I need to be really strong right now
February 17, 2016 9:10 AM   Subscribe

My period has left me feeling weaker than usual. I've been to see the doctor, but need to go back to work tomorrow. What can I do to feel stronger by then?

I've never had a period that made me feel this weak (especially in the legs and core), so I went to see my GP for a consultation. She took my blood to check my iron levels, but I won't get the results right away and anyhow, I need to go back to work after leaving early yesterday and not going in at all today.
I know you're not my doctors (although I really appreciate the ideas I got for my last menstruation question*), but do you have any remedies for strength? I don't eat meat or dairy or wheat right now, but I already made oat peanut butter cakes for tomorrow morning and will roast some chickpeas now.
Today, I have consumed so far:
- pure fruit juice (banana, grape, raspberry)
- quinoa with vegetables and edamame and chickpeas
- a green apple with peanut butter and nutella
- a bite of oats with coconut oil and dark chocolate

What can I eat/drink/do to feel strong enough for work? I can't really go to the shops right now because they'll close in less than an hour, so something people usually have at home would be great. No meat, dairy or wheat, please. I do have lots of beans and veggies and bean noodles, plus peanut butter, cacao powder and apples.

(Also, has anyone ever felt this weak with their period? It's the first time in quite a while for me.)

* Thank you so much, really. My doctor said it could be PCOS, whereas I guess endometriosis also makes sense. In any case, I booked an appointment with a specialised clinic, but that isn't until the end of April.
posted by LoonyLovegood to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would just guess that your iron levels may be low. Try eating the beans you have along with some dark green leafy vegetable. Of course do follow-up with her PCP even if this works.
posted by Broken Ankle at 9:14 AM on February 17, 2016

Are you in pain and taking something for it? That helps me when I feel weak. I go the midol route because of the caffeine.
posted by discopolo at 9:14 AM on February 17, 2016

Response by poster: Not threadsitting, I promise!
Pain was very bad for the first few days (hence the not working), along with constipation and bloating. It's a LOT better now on day three, which could be because the bloating is... um, finding its way out. (I mean stinky farts.)
I have been taking iron regularly since last fall.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 9:18 AM on February 17, 2016

While I don't have this problem, I like making green juice during my period (with things like swiss chard, which also contains a lot of iron, and tofu). Throw in something with a lot of vitamin C to help with absorption.
posted by three_red_balloons at 9:23 AM on February 17, 2016

You might also be a little b-12 deficient if you're not eating meat. I would supplement with some of that too, along with your iron and vitamin C. Some extra vitamin D might help your energy as well.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:34 AM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

sounds like you need iron and vitamin b. stuff your face with spinach and beet salads??

have to agree with R317 though, when I had similar issues red meat set me right up. It's why I stopped being a vegetarian.
posted by supermedusa at 9:34 AM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would hit a pharmacy and get some supplements with iron and B-12. I had these issues when I was vegetarian too (and it is a big reason why I stopped). But, at least with the supplements you know you're getting what you need in the short term. I would also focus on protein for strength -- are you able to eat eggs? Some Mexican-style scrambled eggs with beans + sauteed leafy greens seem like a good option.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I have (been taking) iron and B12, so will take those again. (Unfortunately, iron also makes me constipated...) Just had chickpea curry and will have eggs tomorrow!
posted by LoonyLovegood at 9:43 AM on February 17, 2016

Best answer: Try supplements with chelated iron. I found them easier for my body to handle.
posted by tavegyl at 10:15 AM on February 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would eat wayyy more carbs and fats (nuts).

Like get a giant french baguette and smother it in almond butter.

Edit: I missed the no wheat option. But still up the carbs.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel you on the iron issue, but after stopping them for a while and then getting blood tests where my doctor was like "no, seriously, you are super anemic and this is all wrapped up in all of your other issues, you HAVE to take iron supplements" I hunkered down and figured out what works for my system. And now I feel SO much better, and more able to handle my other issues, and yes, much stronger, and like I have a sort of reserve cushion where my worst times are better than they were before.

Anyway. What I did was I basically bought every OTC iron supplement I could find and tried each one for two or three weeks in varying doses until I found the one that didn't destroy my intestines. For me it turns out to be a relatively low dose of Ferrous Gluconate, which is a slightly unusual form of iron but one that my local drug store chain has a store brand of.

I also did research on the things that help you absorb iron vs passes iron through your system. It turns out that you don't need much vitamin C at all to help iron absorption - those little melty chews are just fine, and that way I can take any kind of iron supplement that works for me. Also, a regular glass of orange juice is fine, too. But don't have caffeine or dairy within a few hours of taking your supplement, because they both keep iron from being absorbed efficiently. If you need caffeine to wake up, take iron supplements at night. (Also, beets with lemon = awesome. Creamed spinach = delicious yet ineffective for our purposes.)

Your doctor will have more recommendations for ways that you can get your iron levels up, and know that there are lots of variations that you can try.

For tonight, honestly just put your feet up and get some good sleep. Eat lots of protein and hydrate yourself like crazy, take ibuprofen just for the fatigue, and wear really comfy clothes tomorrow.
posted by Mizu at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

You don't need to eat red meat if you don't want to. I don't (well, maybe 2x a year) but I give blood as often as they'll let me and for 4 tries in a row, my iron was too low. My diet is primarily the foods on the vegetable, fruit, grains, other part of the iron rich foods list, but supplements and increasing food from the seafood column really helped. Mizu's advice about how to take the supplements is useful, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:46 AM on February 17, 2016

Best answer: I would make some rehydration salts (for future cycles, you can buy them premade from Amazon) - 1L of water mixed with 6 teaspoons (~25g) of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon (~2g) of salt. I would drink 1L of the solution, then in a few hours have another if you're still not feeling better. This should help with the bloating and general muscle fatigue. If you have bananas on hand, eat one or two of those.

For the future, consider taking a prenatal vitamin instead of the iron/B12 supplements - many are specially formulated to help counteract the constipating effect of the vitamins (there are vegan gluten free varieties).
posted by melissasaurus at 10:50 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I really hate to threadsit, but I seem to have expressed myself badly. I do take iron supplements. (I also know to take them with vitamin C and not with calcium. I don't drink caffeine anymore.) I have an iron-rich diet. I also can't go out and buy other supplements now. (The prenatal tip is great for later, though, thanks!) I think my iron levels should be fine, my GP just took them to check if I could go off the supplements, which I probably won't do, though.

I'll go to bed in an hour or two and hope I'll be okay enough for work tomorrow after my oat-peanut-amaranth breakfast with dark chocolate, and boiled eggs-bean noodles-veggie lunch at work.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:55 AM on February 17, 2016

Best answer: I've never had a period that made me feel this weak (especially in the legs and core),

This is a circulatory problem. If you have iron and b vitamins covered, consider treating for shock and providing respiratory support. The reason it may be respiratory related is that anemia and poor lung function both ultimately result in insufficient oxygen, just for different reasons.

Caffeine, good quality salt, and hydration are some things that can help with shock. Also, coconut oil and licorice.

Mint, caffeine, and onions are all good lung support.

In the future, you might try keeping co-q-10 on hand. It is good heart and lung support and generally boosts energy. It can interfere with sleep if taken late in the day. It should be taken in the morning to avoid that.

I hope you feel better soon.
posted by Michele in California at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

If this has only ever happened to you once in what I am assuming is many years, you may have caught a virus/bacterial infection. Treat yourself as if you are/were really sick and need to heal eating meat/carbs/veggies to regain your strength (as your tummy allows), sleeping a lot, and going for a 15 minute stroll.
posted by Kalmya at 11:26 AM on February 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Kalmya is correct: this may be an infection. There is a specific infection known to cause this kind of weakness. I want to say strep, but I am not sure I am remembering that correctly.
posted by Michele in California at 11:36 AM on February 17, 2016

You could be anemic, which is often but not always related to a deficiency of iron (in your case, probably not.)
posted by Riverine at 1:09 PM on February 17, 2016

I am not a physician, but I am confident you are not in shock, at least not in any conventional sense. Shock is a 911-level emergency. You can find a good succinct description of shock here. That said, ensuring you are properly hydrated can't hurt and might help. Feel better soon!
posted by reren at 1:31 PM on February 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I ended up going to the emergency room yesterday because of the worst dizziness I had ever experienced, but after some tests (even an MRI), they told me they couldn't find anything and sent me home. I still weak kind of weak and my hands and feet are colder than usual (which is already very cold), but I'm glad I don't have anything dangerous.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 3:56 AM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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