Iron is very damaging at high levels, and the presence of iron overload disorders like hemochromatosis or hepatitis C need to be ruled out before embarking on increasing your iron intake.
Iron from animal sources is usually better absorbed while concurrent ingestion of Vitamin C dramatically improves iron absorption.
Like calcium, iron insufficiency can remain undetected for months or even years before conspicuous signs like anemia or decline in mental performance and energy levels set in. And like many nutrients in the body, iron is in a free ready to use state PLUS a storage state. That’s why it’s important, particularly for iron, to measure both states.
The body’s storage method for iron is called ferritin (protein), and low levels of ferritin are a warning that iron intake has been chronically low. (or iron loss has been high or both). Menstruating women and regular blood donors, especially vegetarians or vegans, are at highest risk of iron deficiency. Elderly and poor can also be at risk.
Conversely, if a nutrient level in the body gets too high, it acts as a toxin. Again, iron is a good example. A toxin is a substance or compound that interferes with normal or optimal living metabolism causing cellular death or reduced functionality. While iron is crucial for hemoglobin production and energy, at high doses it causes destruction to body cells and organs. High iron levels or iron overload is common in the genetic disorder hemochromatosis or people with viral hepatitis C.
Why do I need it?
- Iron required for Hemoglobin in blood
- Needed for Myoglobin in muscle
- Essential for energy production (respiratory chain)
- DNA Replication
- Glucose Metabolism
- Enzyme systems in the body that use iron include – Mono- and Di- Oxygenases, protective Peroxidases like Catalase and Myeloperoxidase and Several Oxidoreductases
“Haemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in Australia. About 1 in 200 people of northern European origin have the genetic risk for haemochromatosis. People with haemochromatosis absorb too much iron from their diet. The excess iron is stored in the body. Over time, this leads to iron overload.”
We all know that not enough iron causes health problems, but few realise that for some, too much iron is also a problem. If undetected and untreated, the excess iron can cause organ or tissue damage and can potentially result in premature death.
Haemochromatosis tends to be under-diagnosed, partly because its symptoms are similar to those caused by a range of other illnesses.
Both sexes are at risk from haemochromatosis. Women tend to develop the condition later in life because of blood loss during child bearing years. However, some women will develop symptoms at an early age.
The good news is that if haemochromatosis is detected before damage occurs, it can be easily treated and is no barrier to a happy and fruitful life.