7 signs of too much iron

Iron is a mineral vital for life. Iron is found in the earth, sun, stars, plants, animals and the human body. Its role in the human body is to transport oxygen to the body's cells and tissues. Additionally, iron assists the body's muscles in storing and using store 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 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.
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Consult with your primary care provider before making any changes to your health care regimen. If you notice any of the symptoms that follow, talk to your doctor to discuss an appropriate treatment plan.
1. Joint pain
High levels of iron will accumulate in the body's joints. This excess of iron will cause tissue and joint destruction, resulting in pain and discomfort. Iron, in high doses, destroys the body's tissues. Studies have shown an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis when the iron concentration is too high. Iron is an essential building block of connective tissue, but when 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 corrodes the lining of the stomach. If levels in the body are consistently high vomiting, nausea, constipation and abdominal pain can occur.
3. Fatigue
Chronic fatigue can be a side effect of too much iron. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen to the lungs, tissues and cells. It's used by the body to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to the lungs and body. Additionally, iron provides muscles 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.
4. Depression
Excess iron can build up on 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. Parkinson's disease thrives in the brains nerve cells. Those diagnosed with it 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. The mineral's full effects on the brain are not well known, but research suggests excess iron may be linked to severe neurodegenerative disorders.
5. Impotence/infertility
Excessive iron can accumulate in the reproductive organs of men and women. 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 levels are and how long they are elevated. Women may also experience a lack of menses with iron toxicity.
6. Diabetes
Too much 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 cannot make, store and use insulin properly. This organ destruction can lead to diabetes. Developing diabetes requires monitoring diet or taking a form of artificial insulin – sometimes both. Artificial insulin is administered via injections or by oral supplements to regulate blood glucose levels.
7. Organ failure/premature death
Iron poisoning can cause multisystem organ failure. Most commonly, iron toxicity can lead to 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.
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Like all minerals, iron is an essential element of life. It is important to remember, however, that there can be too much of a good thing regarding mineral intake. Minerals, including iron, must be adequately monitored to avoid adverse effects and to promote optimal health.

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