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Iron - a blessing and a curse

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Bernice Clark |
iron pillsOverdosing with iron is the most frequent cause of accidental poisoning which sometimes may be fatal, especially in young children.


Iron is a part of haemoglobin, a metalloprotein in the red blood cells which carries oxygen from our lungs to the body tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. The normal iron level of the body is three to four grams. Individuals affected by a lack of iron quickly become tired because they body "starves" for oxygen. Iron is also the part of myoglobin, the protein which enables muscles to store energy. Without sufficient amounts of iron body energy cannot be synthesised properly. As the result, some people feel tired even when the level of the haemoglobin is normal.

Shells, meat, poultry and fish contain the majority of iron which our body can absorb. It is so called "ham iron". Those products also contain non-ham iron which can be also found in dry fruits, molasses, green vegetables, wine and iron supplements. Acid food, like tomato sauce, cooked in iron dishes may also be the source of iron.

Vegetarians, pregnant women, marathon runners, persons who often take aspirin and the patients with the infection caused by parasites belong to the risk group of lack of iron. Also people who have haemorrhoids, ulcers, chronic colon inflammation, Crohn's disease, tumours in gastroenteric tract or other conditions which cause lost of the blood or malabsorption, simply telling, defective or inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract.

However, no one from the group above, even pregnant women couldn't take iron supplements all by it selves. Taking iron supplements without asking for a doctor's approval first, may harm your liver for surplus of iron deposits in the liver which causes liver's damage. Tiredness, the first symptom of iron deficit can be caused by many other factors not just by lack of iron. That's why it is important to doctor finds the reason for iron deficit. In large number of cases it is nothing serious and nothing to be worry for. But, lack of iron may sometimes signalize to ulcer or to colon cancer.

Not all iron supplements are the same. The most frequent type of the iron supplements is iron sulphate. It causes digestion problems to most of a people (constipation, nausea, bloated stomach). Others, like ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, ham iron concentrate and iron glycinate absorbs very well and it is less possible that they will cause digestion problems.

Iron blood levels are noted by routine blood testing. As the low iron level causes a person to feel tired, the elevated levels of iron in the blood causes very serious conditions which reflect as heart failure, pains in joint, diabetes, liver cirrhosis including sexual dysfunction and fatigue. Women are losing iron during a menstrual period and they are at lower risk of iron accumulation. In men, the symptoms of higher iron level may not be seen for years and then just as a part of a routine blood testing.

Green tea, coffee, black wine, soya proteins, eggs, integral wheat cereals and calcium decrease iron absorption. Meat, poultry and fish increases it. Although vitamin C increases iron absorption, its effect is not so significant. On the other side, vitamin A increases iron absorption much more.

Overdosing with iron is the most frequent cause of accidental poisoning which sometimes may end fatal, especially in young children. So, keep this product out of reach of children and never take iron supplements before you ask your doctor for opinion. Also, bear in mind that certain drugs interact with iron.

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