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Iron is important to many body processes
• Is an essential element for the body
• Combines with copper and protein to make hemoglobin
• Hemoglobin is the component of red blood cells which transports
oxygen from lungs to all body tissues
• Needed for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production
• ATP is required for cellular energy and proper cell function
• Low iron decreases ATP production; energy levels decrease
Iron is closely tied to thyroid
• Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause loss of iron
• Sufficient levels of thyroid hormone help the body hold onto iron
• Hypothyroid digestive issues impair absorption of iron
• Low iron reduces conversion of inactive T4 to active T3
• Low iron causes intolerance to T3-containing medication
• With low thyroid, hemoglobin and hematocrit cannot be relied on to
evaluate iron status
Iron testing discussed here
Optimal iron levels discussed here
Supplementing iron
• Test iron before supplementing
• Supplement only if blood tests show a need
• Take iron with vitamin C
• Take iron one hour after or four hours before
• other medications and supplements
• foods high in calcium
• phytates (found in whole grains with the germ)
• oxalic acid (found in high amounts in spinach, Swiss chard,
• Test iron each four to five weeks while supplementing
• Discontinue iron in supplements and vitamin C five days before testing
Iron supplements are discussed here
• Ferritin is storage iron
• One ferritin molecule encloses up to 4,000 iron molecules
• Low levels of ferritin almost always mean low levels of iron
• Good levels of ferritin must be evaluated with other iron labs
• Ferritin can be raised by infection or inflammation
• Inflammation increases interleukin-6 which increases hepcidin
• Hepcidin blocks iron release from ferritin and intestinal absorption
Other factors affecting iron
• Deficiency may involve difficulty converting ferritin to ferrous form
• May need vitamin B12, B6, folate, copper and/or molybdenum
• Deficiency of either copper or molybdenum can cause anemia
• Iron deficiency anemia not responsive to treatment associated with
high levels of copper
• If copper elevated, molybdenum usually low
• Ceruloplasmin contains 95% of the copper in plasma
• Ceruloplasmin controls the rate of iron uptake by transferrin
• Copper depletion causes iron to accumulate in the liver because of
decrease in ceruloplasmin oxidase activity
• Copper and zinc compete for uptake
• If supplementing copper, test ceruloplasmin which must rise to
improve low iron
• Lead can bind molybdenum
• Lack of progesterone/excess estrogen can increase copper
Elevated iron levels
• Most common cause is hemochromatosis (usually hereditary)
• Causes no symptoms early in the condition
• Symptoms usually appear in middle age in men
• Symptoms usually appear after menopause in women
• Genetic testing for C282Y and H63D genes to diagnosis
• Excess iron can damage organs resulting in
• diabetes mellitus
• heart failure
• heart rhythm abnormalities
• cirrhosis of the liver
• impotence
• Tobacco and alcohol increase iron absorption
• Herbs high in iron
• Peppermint Leaves
• Comfrey Root
• Black Chohosh Root
• Chickweed
• Goldenseal Root
• Raw shellfish can contain a bacteria deadly to people with high iron
More information at