Lack of exercise, poor sleep wake habits and poor nutrition have become a part of the present youth’s lifestyle. I got to see such a case very recently. A girl came into my cabin and I noticed she looked very tired and haggard. On questioning on how she needs my help, she told me that she feels sluggish, no interest to study or do any work. She feels that she has a psychiatric problem and is not mentally strong. And at the end of her tirade, she told me ” I am so weak. I cannot even climb the stairs not even a single flight of stairs. I have to stop for 5 minutes before climbing the next flight of stairs”. I told her to immediately get her Hemoglobin levels checked and come back with the reports. And she came to meet me the next day and her hemoglobin levels were 10 mg/dL. She was a little shocked and she never realized that she has anemia. The normal levels for women are 12-14 ml/dL. Her weight was normal for height. As I took her diet recall, I realized that there was very low protein intake. She was lactose intolerant and hence had to avoid milk in diet. She had no other sources of protein other than pulses occasionally. She was a non vegetarian but still was lazy to cook as she was staying alone so subsisted on cornflakes and instant noodles.
Changing her food routine was a challenge as this would be a total makeover of her eating habits. I advised her to start on dates about 6- 8 Nos. daily in the morning with 2 boiled egg whites and 2 servings of any cereal.
Mid morning a glass of soyamilk and 2 plain crackers.
Lunch 3 servings of any cereal and a cup of any pulse/ paneer (Cottage cheese) with some vegetable and curds. Lunch was not very flexible as she was eating at her work place but she had choices.
Evening after reaching home, A bowl of sprouts( green gram)/ a handful of assorted nuts/ a handful of soya nuts.
Dinner- 3 servings of any cereal plus some Spinach/ fenugreek leaves subji( dry vegetable) with lime juice sprinkled over it and either dal/ soya chunks/chicken/ fish. I asked her to come out of the laziness to cook and to take charge of her health but by now she had realized that she had to make changes in her diet.
If she was having a vegetarian dinner, I asked her to mix soya flour in the Wheat flour while making chapathis to increase the protein intake.
After dinner, a glass of soya milk.
She had to include at least 2 fruits per day out of which one had to be a citrus fruit and a lot of green/ red/yellow peppers to increase her intake of vitamin C and to avoid coffee and tea. I advised her not to have too much of fiber as this can interfere with the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is very much important to bind the iron from vegetarian sources and this makes it available for the body.
She had consulted me 3 months back and has now emailed me telling that she feels better and energetic and is convinced she has no psychiatric problems and has also incorporated an exercise routine to increase her energy levels and is now convinced of cooking at home and advises her work mates too to follow a better routine. I am sure in another year her hemoglobin levels will gradually rise.
The reason why she was sluggish is because the oxygen carrying capacity of the cells reduces once the hemoglobin levels starts decreasing and hemoglobin is an oxygen transporter.
I hope from this example many of us will learn to lead healthy lifestyles.