Too Much Iron In The Blood: Symptoms, Causes And Consequences

If the iron value is too high, there can be various reasons behind it. With early diagnosis, the excess iron can be compensated and the health consequences can be kept to a minimum. Those affected can tell from these symptoms that they have too much iron in their blood.

Iron levels in the blood: how much iron does the body need?

Iron is essential for the human organism, but too much iron in the blood can be just as harmful. As an essential trace element, the body cannot produce iron itself, but can only absorb it through food. The main task of iron is to transport oxygen as part of the red blood pigment hemoglobin and to store it in the muscles. In addition, the trace element is responsible for the functionality of various enzymes and is involved in other important metabolic processes.

Since iron is only found in very low concentrations in the blood, there is a fine line between too little and too much. If the body lacks iron, this is referred to as iron deficiency or, in extreme cases, anemia. Too high an iron value means an overdose, which can be harmful to health. Both scenarios can have health consequences if they are not recognized in time and treated accordingly. Changing your diet and taking dietary supplements under medical supervision can help if you have too little or too much iron in your blood.

The German Society for Nutrition recommends a dose of around ten to 15 milligrams of iron per day. “Because only 10 to 15 percent can be absorbed by the body,” explains Dr. Riedl the high amount. Breastfeeding and pregnant women should even supply their bodies with 20 to 30 milligrams a day to cover the increased need for iron during these special phases of life.

Iron too high: What can cause an iron value that is too high?

The iron level in the blood is regulated by the individual iron intake. The cause of an excessively high iron value can therefore often be traced back to your food intake. “On the one hand, diets that are very fish- and meat-heavy can cause elevated iron levels. On the other hand, too much supplementation, the supplementary intake of nutrients, can be a reason for too much iron in the blood,” explains Dr. Riedl out. Blood transfusions, for example in the case of anemia, which is intended to compensate for an iron deficiency, can also lead to excess if used too frequently.

But in most cases, the cause is already anchored in hereditary factors. The iron storage disease hemochromatosis causes impaired iron absorption in the intestine so that more of the trace element is absorbed than the body needs. This excess imbalance the iron balance and can have health consequences.

Too much iron in the blood: symptoms and signs

If the body lacks certain nutrients, warning signals appear. The same can also happen with an overdose. dr Riedl lists typical signs and symptoms of excess iron:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Stomach cramps
  • fatigue and weakness
  • darkening of the skin
  • joint pain

Restricted libido

In addition, iron levels can be checked in the laboratory, as the doctor explains. “In a laboratory test, the iron level in the serum, the concentration of the iron store ferritin, and the transferrin saturation are measured”.

Iron level too high: what are the consequences?

Is iron too high? Short-term elevated iron levels are no cause for concern. However, if there is too much iron in the blood, regular monitoring is recommended to check whether the levels return to an appropriate level over time. If the iron value does not level off, this can have negative consequences for your health. “The deposits of iron in organs and the skin as well as changes in skin pigmentation such as Addison’s disease, also known as bronze skin disease, are not uncommon consequences,” reports Dr. Riedl.

Possible sequelae include liver damage through liver cirrhosis or liver cell carcinoma as well as diabetes, heart failure, or thyroid dysfunction. Joint problems and arthritis can also occur due to high iron levels.

The right diet when there is too much iron in the blood

A change in diet can help to naturally lower iron levels that are too high. “Less meat, sausage, and offal,” says Dr. Riedl’s advice. He recommends a plant-based diet where black tea with meals can further reduce iron absorption. People with too much iron in their blood are advised to do exactly what iron-deficient patients should avoid.

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