7 signs of too much iron
Iron is a mineral that is vital for life. Iron is found in the earth, sun, stars, plants, animals, and the human body. Iron’s role in the human body is to transport oxygen to the body’s cells and tissues. Additionally, iron assists the body’s muscles store and utilize oxygen. Iron is also a component found in other vital proteins, hormones, and enzymes needed for human survival.
The amount of iron in the body must be within normal limits to operate effectively. Too much or too little iron can cause permanent, irreversible tissue damage and even death. Typically, the body can regulate its need of iron by how much it absorbs from the digestive tract. Factors such as disease, disorders, genetics, sex, and age affect the body’s ability to regulate iron levels. One can also acquire too much iron by having multiple blood transfusions, iron injections or infusions, and taking high doses of oral iron supplements.
Signs of having too much iron are:
1. Joint pain
High levels of iron will accumulate in the joints of the body. This excess of iron will cause tissue and joint destruction resulting in pain and discomfort. Iron, in high doses, is destructive to the body’s tissues. Studies have shown an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis when the iron concentration is too high in the body. Iron is an essential building block of connective tissue. However, when iron levels are too high, it can cause a breakdown of the joints and surrounding tissues.
2. Abdominal pain
Iron supplements alone can cause nausea and vomiting when taken on an empty stomach. Most health care providers recommend taking iron supplements, if prescribed, at night or with food to avoid side effects associated with iron consumption. Iron is corrosive to the lining of the stomach. If iron levels in the body are consistently high vomiting, nausea, constipation, and abdominal pain can occur.
Chronic fatigue can be a side effect of too much iron. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen to the lungs, tissues, and cells. Iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the lungs and body. Additionally, iron provides muscles with the ability to use and store energy. Iron is also used to make myoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to the muscles. If an iron imbalance is present, it affects the body’s ability to process oxygen and energy. The result is possible shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue.
Excess iron can build up on the nerve cells in the brain causing severe complications. Iron overload can increase one’s risk of accelerating neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases. Parkinsons disease thrives in the brains nerve cells. Those diagnosed with the Parkinsons disease have been found to have higher than normal amounts of iron in the brain. Furthermore, studies have found that Alzheimer’s plaques are lined with iron. Iron’s full effects on the brain are not well known, but research suggests excess iron in the brain may be linked to severe neurodegenerative disorders.
Excessive iron can accumulate in the reproductive organs of males and females. High levels of iron cause organ damage which leads to malfunction, or destruction, of the reproductive organs. Typically, the amount of organ destruction depends on how high the iron levels are and how long they are elevated. Women may also experience a lack of menses with iron toxicity.
Excess iron can build up in the pancreas inhibiting its ability to make and use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the body’s blood glucose levels. If the pancreas is destroyed or damaged, it is unable to make, store, and utilize insulin properly. This organ destruction can result in diabetes. Diabetes requires an individual to monitor the diet or take a form of artificial insulin. Artificial insulin is administered via injections or by oral supplements to regulate blood glucose levels.
7. Organ failure/Premature death
Iron poisoning can cause multi-system organ failure. Most commonly, iron toxicity causes heart and liver failure. Heart and liver failure are the most common causes of death in cases of iron overload. Excessive amounts of iron can be devastating to all organs. High iron in the blood can cause other heart-related issues such as arrhythmias and an increased risk of heart attack. Furthermore, recent studies have suggested that increased iron levels may be linked to certain types of cancers such as liver and colon.
Consult with your primary care provider before making any changes to your health care regimen. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, talk to your doctor to discuss an appropriate treatment plan. Like all minerals, iron is an essential element of life. However, it is important to remember that there is too much of a good thing regarding mineral intake. Minerals, including iron, must be adequately monitored in the body to avoid adverse effects and to promote optimal health.