#Health and Hygiene

Why Too Much Iron Is Bad For Your Health

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Iron is an essential mineral in your diet that forms a crucial component of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the protein found in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Like many other things, iron in excess can be bad for health. It is called iron overload. It’s also a kind of mineral many of us have deficiency of. It’s there important to know what types of iron our body has and how we can bridge the gap for its needs.

There are two kinds of dietary iron:

  1. Heme iron, which is mainly found in red meat
  2. Non-heme iron, which is found in both plants and animals

Hepcidin, the body’s iron-regulating hormone is responsible for keeping a check on the iron stores in the body. The function of hepcidin is to suppress the absorption of iron.  When the body’s iron stores are high, levels of hepcidin increase and iron absorption decreases. When iron stores are low, iron absorption increases. For this reason, it is uncommon to suffer from too much iron in the diet. However, in some circumstances, iron toxicity or iron overload can occur.

Iron Toxicity

Iron toxicity can be either sudden or gradual. It can be caused by taking high doses of iron supplements for prolonged periods of time, or accidental overdoses. Iron toxicity can also occur from chronic iron overload disorders. 

Normally, there is very little free iron that circulates in the bloodstream. It is safely bound to proteins, such as transferrin, which prevents it from causing any harm. In the case of iron toxicity, however, the level of these ‘free’ iron increases in the body which may cause damage to the cells. 

Excessive iron can cause serious damage to the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of iron toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Over time, iron can accumulate in the organs, and cause fatal damage to the liver or brain.

Iron Overload

Iron overload is a condition where the body absorbs too much iron and its iron-binding proteins are saturated. In medical terms, this condition is also known as hemochromatosis and it can particularly happen to people who receive many red blood transfusions, such as patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, thalassemia, or sickle cell disease. Iron overload causes a bronze tint to the skin. 

This illness can have more serious effects of the disorder on the organs. Excess deposits of iron in the liver can cause cirrhosis, while in the pancreas, it may lead to diabetes.

People who suffer from iron overload can help their condition by reducing their intake of iron-rich foods like red meat and donating blood frequently. They should also avoid using iron cookware, and should not combine foods high in vitamin C with foods rich in iron. Proper medical treatment for iron overload is iron reduction therapy.


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