Men: This Critical Nutrient
May Be Killing You
Iron is critical to good health. But too much iron can also be devastating to your health!
The medical condition which accompanies the term iron deficiency is very well known – anemia. Your body uses iron to form the hemoglobin needed by red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. That alone is a pretty important job.
But, your body also uses iron to form a variety of proteins and enzymes. And without iron, your liver wouldn’t function properly, your body couldn’t make cells, and lots of the normal everyday chemical processes you rely on would fail.
Many manufacturers fortify their products with iron. This is because the FDA has been pressing an iron-enriching campaign on food makers for decades.
As a result, many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, health magazines and the food industry tout the benefits of eating foods that are high in iron, and some people even resort to supplementing their diet with iron pills in a bid to “build up” their blood if they are deemed anemic.
But that has created a larger national health problem. In the typical American diet, most people have no idea how much iron they get. Nor do most realize that too much iron is a medical liability.
Nature’s Ultimate Free Radical
Here’s the medical rub: When your body absorbs too much iron, it stores it. This excess iron then becomes a liability, because it doesn’t bind to your cells. Instead it floats through your body doing damage as it goes. Think about exposed iron left outside. Eventually it rusts. Free iron in your body undergoes a similar process.
High levels of iron in the body are associated with the development of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and liver disease.
Too much iron contributes to the formation of free radicals, and, in turn, those free radicals damage cells. Depending on where the damaged cells are in your body, they can cause different diseases.
Iron also feeds cancer cells, helping them to multiply faster. That can increase the rate of tumor growth.
Way Too Much of a Good Thing
A number of factors contribute to high levels of iron.
Children need iron to grow properly. Out of concern for their health and as a selling benefit, many processed food manufacturers add extra iron to their foods. This has been going on since the 1940s. If you eat any foods made from processed grains, you’re getting extra iron in your diet.
If you take a multi-vitamin supplement, it likely contains iron.
If you drink alcohol (which can have a number of health benefits), that can increase your iron levels. If you cook in cast iron pans or drink water from a well that contains iron, you’re adding to you iron levels.
All of these factors above can set you up for a health disaster.
Older men are at especially high risk of excess iron. Once your body matures, it begins storing iron. That means throughout your life, your iron levels have slowly been increasing.
This doesn’t happen in the same way for women because of their menstrual cycle, which helps remove excess iron from the body. Men don’t have a way to readily shed extra iron, and so by the time you enter your senior years, you may have seriously high levels of free iron in your blood and vital organs.
One in Two Men at Risk
of Disease from Iron
According to Dr. Mercola, who routinely screens his patients for high levels of iron, about half of the men he sees have iron levels high enough to contribute to disease in the body.
Often, high iron levels don’t trigger any symptoms until they’ve done serious damage. Some people experience fatigue, weight loss, or joint pain. If you don’t catch it early, then the free iron will begin to damage critical systems, leading to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A Simple, Free Solution
Now, we’re not recommending that you cut out alcohol or throw away your favorite cookware. It wouldn’t hurt to cut back on the store-bought baked goods, and you might consider switching to a multi-vitamin that doesn’t contain iron.
But, those steps won’t be enough to get your soaring iron levels under control.
Here’s what you need to do:
Visit your doctor and consider getting your iron levels tested. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Be stubborn – be your own advocate. Even if your doctor thinks you don’t need the test, insist. The test will measure a substance called ferritin. If your levels are under 100, then you’re fine.
But if they’re higher, you need to start taking steps to bring your iron levels under control. Call your local Red Cross and set up an appointment to make a blood donation. It’s the simplest way to begin reducing your iron levels, it helps other people, and it’s free… our favorite kind of health solution.
You should plan to donate blood at least once a year to maintain healthy iron levels. If your ferritin levels are really high – over 250 – then you’ll want to give blood six times a year.
Some people aren’t permitted to give blood. Certain risk factors mean that their blood is not safe to use in transfusions and other treatments. If you fall into that category, talk to your doctor about a therapeutic phlebotomy. This is basically just a blood draw that a nurse or lab does. They’ll dispose of the blood afterwards rather than putting into a blood bank like the Red Cross.
You can have a therapeutic phlebotomy done at a lab or some blood banks will perform the procedure with a prescription. If you shop around, you should be able to find this service for between $20 and $60.
It’s surprising that something considered so good for you can cause such severe health problems later in life. Fortunately, you can protect your health, and the solution is easy and inexpensive. The first step is taking control and getting the information you need.
Excess iron levels can be devastating, but this isn’t a condition that most doctors check for, so you have to advocate for your own health.
And advocating for your own health is just part of being more self-reliant!