Sunday, April 05, 2009

Should you be taking iron supplements?

I was reading the March 30 issue of First for Women and came across the article about the "tiredness mineral". Come to find out, the symptoms of iron overload are very similar to some of the menopause symptoms, such as fatigue, blah moods and foggy thinking. Even a minor build up of iron can prevent every organ from performing at its best and cause the body to feel extremely run-down. Iron overload can lead to headaches, joint aches, abdominal aches and chest pains, according to Dr. Teitelbaum. More possible difficulties: trouble concentrating and remembering details, premature aging of the skin, hair loss and high cholesterol.


"When iron isn't used by the body (either because of a genetic condition or because more is consume than the body needs), it gets stored in the brain, skin, joints, intestinal lining, ovaries, liver, pancreas and heart." Jacob Teitelbaum, MD author of From Fatigued to Fantastic. (btw, as much as I like Dr. Weil, I think I've found another very reliable guy to go to!)


Sufferers of iron overload should stay away from the synthetic nonheme form of iron. Check the labels of supplements, multivitamins and fortified processed foods (cereal, bread, enriched pasta) to avoid ferrous gluconate, ferrous sulfate and ferrous fumarate. The article says if you do this for 4 weeks it will ease the symptoms.


The basic test to check iron levels is a serum iron test, which determines how much iron is in the blood. Dr. Teitelbaum recommends a full set of iron panel tests (which includes serum iron, serum ferritin, transferrin saturation and total iron binding capacity to determine if surplus iron is being stored in organs. The cost, $200 to $500, is generally covered by insurance.

If you're in your 30' should have iron panel tests done once or twice a year to ensure you aren't storing excess iron.

If you're in your 40's...have panel done once or twice annually, plus limit intake of nonheme iron (as mentioned above), since this form is most likely to be stored.

If you're in your 50's+...since menopausal women no longer menstruate, 74% suffer from iron overload. Dr. Teitelbaum says it's crucial to stop intake of all suplemental iron (unless otherwise advised by your doctor). This also applies to women who have had a hysterectomy. Two to four daily servings of whole foods like beans, shrimp, salmon and beef will deliver the 8mg of iron that is recommended for this age group.

1 comment:

  1. Great info, Dee! I was just reading online, yesterday, that excess iron can also contribute to brain-aging!! We definitely do not need that! :)