Do you Suffer from Iron Overload?
We’ve all been told that it’s important to have good iron levels and red meat, lentils and spinach helps with that!
However, what if you didn’t realise that many of your symptoms were due to TOO much iron in your system.
Iron is a metal and found commonly as part of the earth’s crust. The human cells absorbs iron from food and it’s storage is regulated precisely. This is assisted by the protein ‘transferrin’, which binds iron which has been absorbed from the small intestine and carries it in the blood to the cells. Every living cell requires iron to function. Iron is stored in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. Inadequate red blood cells and lower oxygen levels will cause you to be tired, and your brain, muscles and other organs to be impaired and your general immunity to decline.
On the flip side – Too much iron will also cause major fatigue and other serious complications! And so there needs be a balance.
Many women are prescribed iron supplements when the iron levels in their blood test show up as low (iron deficiency anemia) or even borderline.
Sometimes, they keep taking these supplements indefinitely, or iron is hidden in other supplements at the same time such as B vitamins or multivitamin supplements, and unbeknown to them they are ingesting far too much iron.
Iron overload is called “Haemochromatosis”, which can also cause problems.
It occurs in 1 in 200 people and is the most common iron storage problem in Australia, UK and Europe and means that the excess iron gets stored in the organs of the body (such as the heart, brain and liver), causing havoc. It’s interesting to note that this condition does not exist in Asia!
Best Absorbable Dietary Sources of Iron
- Parsley /coriander / basil
- Kale / spinach / silverbeet
- Carrots / celery / chilli
- Cocoa powder (YES!)
- Almonds / hazelnuts / cashews / pine nuts
- Sesame seeds / tahini
- Soy / tempeh / tofu / miso
- Chickpeas / hummus / black eye peas
It is best not to worry about the exact iron levels in foods. It is very hard to eat that much and have an overload from it. The clever digestive system sorts it all out for you and takes only what it needs. So, if iron levels are high, the body will only absorb what it needs from the food you eat (especially if you have a healthy digestive system). However, it cannot maintain that balance with synthetic iron supplements being forced into the stomach. It is not designed to do this and it struggles.
Normal Daily Requirements
- Women between 14 years and 50 years – 7 – 10mg
- Women over 50 years – 8 mg
- Men – 8 mg
ABOVE NORMAL IRON LEVELS
Over the months and years, of taking iron supplements (in various forms) iron can accumulate in the organs and speed up the aging process of the body (elevated free radicals attacking the cells). Iron can attack the nervous system which can lead to neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.
Continuous ingestion of daily iron supplementation, may cause
- Generalised hair loss
- Constipation and stomach pains
- Liver sluggishness
- People who drink more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day, have a higher incidence of iron overload.
- Also, avoid fortified iron found in sugary breakfast cereals.
Symptoms of Iron Poisoning
- Skin discolouration eg yellowing or greyish
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer
- Heart problems eg arythemia, palpitations, heart disease
- Severe toxicity – arthritis, osteoarthritis
- Erectile dysfunction
What’s the Best Diet & Advice for Excess Iron
- Vegetarian diet
- Vegan diet
- Reduce any Vitamin C supplements that you might be taking
- Eliminate any Iron Supplements (check multivitamin formulas as well)
- Avoid alcohol completely as it increases absorption of iron deposits in the liver
- Eliminate any processed foods eg breakfast cereals with fortified iron
- Liver support herbs: Dandelion, St Mary’s Thistle, Barberry, Withania
- Antioxidant fruits and vegetables and juices including mixed berries
Like so many things… too much of anything can be a problem!
Be careful that you’re not overloading your liver and organ systems with excess iron. It is something people don’t realise is happening and quite often goes undetected.
Keep things simple.