete, with my "normal" lean mass around 80kg, I need about 100-110g of protein. I haven't been athletic lately, so 100g is plenty to keep me functioning normally.

Vitamin D could be a problem here, but I've been supplementing with a small dose of D2 while getting sunshine, so I don't think that's it.

So, that leaves the body's insanely complex digestion of minerals. In short, we need several minerals on a regular basis, and many of them compete with each other. Calcium and iron compete, and there are a bajillion factors (I counted) that tip the scales in either direction. Manganese and iron compete. A deficiency of copper can look like a deficiency of iron.

How do you tease it all apart? It turns out I don't have to. I've been drinking coffee (or tea) with my meals, or directly after them, for a long, long time now.

The last two times I've donated blood, I've felt like absolute crap for a week after, despite pounding in the iron-rich foods. This had not been the case prior to that.

I'll have to go through my old bloodwork to confirm, if it's even on there, but I'm guessing that when I decided to start pushing myself toward vegetarianism, 10-15 years ago, things started to go sideways. Like I said, I've drunk coffee or tea with my meals for a long, long time now.

One study I found showed that coffee 1h before a meal did not impair iron absorption, but coffee concurrent with or 1h after the meal did, significantly. Tea is way worse.

So, here I am. I'm starting to shift my coffee intake to the morning, and mid-afternoon. I'm making sure that I include a good source of vitamin C with each iron-rich meal (lunch and dinner). I'm also reverting to a small amount of carnism, briefly, because heme iron boosts non-heme iron's absorption significantly. (Along the sames lines as the small pieces of meat added to beans or greens.) I hate it, and I hate myself for it, but there are larger consequences at play here than just my health.

If this fails, I'll have to rethink my stratagem.

Additional reading:

http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/iron
http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/vitaminb12
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=70
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=53
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/should-you-reduce-your-iron-intake/
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/37/3/416.abstract