cast iron cookware and other odd findings

i’ve had my blood drawn approximately 7 times in the last 2 years. i’m gonna go ahead and say that’s probably a lot, compared to most people. as i mentioned last week, i had more blood work done because my doctor was concerned about deficiencies, bruising, and tingly toes. here are some surprising things we discovered:

1. i have abnormally high amounts of iron in my body. this is really surprising because i’m a woman and i have digestive issues, meaning i absorb less nutrients than most people without digestive issues. we actually discovered this in the winter through other blood work, but my doctor was both surprised and concerned that i might have hemochromatosis. hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. Over time, the extra iron builds up and causes damage to organs. If untreated, it can cause your liver, heart, and pancreas to fail, among other horrible things.

clearly, not something i want to have, but clearly something out of my control.

my doctor asked me if i would be willing to be genetically tested for the disease, just to be safe. this was during the 5 months that i decided i didn’t want any more needles near my body, so i agreed but put it off. during these months, i did ask my parents to ask my relatives if anyone had any issues with excess iron. (no one did or knew they did.) also, my brother in law asked me if i cook with cast iron cookware. answer: yes, i only use cast iron. (especially when i cook eggs. i eat a lot of eggs.) a cast iron skillet is all i’ve used for 4 years. women with low levels of iron are encouraged to cook with cast iron cookware because the food cooked in cast iron absorbs iron from the pan and your body absorbs some of this iron from the food. i told my doctor this and she suggested i go a few months without my cast iron. so i did.

so, when i got my results back last week, we discovered two things:
*my iron levels were way down. like more than 70% down. my doctor is certain that the cast iron was not helping me get rid of iron but was only helping to put more and more into my body.
*i carry two genes for hemochromatosis. not being versed in genetics, my doctor attempted to explain what this means. here’s my attempt to convey it: there are two known mutations of the gene for hemochromatosis. people who have the disease usually inherent one of the mutations from their parents (two copies of the one mutation). i have one copy of each mutation, which is slightly odd. this doesn’t mean i have the disease, but it does mean that i my body will absorb more iron than most people. it also means that if i have children, they are at a higher risk for the disease.

it’s amazing to me what genetic testing can reveal. all of us are walking around with all these mutations in our bodies and we’d never know it until something popped up on a routine blood work test.

2. i’m still very low in B. (it’s come up a little, but not where it could be. i blame this on my inability to stick with my supplements.) but i’m not deficient enough in anything that could cause all the bruising. so, the only other possible cause we know of would be that i’m bruising as a side effect of either antibiotics (i was on them for a solid month for non-digestive-related reasons) and/or it’s a side effect of a medication i started taking last year for anxiety (related to being a PhD student and going through a solid year of health drama with no answers). turns out meds can cause you to bruise everywhere. who knew?

the search is on for new cookware.


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