Magic Pills

Okay, then. I guess everyone wants to hear about the magic non-vomiting pills I take.

When I was a kid, I played a lot of kickball. And Capture the Flag. And it was all good fun except that I would run around for a bit and then suddenly feel like my lungs were on fire. It would hurt so much I wanted to throw up (this is not the same kind of vomit-y feeling you have from running ten minutes after eating a hamburger). My throat would burn, my lungs would burn, and I would seriously be this close to death. I couldn’t get enough air and I would breathe fast to try and make up for the shortage. But that would make my throat hurt more. My friends would ask if I had asthma, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t that.

I hoped it would get better as I got older, but it didn’t really. I managed to work my way up to run/walking a mile and a half in PE my freshman year of high school, but after that, I went right back to being a wimp.

My freshman year at BYU, Becca and I hiked Y Mountain with a bunch of other kids and we were for sure the last ones to the top because I. was. dying.

The next year, I went running one morning with Sherry. We went two blocks. Okay, fine, a block and a half, and I had to stop. Again, with the dying.

It was never that my legs were sore or that the rest of my body wanted to die – it was just my lungs that were on freaking fire. So pleasant, yes?

I knew my sisters didn’t have this problem as one of my sisters ran cross country and the other was a much better runner too. It was so frustrating to me that my body just wouldn’t do it.

I knew my mom was generally anemic because as kids we’d gone with her many a time when she donated blood and at least half of the time they turned her away because she had such a pathetically low red-blood cell count (as if we cared – you got cookies and punch whether you donated or not).

I got a fairly serious . . . something (not so serious I remember, apparently) when Bart and I were engaged and he took me to the doctor where they drew my blood and mentioned that I was anemic, which didn’t shock me, considering my mom.

In Disneyland this spring, I mentioned my troubles to my mom (this was when I was attempting the Couch to 5K silliness) and she told me she had always had the same symptoms but that she’d recently started taking iron and they were slowly starting to go away.

Not just any iron – the iron in a multi-vitamin or a giant horse pill iron won’t help you much. It needs to be Ferrous Sulfate. These pills are little, maybe the size of an aspirin. One tablet is 361% of your daily iron value. And the difference between Ferrous Iron and regular iron is that the Ferrous is absorbed into your bloodstream a lot better so it actually makes a difference where as your body, according to my mom’s doctor, doesn’t actually benefit much from regular iron.

Of course, I sort of assumed that I’d ignore my mom’s good advice because I was sure that they’d be expensive. And you know me, I’d rather have burny, vomity symptoms for the rest of my life than pay for expensive pills.

Then she said “I get a bottle of 100 for about $4.00.”

Well hello. I bought myself some the next week (they are a non-prescription item, although they are sometimes held behind the counter and you have to ask for them – my pharmacy had two brand but the one behind the counter was quite a bit cheaper) and it was a bottle of 100 for $3.99.

They didn’t change everything immediately, but I’ve been taking them for about two months now, and I’m definitely seeing a difference. Even though I’ve been running very inconsistently, I can run a mile without too much hassle even if I haven’t stepped on the treadmill in a week. Now I want to stop running because I’m bored or because I’m drenched in sweat (thanks to the AC being out in the gym earlier this week).

It’s a good feeling.

So, go forth and buy thyself some Ferrous iron if the whole burning, vomiting, anemic symptoms sound familiar.

You can thank my mom later.

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  1. Ya know, I kind of have the same thing but always attributed it to being out of shape. But it hurt too much to get in shape so I never got over it. I should give iron pills a try. I even have a bottle because you’re supposed to take them when you’re nursing. That would be really nice if they took care of the burning!

  2. Iron and I are good friends. When I’m pregnant I have to take the prenatals with 100% and the extra 300+% pill to keep my energy up.

    By the way, the nurses recommended taking my iron with 6oz of OJ which apparently helps my body absorb it better.

  3. When I have anemia problems, I turn stupid. I live it this weird fog and can’t form coherant thoughts or sentences. Before I figured out that it was an iron problem I thought that I was brain cell deficient. Glad I figured it out.

    The problem with iron pills… as you may soon discover… is constipation. The problem with constipation… is hemroids.

    Happy day.

  4. My mom and my sister need those suckers. I, however, have been spared. My mom always says anemia only causes her lots of problems when she’s on the lower end of her weight range. So there you have it. You love being skinny but it’s aggravating your anemia 😉 Too bad you’re not fat and iron-y like me. (You know I’m just teasing you, right? Totally sour grapes…)

  5. uhm, Janssen you forgot to mention that we weren’t the last ones to the top of Y mountain simply because YOU were dying. It was a co-dying effort, I’d say. Except you were anemic and I was just tubby at that point. 🙂

  6. Bethany decribes the symtoms of anemia well, plus add lassitude and/or depression.

    I’m going out on a limb here and “lecturing”. Sorry, but this is REALLY important. (I remembered these from my college nutrition classes. I wanted to be sure, so looked these up.)

    This is from
    “Accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children younger than 6 years. Keep this product out of reach of children. If overdose does occur, seek immediate medical attention or call a poison control center.”

    Large doses of iron are toxic to adults, also. The least it can do is give you a stomach ache. The worst, of course, is coma and death. PLEASE ask your doctor before taking dosages above minimum daily requirement (MDR or Daily Value). Chances are that if you are active and you are menstruating monthly, you won’t have a problem. But, please ask. The symptoms of toxicity/overdose are very simular to those of anemia. (You can find symptoms on the web. Search for “iron toxicity symptoms”.)

    A side note about Vitamin K: According to one of my (older) nutrition textbooks, a certain form of vitamin K can cause birth defects. It is illegal for this form to be in pre-natal supplements, but “it is legal in regular over the counter supplements”. This law might have been changed, but it is worth asking your doctor, registered dietitian, or pharmacist about – whether you plan to get pregnant or not (“oops” happens).

    Sorry, about this, but you all kind of scared me.

  7. Holy CRAP! I DO have heart rate induced asthma but that whole burning , vomit thing happens to me and it SUCKS. (I’m anemic…I just had no idea this was a symptom).

    I’ll have to get back on the iron and see if it helps.

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