Can a man get too much iron
Not long ago, the conventional wisdom was that iron and iron tonics were the best way to avoid iron deficiency anemia and to counteract fatigue and low energy. Of course, we all need iron to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying red pigment of blood. But iron is one of the few minerals we cannot eliminate, and accumulations in the body can rise to toxic levels. Iron is an oxidizing agent that can increase the risk of cancer and damage the heart and the arteries. High iron intake can be especially dangerous for persons with an inherited disease called hemochromatosis or iron overload disease, believed to affect as many as one million Americans.
Excess Iron: A Health Risk?
I began taking an iron supplement because I thought I might have a case of running-induced anemia. It seemed to help, but now I wonder if I should continue taking the supplement or let it go. Am I getting too much iron? Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist. Hi Tessa. This question is a good example of why it is probably best to speak with your doctor before taking most supplements.
Iron deficiency anemia this is the condition you are actually talking about when you describe running-induced anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide.
Causes include inadequate dietary iron intake often found with a vegan diet or in infants and children , iron absorption problems often seen in older adults, and physiologic losses caused by menstruation, pregnancy or lactation. It can also be caused by chronic blood loss which could be caused by a gastrointestinal problem such as an ulcer, cancer or in your case most likely , through serious athletic training leading to microscopic blood loss.
Weakness and fatigue are common symptoms I'm assuming that these are probably what you suffered from as iron is an essential component of the oxygen carrying protein in your blood called hemoglobin. When your hemoglobin levels are low, you carry less energy generating oxygen, which can lead to fatigue.
It is also an important component of myoglobin, which delivers oxygen to your muscles, so athletes in particular may feel the effects of iron deficiency even if they are not anemic.
Other symptoms include decreased attention span, irritability, decreased immune function leading to more frequent illness, swollen and red tongue, poor performance at work or school, and delayed or impaired cognitive development in infants and young children.
Assuming that your anemia is due to athletic training, I generally recommend that people start with food to replace iron stores. The best sources of iron are red meat, dark meat chicken and turkey, beans, lentils, peas, iron-fortified cereals, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit.
Meat-derived iron, known as heme iron, is more easily absorbed by the body. Plant-derived iron, known as non-heme iron, is not as well absorbed and requires vitamin C or meat to improve absorption. In addition, absorption is diminished by calcium dairy products , fiber, tea, and coffee. So if you are a vegetarian or vegan, be sure to consume iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi, melons, red and green sweet peppers, and dark green vegetables whenever possible.
This is also important when taking supplements, which are also better absorbed with vitamin C and whose absorption is diminished by calcium. Avoid taking iron supplements with milk or within several hours of your daily calcium supplement if you take one or antacids containing calcium. The concern with an adult taking an iron supplement indefinitely there is more of a concern for overdose associated toxicity in children , is that there is some evidence, albeit speculative, of an association between excess iron and heart disease risk and diabetes.
In addition, while iron deficiency may negatively affect immune function, too much may impair immunity, too. So while you do not need to limit iron containing foods in your diet, especially plant based foods, you should take a supplement only if medically necessary under the supervision of a physician. At this point, I would see your doctor and have your blood count and iron level checked your doctor will probably also check something called ferritin, which is the storage form of iron and a more accurate reflection of total iron stores.
Assuming that your levels are normal, and assuming that you continue running, I would take a multivitamin with the Dietary Reference Intake of iron 18 mg per day for women and 8 mg per day for women 51 and older to keep up with training or menstrual associated blood loss.
Make sure to eat plenty of a variety of iron rich foods to maintain adequate iron stores in general. Previous question: Where can a vegetarian get good protein? Next question: What are the best supplements for a diabetic? You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters.
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Unfortunately, because of the voume of questions we receive, not all can be posted. Asked by Tessa Wiles, Michigan,. Expert answer Hi Tessa.
In decades past, many parents worried that children who were picky eaters would develop iron-deficiency anemia. Now baby foods, infant formula and many other child-friendly foods, like breakfast cereals, breads, rice and pasta, are fortified with iron. Today iron deficiency is more likely in infants who are exclusively breast-fed, young children who consume too much milk, menstruating and pregnant women, vegans and strict vegetarians , and people who take medications that cause internal bleeding or interfere with iron absorption. These days, more attention is being paid to the opposite problem: iron overload, which studies indicate can damage internal organs and may increase the risk of diabetes , heart attack and cancer , particularly in older people.
Haemochromatosis—also known as inherited iron overload—is a condition that causes the body to absorb and store excess amounts of iron. Sufferers may experience a range of symptoms including fatigue, joint pain, weakness, weight loss and abdominal pain. Over time, the excess iron accumulates in specific areas of the body, eventually causing damage to tissues and organs including the liver and heart. This can result in complications such as liver disease cirrhosis , liver cancer, heart failure, diabetes, pigmented skin, arthritis, early menopause and impotence.
Iron overload...too much of a good thing
Iron overload is a condition that occurs when too much iron builds up in your body. If undetected, high levels of iron are toxic to your organs, such as your liver, pancreas and heart. It is a genetic disorder passed down through families resulting in problems controlling iron absorption from your intestine and iron levels in your blood and body tissues. The abnormal gene is very common with one in 12 people being a carrier. While haemochromatosis can occur in people of all age groups, it tends to be detected in men between the ages of 30—50 years and doesn't tend to produce symptoms in women until over 60 years of age. The symptoms can include:. If someone in your family has iron overload or you think you may have symptoms, see your doctor for a blood test. To confirm a diagnosis, you will be asked to have a blood test to see if you carry the haemochromatosis genes. If your brother or sister has haemochromatosis, see your doctor to discuss whether genetic testing is possible.
A Host of Ills When Iron’s Out of Balance
I began taking an iron supplement because I thought I might have a case of running-induced anemia. It seemed to help, but now I wonder if I should continue taking the supplement or let it go. Am I getting too much iron? Diet and Fitness Expert Dr.
Iron overload disorders are a group of medical conditions that cause the body to store excess iron. The body cannot excrete excess iron, so it stores it in certain organs, notably the liver, heart, and pancreas, which can lead to organ damage. Damage to the pancreas can cause diabetes.
Could I be getting too much iron?
Back to Health A to Z. Haemochromatosis is an inherited condition where iron levels in the body slowly build up over many years. This build-up of iron, known as iron overload, can cause unpleasant symptoms.
Many people are aware that low levels of iron in their body can lead anaemia, with symptoms such as fatigue. But few realise that too much iron can result in a potentially fatal condition. Normally, if we have enough iron in our body, then no further iron is absorbed from the diet, and our iron levels remain relatively constant. But the body also has no way of excreting excess iron. In a condition called hereditary haemochromatosis, the most common cause of iron overload, the mechanism to detect sufficient iron in the body is impaired and people can go on absorbing iron beyond the normal required amount.
Hemochromatosis in Men
Individuals with DIOS are helped by phlebotomy, diet and exercise. Iron overload is an excess too much iron in the body. Excess iron in vital organs, even in mild cases of iron overload, increases the risk for liver disease cirrhosis, cancer , heart attack or heart failure, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, numerous symptoms and in some cases premature death. Iron overload can be inherited genetic or acquired by receiving numerous blood transfusions, getting iron shots or injections, or consuming high levels of supplemental iron. Some of the genetic disorders that result in iron overload include are hereditary hemochromatosis all types , African iron overload, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, X-linked sideroblastic anemia, enzyme deficiencies pyruvate kinase; glucosephosphate dehydrogenase and very rare protein transport disorders aceruloplasminemia and atransferrinemia. None of these conditions should be confused with polycythemia vera PV , which is not an iron disorder, but a condition where the bone marrow produces too many blood cells red, white and platelet.
The liver is your largest internal organ. About the size of a football, it's located mainly in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above your stomach. Hereditary hemochromatosis he-moe-kroe-muh-TOE-sis causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. Excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas.
Iron overload disorder: All you need to know
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