Gogglebox star’s shock mystery illness


Gogglebox star Yvie Jones has revealed how she used caffeine-laden energy drinks or coffees to compensate for crushing daily exhaustion while she juggled work and family commitments.

What the I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here-favourite didn't know at the time was that she was dangerously low in iron and also perimenopausal.

A few months after filming finished in the jungle, the 47-year-old moved from Sydney to Melbourne to fill in on breakfast radio for Fifi Box, who was on maternity leave after having her second child. The 4am starts were punishing for Jones, and as she found herself feeling increasingly tired she reached for the caffeine.

"I was having one energy drink or three coffees," she says. "They worked initially, not for too long, then not at all."

The tiredness turned into continual fatigue that had a severe impact on her life. "I couldn't get up, I was so weak, I couldn't lift my arms over my head," Jones says. "I'm lazy by nature and I have had chronic fatigue but this was a weakness I've never experienced before." Finally she decided to go to a doctor.

"My doctor did a blood test and all of a sudden it made sense, my iron level was so low," she says. "I was perimenopausal, which contributed to it, but finally I knew what was wrong. I said 'this is the best bad news I've ever had'."

The test revealed Jones's iron level was so low she needed an iron infusion - a procedure where iron is delivered via a drip inserted into a vein - and the benefit was almost immediate. She has followed this up with a regular prescribed iron supplement, and she hasn't looked back.

Gogglebox Australia stars Angie Kent and Yvie Jones. Supplied by Channel 10.
Gogglebox Australia stars Angie Kent and Yvie Jones. Supplied by Channel 10.

Jones is not alone. Many Australian women are delaying seeking advice from a healthcare professional when it comes to iron deficiency symptoms, according to a recent study.

The survey, conducted by YouGov Galaxy among Australians who have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, found many women delayed seeing their doctor when experiencing symptoms, with almost half (42 per cent) waiting anywhere between a month to more than a year before seeing a doctor. Only 9 per cent saw their doctor soon after experiencing symptoms. The majority (97 per cent) of women surveyed said the tiredness and fatigue they experienced affected their daily life.

Why am I so tired is a question most women will have asked themselves at many stages of their lives. And it's little wonder - juggling motherhood, menopause, relationships, work, extended family issues, mental and physical health, not getting enough sleep, poor diet, and challenging life events are just the tip of the iceberg.

Women's health expert Dr Penny Adams says iron deficiency is a serious issue, and simply taking an over-the-counter iron supplement or multivitamin was not the answer.

She says she saw women of all ages in her general practice who have iron deficiency, with causes varying from diet to underlying medical conditions. Untreated iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, which can cause shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and other serious conditions.

"Women should not self-diagnose iron-deficiency," Adams says. "Especially women over 50, as there may be an underlying cause."

Dr Penny Adams
Dr Penny Adams

This could include heavier than normal menstrual bleeding, common in perimenopause, and gastrointestinal problems such as a bleeding ulcer or even bowel cancer.

"All fatigue is not necessarily iron deficiency, so it is important to talk to your doctor, because there might be other investigations required," she adds.

Adams says it is important to continue treatment until iron levels improve, and this can only be monitored with blood tests. Often side-effects from common treatments, such as constipation and digestive upset can cause women to abandon treatment, but Adams says these are often manageable with the right supplement, and there are other treatments like iron infusion.

Jones says she has heard a lot of negative things about treatment for iron deficiency, and is amazed at the response she gets when sharing her iron infusion on Instagram.

"I think that's why it's so important for women to understand their options in this area," she says.

"When I shared my experience on my social channels, I was overwhelmed with the response I had from other women who were looking for advice. Women are so eager for this sort of information but aren't sure of where to get reliable advice."

With her energy levels vastly improved, Jones is in lockdown in Melbourne where she is working on a podcast series and is also in talks for two secret TV projects.

When it comes to the lockdown, she says her time in the jungle last year prepared her well.

"This is a walk in the park compared to that," she says.

Jones hit the headlines last year when she refused to take part in the show's official weigh-in challenge to see how many kilograms the celebrities had lost since entering the jungle.

Instead she delivered a moving speech about her experiences with weight, eating disorders and body image. It went viral.

"It still is the last big discrimination," she says. "People are still allowed to fat-shame people."

Originally published as Gogglebox star's shock mystery illness