by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© March 2018, L.D.Wilson Consultants, Inc.
Iron toxicity is common.
Iron toxicity is serious.
A metabolic or a hereditary disorder?
Nutritional balancing can be helpful
Food and Diet
Difficulty Eliminating Iron
How Toxic Iron Damages The Body
Organ And Tissue Effects Of Toxic Iron
Definition. Iron toxicity means there is too much iron in the body. However, this is not as simple as it may appear. For example, I find that excess iron is in a biounavailable form, such as an oxide. In other words, there is not too much available iron. Instead, toxic forms of iron build up in the body.
The condition is acquired, meaning it is rare at birth. It can be due, at least in part, to genetic susceptibility, or may be due to other factors such as eating too much red meat or eggs, or taking iron pills.
Danger of iron pills. Taking iron pills for more than a month is quite dangerous. For this reason, women must not stay on prenatal vitamins after their baby is born. These vitamin tablets often contain a lot of iron.
Iron toxicity is common. Iron is a vital mineral in the human body. Iron overload, however, is deadly. Most physicians believe it is rare and mainly hereditary. In fact, it is far more common and more dangerous than many people imagine.
Iron toxicity is serious. Conditions in which iron can be a factor include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, other inflammatory conditions, oxidant damage, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Others include chronic infections, hair loss, hypothyroidism, hyperactive behavior, violence, attentions deficit disorder, and other health conditions.
A metabolic or a hereditary condition? Traditionally, iron toxicity was considered mainly a hereditary condition. However, recent articles in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere indicate that a person may have iron overload without having either the hemochromatosis gene or other obvious reasons for the problem such as multiple blood transfusions or other obvious exposure.
In another study of heart disease, 13% of those screened had indicators of iron overload. This cannot be explained by heredity. It also correlates with findings in my own practice and that of other researchers and physicians using nutritional balancing science.
Difficult to identify. A problem with iron overload is that standard blood tests will often not reveal it unless it is far advanced. As a result, doctors do not find it, in most cases.
Difficult to treat medically. Another problem with iron overload is that medical treatment for it is crude – removing blood. This method is also harmful because removing blood causes a loss of many nutrients, worsening malnutrition that is already common in the population.
Nutritional balancing helpful. A properly designed nutritional balancing program can reverse iron toxicity.
This is true even in some advanced cases of those with a diagnosis of hemosiderosis and hemochromatosis. The latter two diseases are considered hereditary and incurable, but this is not true. For a short case history, see the Testimonials Page on this website. Also, for more information specifically about hemochromatosis, please click here.
Iron toxicity can result from:
1. Too much iron in the diet.
2. Other sources, such as iron in supplements, iron in the water, or occupational exposure.
3. Excessive absorption of iron from the diet.
4. Inability to eliminate enough iron from the body. This can be due to physical factors, or mental factors, as described below.
Iron toxicity can also be due to a combination of these factors. Let us discuss these causes in more detail.
IRON IN FOODS
Some say that the average American diet includes excess iron for men, but perhaps not enough for menstruating women. I firmly disagree with this because many women today have iron toxicity, as revealed on hair mineral analyses.
Oddly, these same women can have anemia and require supplementary iron in a bioavailable form. These are usually women who have heavy menstrual periods.
Foods high in iron. These fall into two main groups:
1. Those that contain heme iron.
2. Those that contain other forms of iron, including iron added to some foods. This is important because heme iron is better absorbed than other forms of iron.
Heme iron foods. These include organ meats such as liver and kidneys, and all red meats. Dark meat chicken and dark meat turkey also contain some heme iron. Products from the sea may also contain some, such as tunafish, clams, oysters and perhaps other shellfish.
Nutritional balancing programs strictly limit these foods, as explained later in this article.
Non-heme iron foods. These include egg yolk, kelp, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s and torula yeast, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dark green vegetables, and soybeans.
White Flour Products. An important source of excess iron can be refined wheat flour products. (The product is labeled as wheat flour, but it means refined white flour. Only whole wheat flour really is the genuine article.)
In the 1920s, it was found that animals fed a diet of white flour developed serious neurological diseases and then died. Instead of banning this product, the US Food and Drug Administration declared that most white flour products must be “enriched” with iron and a few vitamins to “correct” the problem.
However, the “enrichment” makes for an even worse situation, in many cases, that contributes to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The reasons are:
1. “Enrichment” enhances the iron content far more than was originally in the whole wheat flour. This can increase iron in the diet too much.
2. The form of enrichment is either iron sulfate, iron fumarate, or NaFeEDTA. These can easily change into a toxic form of iron such as an oxide.
3. The body requires minerals and will absorb whatever is available. White flour is mainly stripped of its trace elements, creating a nutritionally deficient food. The iron is plentiful. Thus the body absorbs more of it than it would if there were a natural balance of minerals in the flour. This also unbalances the body.
4. Iron is selectively absorbed by the body, to begin with. This is a survival mechanism because of the great importance of iron for oxygen transport in the blood.
This combination can easily contribute to iron toxicity.
I hope this explains the serious problems with bleached, refined white flour, labeled as “wheat flour” or “enriched flour”.
Iron in water supplies. In certain areas of America and around the world, the ground water is very high in iron. This occurs because the water passes through rocks containing iron, or it could be due to industrial contamination, in a few cases. Wells should always be tested for iron contamination.
OTHER SOURCES OF IRON
1. Vitamin Supplements And Tonics With Iron. Doctors and some health food advocates recommend iron and iron-containing potions, even when they are not indicated medically. Some prescription and a number of over-the-counter drugs also contain iron.
Prenatal vitamins may contain lots of iron, and many women are told to just stay on their prenatal vitamin after the birth of a child. This is not good advice.
2. Alcohol intake of any amount tends to worsen iron toxicity because alcohol depletes zinc, an important iron antagonist.
3. Occupational Exposure. Welders, electrical workers who use solder, iron and pipe workers, steel fabricators and other occupations may expose one to enormous quantities of toxic iron.
4. Congenital Iron Toxicity (excessive iron present at birth). Most children today are born with some excess iron. They may still be anemic because their iron is not all bioavailable (see the section on biounavailability).
Large amounts of white flour, red meats and vitamins with iron consumed by young women can contaminate their bodies with iron. Some is passed on through the placenta to their children, causing chronic infections, developmental delays and behavior and learning disorders among other children’s conditions.
5. Iron cookware. Iron cookware is a potential source of toxic iron if used to cook tomatoes or other acidic foods. Rarely is this a major problem, however, if the other sources are not in the picture.
6. Emotional Iron Sources. Holding on to one’s anger or rage appears to keep iron in the body. While this is not a source of iron toxicity, it still has an extremely damaging effect.
While some anger is normal and even healthy at times, dwelling on one’s anger when it is time to let it go has this effect on our bodies.
7. Hemochromatosis and hemosiderosis are genetic causes for iron overload.
DIFFICULTY ELIMINATING IRON
The other cause of iron toxicity, besides taking in too much iron, is difficulty eliminating iron. Everyone has some difficulty eliminating iron.
However, some people have much more difficulty than others. An indicator of this difficulty is found on hair mineral tests as a poor eliminator pattern. This topic is discussed later in this article under the heading of Hair Mineral Tests And Iron.
In all cases of iron toxicity, iron that accumulates is in a biounavailable form. This is very important to know.
Biounavailable means that iron is present, but cannot be utilized properly. The biounavailable compound of form of iron is iron oxide. Reasons why this occurs are:
1. Iron may be absorbed in an oxide form from food or other sources, such as drinking water.
2. Iron is converted to the oxide form because it is needed as a support for the adrenal glands or other glands in the body.
Biounavailability and testing for iron. Biounavailability may cause the iron levels on hair tissue mineral tests and even blood tests to appear low when they are really normal or even high. Please recall this well.
Biounavailable Iron Effects On The Adrenal Glands or the Nervous System. Biounavailable iron appears to irritate the adrenal glands or perhaps other parts of the nervous system. This appears to have the effect of pushing up the sodium readings on hair tissue mineral analyses when the test is performed without washing the hair at the laboratory.
This seems to be an adaptive mechanism to help boost adrenal activity and maintain the sodium level in the tissues, which is very important. However, it is a toxic mechanism that does not produce health. Manganese, aluminum and perhaps other minerals, especially in a biounavailable and toxic form such as oxides, appear to do the same thing.
These are called the ‘friends’ or ‘amigos’ for this reason, and are often found together in the bodies of slow oxidizers, in particular. Slow oxidizers have exhausted adrenals and are the ones most needing a boost, perhaps. This topic is discussed in more detail in the article entitled Iron, Manganese and Aluminum.
HOW IRON DAMAGES THE BODY
1. Iron Replaces Other Vital Minerals Causing Enzyme Dysfunction. Understanding this requires knowledge of the concept of preferred minerals. It basically states that all enzymes in the body have ideally a certain mineral in each binding site that allows the enzyme to function most efficiently.
If, however, the preferred mineral is not available, the enzyme will accept a less preferred mineral in its place to allow the enzyme to function at all.
Iron replaces other vital minerals such as zinc, copper manganese, and many others in hundreds or even thousands of enzyme binding sites. This cause the enzymes to malfunction and leads to many physical and emotional symptoms.
The problem of mineral replacement is made worse by the fact that all minerals compete for absorption. Iron enjoys a selective advantage. That is, it is selectively absorbed because of its essential role in oxygen transfer. This mechanism of iron absorption definitely works against a person who is eating white flour, lots of red meat, and perhaps smokes or drinks a little alcohol, for example. Adding orange juice at breakfast makes it worse, because vitamin C enhances iron absorption greatly.
The person becomes greatly saturated with iron at the expense of other trace elements that are already deficient in the food supply.
2. Inflammation. When iron replaces other elements in the body, in addition to enzyme malfunction, the next most important problem it causes is inflammation.
This occurs because iron attracts oxygen directly to it. Then, when it contacts delicate body tissues, the singlet oxygen molecules, termed free radicals, detach and destroy body tissues. This mechanism is called oxidant damage or free radical damage, a potent cause of inflammation.
Oxidant damage contributes to many other problems as well. These include insufficient repair of the organs and tissues to meet the needs of the body. This, in turn, can cause every disorder imaginable from heart disease to cancer to hyperactive behavior.
Aging is though to be caused by oxidant damage and it may be a direct effect of iron toxicity. This is rarely diagnosed, however, unless one happens to undergo special blood tests or a liver biopsy for iron.
3. Toxic Iron Oxide. Iron oxide is formed when iron combines with several atoms of oxygen at once. It is biologically useless and quite toxic as well
4. Bacterial Growth Stimulant. Due to its properties as an excellent oxygen transporter, iron tends to stimulate the growth of common bacteria. This is a significant cause for chronic infections in our population.
5. Cellular Poison (Cancer). Imbalances related to iron reduce the output of cellular energy in the body. This leads directly to cancer, which is basically a parasite on the human body. It uses an inferior energy generating system based on direct conversion of sugar to energy without the many intermediary steps associated with the Krebs and glycolysis cycles.
Iron Synergists. Certain substances and situations favor iron accumulation and absorption. These invariably make iron poisoning worse.
For example, vitamin C and other acidic substances like tomatoes can increase iron absorption. Copper can be an iron synergist as well, although it is also an iron antagonist in the intestinal tract. This means it competes with iron for absorption in the intestines.
Copper can build up in the body to mask the presence of iron. This often occurs and is revealed on some hair tissue mineral analyses.
Other iron synergists would include white flour products for a variety of reasons other than their iron content. For example, any mineral-deficient food will enhance absorption of iron if iron is present in the diet, as it often is.
Other iron synergists are stress, anger, frustration, resentment, hostility, fear and other such negative emotions. The mechanisms for this are more complex and beyond the scope of this article. See the section on iron in the hair tissue analyses for some elaboration of this topic.
ORGAN AND TISSUE EFFECTS OF EXCESSIVE OR BIOUNAVAILABLE IRON
We have discussed the major types of damage caused by iron excess. Each of these mechanisms affects all the organs and tissues of the body. Thus the damage done by iron and other toxic metals with similar properties is very complex and comprehensive. However, some organs and tissues are damaged more extensively than others by iron.
For example, all organs and tissues are affected by generalized inflammation. The manifestation will vary, however, depending on the function or functions of the particular organ or tissue and upon its resonance or its generalized response to the presence of excessive iron.
Organs that may be most affected by iron are the pancreas, liver, kidneys, brain, heart, arteries, and joints. This is not so much because the mineral deposits there. In fact, more iron is in the liver than elsewhere, but so are many other minerals deposited there. It is more about the resonance or response of the organ to the energy or structure, more properly, of the iron molecule or combinations that iron forms with oxygen and other elements.
The liver and iron. The liver can be saturated with iron, and in Chinese medicine the liver is the seat of iron. It is associated with an attitude of anger and rage. Iron also accumulates in the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with anger and rage.
However, it can accumulate everywhere in the brain and is certainly one cause of dementia related to aging, since iron accumulates with age, as a general rule. As it does so, it replaces other vital minerals such as chromium, molybdenum, selenium, germanium and others in vital organs, glands and tissues.
SYMPTOMS AND CONDITIONS OF IRON TOXICITY
Physical Ailments Associated With Iron Poisoning.
1) Diabetes. This is known in the medical literature and is sometimes referred to as bronze diabetes. However, we feel that researchers will learn that more than this is due to iron overload, in subtle ways. Iron replaces many minerals that can give rise to symptoms of diabetes.
2. Cancer. Many cases of cancer are indirectly caused by or related to iron toxicity from non-hereditary causes.
3. Nervous System Diseases. These may include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and behavioral abnormalities, including violence, anti-social behavior, ADHD, autistic characteristics and other. A bad temper is often related to iron toxicity, as mentioned earlier. People with multiple sclerosis also often have elevated iron in their brains.
4. Hypertension And All Cardiac Conditions. Iron has an ability to enhance the hardness of the arteries, as does cadmium. So the blood pressure rises, without any obvious cause. Arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, cardiac stenosis, cardiomyopathy and others are included in the list of cardiac difficulties that are known to occur with hemosiderosis and hemochromatosis and can occur with acquired iron overload as well.
5. Kidney Problems of Many Types. Iron can accumulate here, causing hypertension, renal failure and other difficulties.
6. Inflammatory Symptoms. These include a wide range of disorders and syndromes, ranging from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome to lupus, myelination diseases such as multiple sclerosis and others.
7. Milder forms of inflammation such as random aches and pains, premenstrual syndrome, headache syndromes and so many other inflammatory conditions that may occur in children and adults.
BLOOD TESTS AND LIVER BIOPSY
Blood tests are not reliable with early cases. The indicators include:
- Iron greater than 350 mcg/dl
- Glucose greater than 150 mg/dl
- White blood cells greater than 15,000
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Ferritin greater than 1000 mcg/dl
A liver biopsy is better, but is not done often because it is somewhat invasive and somewhat dangerous.
HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS AND IRON
Hair tissue mineral analysis is helpful to identify an iron imbalance in most cases, but one must not just use the hair iron level. Here are the main indicators:
1. HAIR TISSUE IRON GREATER THAN ABOUT 2 MG%. This indicator applies mainly to an initial hair mineral test, though not necessarily. On a retest, during a nutritional balancing program, the hair iron often elevates as the body eliminates excess iron through the hair, so the indicator is less reliable on retests.
2. IRON IN THE POOR ELIMINATOR RANGE. This is a hair tissue iron level of less than 1.2 mg%. Hair must not be washed at the laboratory for accurate readings.
A poor eliminator pattern indicates the body is having difficulty eliminating iron. For more on this critically important mineral analysis pattern, read Poor Eliminator Pattern on this website.
3. ELEVATED ‘AMIGOS’, SUCH AS MANGANESE OR ALUMINUM, IN MOST CASES. When aluminum is above about 0.4 mg% or manganese is greater than about 0.04 mg% in the hair tissue, iron toxicity with biounavailable iron is almost always present.
This is why iron, manganese and aluminum are called the “amigos”. They are found together, like friends. For more on this important topic, please read Iron, Manganese And Aluminum on this webiste.
4. OTHER ‘AMIGOS’ IN THE POOR ELIMINATOR RANGE. This means that aluminum or manganese, usually, are very low in the hair. The poor eliminator range for aluminum is when it is less than 0.2 mg% and for manganese when it is less than about 0.015 mg%.
Ideal Hair Iron Levels. The ideal iron level in the hair is about 1.9-2 mg% or 20 parts per million in an unwashed hair sample. This fact is important because, at this time (2016), the ideal level on a hair mineral chart from Analytical Research Labs is much too high at 3.5 mg%. The suggested ideal value varies from lab to lab.
Often doctors just read the level as low, high or normal. It is important to actually review the level, not just whether it seems low, normal or high.
V. IRON ELIMINATION METHODS
Iron is difficult for the human body to eliminate. This may be because iron is such an essential mineral. The body conserves iron carefully, rather than risk excreting too much. Humans often had to survive on low-iron diets for months, so iron conservation was essential.
Today we have the opposite situation in many parts of the world. White flour in enormous amounts, along with red meat and iron-rich vegetables are in abundance in most developed nations. Also, excessive iron in the air and water supplies are common. The only methods I am aware of to remove excess iron from the body are:
1. Nutritional balancing programs.
2. Phlebotomy or bleeding (removing blood).
3. Iron chelating drugs and other substances.
4. Restricting iron intake.
Let us discuss each of these methods:
Nutritional balancing programs. A properly designed nutritional balancing program easily removes ONLY toxic iron from the body. I am surprised how easily and how consistently this occurs. This type of regimen combines six or seven methods of eliminating iron at once. Iron is removed gently, quickly in most cases, and very safely. Here are the basic components of this program:
1) Diet. Iron toxicity can be caused by dietary imbalances. The nutritional balancing diet rules are:
1. No organ meats.
2. No shellfish and no tunafish. The only fish allowed are 3-4 cans of sardines per week for adults, and less for children.
3. No white flour products.
4. Animal protein may only be eaten twice daily. This includes all meats, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs.
5. Portion size for adults is no more than 4-5 ounces of animal protein food per serving.
2) More Rest, Emotional Adjustment, if needed, And A Healthful, Low-Stress Lifestyle. Rest, stress reduction and releasing negative emotions are essential for the best results.
Emotions such as anger, rage and resentment greatly increases iron retention in some individuals. The body seeks to maintain adequate adrenal activity by retaining iron and manganese, among other minerals. These, in fact, can irritate weak adrenal glands, which keeps the adrenals pumping out hormones when they would prefer rest.
3) Reduce The Activity Of The Sympathetic Nervous System. The sympathetic nervous system inhibits proper digestion, proper elimination and many other vital body functions. It is a fight-or-flight response that millions of people are caught in.
To help reduce sympathetic nervous activity, sauna therapy and the use of foods and nutrients that relax the nervous system are most helpful. This includes the avoidance of all stimulants and refined sugars (including most fruit and juices). Fruit should be limited as most of it contains excessive sugars and often pesticide residues. Also, excitotoxins are dangerous for the person with iron toxicity. These include chemicals that stimulate the sympathetic system such as caffeine, MSG and aspartame (also called Equal or Nutrasweet).
Supplements such as calcium/magnesium, zinc, copper, ox bile and pancreatin have a parasympathetic effect.
Other methods to reduce sympathetic nervous activity include meditation, relaxation, rest with daily naps, and other lifestyle modifications designed to relax a person.
4) Balance the oxidation rate, as revealed on a properly performed hair tissue mineral analysis. This is most important because this balancing, done with foods, nutrients, lifestyle changes and some basic detoxification procedures, will increase the efficiency of energy production. Increased cellular or adaptive energy can assist every healing process. This balancing process is unique to this program. The other components can be used without the balancing, but the program will not be as effective.
5) Assist the Eliminative Organs. Any method that assists the liver, kidneys, bowels and skin will help remove iron, as well as all other toxic substances in the body.
Many methods are available to do this. Nutritional balancing uses near infrared saunas, coffee enemas, and, at times, herbs such as milk thistle, black radish, dandelion or uva ursi to assist the activity of the colon, kidneys and liver, primarily.
Relaxation methods, foot reflexology, acupressure, acupuncture or others could also be helpful, if needed, which they are usually not.
The skin is another important route through which the body appears to be able to remove iron. Nutritional balancing encourages the use of near or far infrared sauna therapy for everyone. Details of how to improve skin elimination is the subject of Sauna Therapy, a book by this author. Also see the Sauna Therapy article on www.drlwilson.com.
6. Support The Sodium Level. This is vital, in fact, for iron removal. Supporting the sodium level with a proper diet and the optimum nutritional supplements and other methods is required to remove iron in most cases. This is because a toxic and biounvailable form of iron appears to be used by the body to support the tissue sodium level. To remove the iron adaptation, one might call it, one must support the sodium in other ways. Otherwise, all the other methods will not work well. This particular aspect of nutritional balancing science is the trickiest to do and the most important as well. It permits the body to excrete much more iron quickly.
It involves giving the right amount of other supportive minerals such as manganese, chromium, selenium and zinc, along with the appropriate vitamins, glandular products and digestive aids. Dr. Paul Eck figured out these doses some 35 years ago and we seem unable to improve upon them.
7) Iron Antagonists. These have been discussed above and include minerals such as zinc, selenium, sulfur, manganese and other nutrients. Hair analysis, when interpreted according to the method of Dr. Paul Eck, can carefully guide us in giving antagonists that do not worsen the balance of the body chemistry. This is a very important consideration when giving iron antagonists or any supplements to help remove iron.
8) Chelators. Nutritional balancing does not require chelators such as EDTA, deferoxamine or IP-6. They are not needed and have many problems that are discussed below. Small amounts of vitamin C and sulfur-bearing amino acids such as L-taurine, L-cysteine and L-methionine may be used at times.
Products such as ALA (alpha lipoic acid), NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) and others could be used, but we find them unnecessary. They also add cost and inconvenience to the programs. Also, they can ruin the programs because they are too yin in Chinese medical terminology.
Once again, all supplements must be given in a way that does not unbalance the oxidation rate, as this will slow or even stop progress rather than enhancing it.
9) Digestive Assistance. While this may increase iron absorption somewhat, this problem is more than offset by assisting one to better absorb other competing minerals that are needed to help remove excess iron from the body.
The digestive aid we like best contains pancreatin, ox bile and Russian black radish. A brand is called GB-3 from Endomet Labs. It has many other benefits discussed in a separate article entitled GB-3.
For example, it has a parasympathetic effect, which is very beneficial. It may also protect somewhat against the development of cancer, which is one of the results of iron toxicity. The pancreatin helps digest the coating on cancer cells, rendering them susceptible to removal by white blood cells.
Pancreatin also digests foreign proteins in the intestines, including some parasites, yeasts and other harmful organisms. These are very common in iron-toxic people. Pancreatic enzymes can also be helpful to assist the body to produce plenty of bile to help eliminate iron.
MEDICAL METHODS FOR REMOVING IRON
1. Bloodletting. Phlebotomy (removing blood by intravenous needle) is the major method used to reduce iron levels, especially in chronic cases. The advantages of this method are it is very fast (too fast) and it is relatively easy for the patient.
Adverse effects of bloodletting include:
1) Fatigue and weakness temporarily, at least.
2) Depletion of many other nutrients besides iron. This is potentially a very devastating side effect in some cases of iron excess that can even worsen the iron condition.
3) Masking of the real problem, since bloodletting does not address deeper causes of iron toxicity. In other words, this method does not restore true health.
4) Subtle defects in the body may show up with repeated bloodletting, as the blood carries much more than just minerals. Removing blood on a frequent basis carries other subtle risks for this reason.
5) Removal of some bioavailable iron when the real goal is just to remove biounavailable iron, ideally.
2. Chelating Drugs. Iron chelators such as deferoxamine will remove some iron. This method is not used much because deferoxiame is very toxic. Other problems with iron chelators include:
a) Other vital minerals and other substances may be removed
b) This method removes both available and biounavailable iron, which is not as good.
c) It does not address the underlying causes.
3. Natural Chelating Agents. These are sometimes used by holistic doctors. They include green tea extract. One can drink green tea, but it is not as effective as the extract that contains concentrated polyphenols and tannins. These tend to bind some iron and prevent its absorption into the body. However, it is not effective enough, and from the standpoint of nutritional balancing, green tea and the extract are much too yin.
Another natural chelator is vitamin C. However, vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so it won’t work orally, and it is not good enough when given intravenously.
Another natural chelator is phytic acid found in some grains or in preparations such as IP-6. This inhibits iron absorption from the intestine. It does not remove stored iron, however.
Disadvantages of the natural iron chelators are the same as the drug chelators. They can and do remove other essential minerals, which seriously and sometimes gravely imbalances the body chemistry.
Also, chelation does not address the cause of the problem. This usually results in a re-accumulation of iron and a need for repeated treatments.
Phytic acid products such as IP-6 are particularly dangerous as they remove a lot of calcium, magnesium and zinc which are all vital nutrients and already deficient in most people today. Vitamin C can lower copper significantly, causing very severe problems in some people if used repeatedly.
OTHER WAYS THE BODY ELIMINATES SOME IRON
Menstruation removes a lot of toxic iron in young women. As a result, menstruating women are usually protected from the ravages of iron toxicity. This is an important reason women may live longer than men.
Cysts and tumors. On occasion, a tumor forms that contains either solid iron particles or liquid that contains iron. This will appear as pathology to a medical doctor, but may, in fact, be a healing process. Removal may be best if the body is unable to drain and eliminate the tumor by itself.
NUTRITIONAL APPROACHES TO AVOID OR USE WITH CARE IN CASES OF IRON TOXICITY
1. Diets with a lot of meat.
2. Too many supplements. These are yin, in almost all cases, no matter what other benefits they offer.
3. Too much vitamin C. As mentioned above, be careful with vitamin C, which tends to increase iron absorption.
PREVENTION OF IRON OVERLOAD
The way to prevent iron overload is:
- Eat 2-3 cups of soft-cooked vegetables with every meal. This provides the alkaline reserve minerals that compete with iron and help the body get rid of excess iron. The most important are the roots and the cruciferous vegetables. Greens are higher in iron, so these are not as helpful. Do not substitute other foods for this, such as fruit or grains.
- Eat red meat only twice per week, and the portion size should be only 4-5 ounces each time.
- Avoid alcohol and avoid all white flour products.
- Do not take iron pills on a chronic basis unless you are pregnant.
THE ROLES OF IRON
Iron has three major roles in the body:
1. It helps transport oxygen to the cells from the lungs. Hemoglobin is the main iron-bearing substance in the body. It carries oxygen to all the body cells. Any problems in this system and a person becomes very tired and will die if it is not corrected. This is the single most critical function of iron in our bodies.
2. Iron is needed for energy production in every cell. Energy production requires the conversion of sugars, fats and proteins into adenosine triphosphate or ATP, the form that the body uses for all its activities and healing as well. Iron, as well as copper, are required for energy production. Low energy will result in cancer eventually in every person with iron problems.
3. Catalase Production. Catalase is an enzyme that travels around the body and picks up free oxygen atoms called free radicals. This protects the body from free radical damage, a very important function.
4. Other Roles. Iron is also involved in the sense of direction. Human beings and the animals, especially birds, use the magnetic properties of iron, manganese and other magnetic elements to navigate the globe with amazing accuracy. Small deposits of these ferrous metals in the brain are used like compasses to direct the creature on its way.
Let us say a few words about iron deficiency, a much more well-known problem. This is a severe problem in certain parts of the world, especially Africa where malaria and other parasitic diseases cause blood destruction and other problems.
In America, it is found most often in poor children, those with chronic illnesses or bleeding that can deplete iron rapidly, in some menstruating women and in strict vegetarians.
In many cases of iron deficiency anemia, as it is called, the cause is not really poor iron levels. It is copper toxicity, and or biounavailable iron. This concept was presented earlier in this article. This is a most confusing aspect of “iron deficient anemia”. In fact, many physicians prescribe iron to patients who do not need it, including most menstruating women who have copper toxicity and copper biounavailability causing their anemia. This wastes their time and leads to worsening iron overload problems in these young women.
We hope that this article will bring to the attention of physicians the need to be more careful before prescribing iron pills to their patients, including those who appear to have an iron-deficiency anemia.
IRON IMBALANCES ON BLOOD TESTS
Serum Iron deficiency. Most of the time when a blood test reveals iron deficiency, the cause is a copper imbalance. Copper is required to convert the ferric to the ferrous form of iron and it is required for the incorporation of iron into hemoglobin.
Other common causes of a low serum iron are eating a vegetarian diet, heavy menstrual periods, (also often related to following a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet) and possibly other malnutrition.
Elevated serum ferritin. This occurs, commonly when a person follows a nutritional balancing program. The reason is that the body is eliminating excess iron and requires more ferritin to transport the toxic excess iron through the bloodstream.
This serum imbalance during a nutritional balancing program is of no concern and can be ignored. In fact, it is a sign of healing. So far, in all cases, elevated serum ferritin imbalance corrects itself when the iron elimination is over.
1. N Eng J Med, 1999, Hereditary Hemochromatosis in Adults without Pathogenic Mutations in the Hemochromatosis Gene, Pietrangelo, A. et al., 341:725, September 2.
2. Neurology, 2003, Parkinson's disease risks associated with dietary iron, manganese, and other nutrient intakes, Powers, KM et al., Jun 10;60(11):1761-6.
3. Amer J Clin Nut, 1998, 68:3-4 (calcium used to inhibit iron absorption)
4. Life Extension Foundation, 2000, Disease Prevention and Treatment, Third Ed., pp.317-321.
5. Casdorph, H.R. and Walker, M., Toxic Metal Syndrome, Avery Publishing, 1995.
6. Kutsky, R., Handbook of Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones, 2nd ed., Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982.
9. J Royal Soc Med. 1988, “Iron added to flour: Is it nutritionally beneficial? Discussion paper”, M J Hall, May; 81(5): 280–283.
10. http://ironoverloadtreatment.com/ (the new instrument to measure iron overload)