Each and every cell in the human body needs blood and oxygen supply for survival. More than 70% of iron stores in the body is found in the red blood cells and muscles. Iron is also essential for the synthesis of various amino acids and enzymes. Iron deficiency is marked by anemia which is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases worldwide.
However, iron when present in excess can create chaos in the body too. Several scientific studies claim that millions worldwide suffer from the consequences of iron overload. It can be inherited in conditions like hereditary hemochromatosis, African iron overload, sickle cell disease, thalassemia. Iron overload in the body can also develop in people who received multiple blood transfusions or iron supplements.1
Symptoms Of Too Much Iron In The Body
Fascinatingly enough, your body will show similar symptoms in both iron deficiency and excess.
- Chronic fatigue
- Body pain
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Bone loss and osteoporosis
- Diarrhea with black and sticky stools
- Grayish or bronze skin tone
- Problems with menstrual cycle
- Decline in libido and fertility
- Hair loss
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Depression and mood swings
Complications Of Too Much Iron In The Body
1. Compromises The Health Of All Vital Organs
When the iron content in the body keeps adding up then it can affect almost every organ. Iron has the ability to cause oxidative damage in tissues. This leads to conditions like cirrhosis, liver cancer, cardiac arrhythmias, and diabetes.2
When it comes to brain health, high iron levels can stimulate degeneration of neurons, loss of memory and thought process. Therefore the risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s is higher in such individuals.
2. Increases The Risk Of Infections
Iron levels in the body, if not in moderation can become a double-edged sword as far as your immunity is concerned. Both iron-deficiency and iron overload can compromise the ability of defense cells to fight harmful microbes. Research shows that individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis are prone to suffer from frequent bouts of infections.3
3. Promotes Growth Of Tumor Cells
Various scientific researchers have found that in people with hereditary hemochromatosis, the risk of developing cancer of the liver, bowel, stomach, and colon is higher. This is because the iron stored in the organ tissues can inadvertently generate cancer cells.4
Even people who consumed a lot of red meat were prone to develop cancer of the digestive system owing to the high amount of heme iron in it.5
Management Of Iron Overload
Serum ferritin is the form in which iron is stored in the body. It should ideally be within 20—80 ng/ml. If the value is more than 100 ng/dl then you have an iron overload in your body. There are several ways to keep your iron levels within a normal range.
- Donate blood as it will reduce excess iron levels and boost your health by allowing new blood to form.
- Reduce the frequent use of cast iron utensils for cooking.
- Don’t consume iron supplements or foods labeled “fortified with iron” without consulting a doctor.
Include turmeric in your diet as it has scientifically proven ability to lower excess ferritin levels6
Whenever any of the above symptoms of iron overload shows up, consult a doctor without any delay to avoid serious health complications.
|↑1||Wood, Marnie J., Richard Skoien, and Lawrie W. Powell. “The global burden of iron overload.” Hepatology international 3, no. 3 (2009): 434-444.|
|↑2||Fleming, Robert E., and Prem Ponka. “Iron overload in human disease.” New England Journal of Medicine 366, no. 4 (2012): 348-359.|
|↑3||Khan, Fida A., Melanie A. Fisher, and Rashida A. Khakoo. “Association of hemochromatosis with infectious diseases: expanding spectrum.” International Journal of Infectious Diseases 11, no. 6 (2007): 482-487.|
|↑4||Kowdley, Kris V. “Iron, hemochromatosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.” Gastroenterology 127, no. 5 (2004): S79-S86.|
|↑5||Cross, Amanda Jane, Jim RA Pollock, and Sheila Anne Bingham. “Haem, not protein or inorganic iron, is responsible for endogenous intestinal N-nitrosation arising from red meat.” Cancer Research 63, no. 10 (2003): 2358-2360.|
|↑6||Jiao, Yan, John Wilkinson, E. Christine Pietsch, Joan L. Buss, Wei Wang, Roy Planalp, Frank M. Torti, and Suzy V. Torti. “Iron chelation in the biological activity of curcumin.” Free Radical Biology and Medicine 40, no. 7 (2006): 1152-1160.|