The Dangers of Too Much Iron

Many are familar with anemia, the condition that results from not having enough iron in your diet. But you should also be aware of taking in too much iron in your diet, or hemochromatosis, which can cause very serious health problems like liver damage, chronic abdominal pain and heart failure.

Women over the age of 50 need just 8mg of iron in their diet, which is the same amount of iron found in one serving of soybeans. Many iron-fortified cereals have twice as much iron as the recommended dietary allowance for women over the age of 50. Extra iron can damage your organs, especially the heart, liver, and pancreas.

Over-consumption isn't the only culprit of hemochromatosis. Kidney dialysis, repeated blood transfusions and some diseases can lead to iron overload, and hemochromatosis is also one of the most common genetic diseases among Americans.

Early signs of hemochromatosis include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, abdominal pain, join pain, and fluttering in your chest. As the amount of iron in your system increases, you might experience missed periods, arthritis, early menopause, loss of your sex drive, impotence, and heart problems like shortness of breath and chest pain.

Advanced hemochromatosis is characterized by severe fatigue, chronic abdominal pain, damage to the pancreas, liver disease, heart failure and change in skin color, giving it a yellowish, bronze or greyish hue.

If you think you have any of those symptoms, you should monitor your iron intake. If you are diagnosed with hemochromatosis, your doctor may have you undergo a phlebotomy -- controlled blood removal -- once or twice a week for several months to a year. Once your iron levels go back to normal, you will give a pint of blood every two to four months for life. If giving blood is not an option for you, your doctor may prescribe medicine to remove extra iron. Treatment should help with all of the effects of hemochromatosis, with the exception of arthritis.Source: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/anemia.cfm#13; http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/iron.asp?
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