What you need to know about keeping your iron in balance

By: Health Local Staff Nov 21, 2011

The signs you may have too little or too much iron in your system.

One area that many people have common knowledge about in connection to their health is that the body needs a certain amount of iron to function at its peak. Knowing this and achieving the proper iron levels can be difficult to maintain. By knowing the symptoms of too much or too little iron in your system, you can help identify if there is a problem and then you can seek medical help to correct. 

Not enough iron

If your iron levels drop too much you can suffer from iron deficiency anemia. There are many symptoms that can surface as a result of not having enough iron, but it doesn't mean that you will have all of them, and the severity of the symptoms will vary with the individual. Symptoms can fall into categories such as those which you can feel, others that you see, and those which might only be noticeable upon physical examination. The more common ones according to these categories are…

What you may feel:

Tired and weak or just plain drowsy. You may find that you feel like you aren't getting enough air, your legs may feel restless all the time, and you may feel the cold more. You may experience a sore tongue, or begin to develop headaches or feel dizzy. You could even develop an urge to eat strange things like dirt or hair or other non-edibles.

What you may see:

You may look pale and upon a closer look you may find that the membranes of your eyes are pale as well as the inside of your mouth. You nails may become concaved so they look like small spoons.

The causes:

Just as there can be several symptoms of low iron there can also be many causes. The ones that are more commonly known by the average person is dietary causes, irregular menstrual cycles, pregnancy and sometimes breastfeeding. Most types of internal bleeding is a definite factor, but even some forms of cancer can create a low iron level.

The consequences:

Low iron is putting stress on the organs it is affecting, and if left untreated anemia will become a problem. Left unattended to it can lead to other forms of disease and a lower resistance to some diseases. Aside from the individual feeling terrible there can be severe damage to various systems and organs of the body.

Too much iron

Having too much iron comes with its own collection of symptoms, and there is no shortage of them. The symptoms can affect any or several of the major systems of the body.

The circulatory system:

High iron levels can encourage congestive heart failure, and heart irregularities.

The skeletal system:

Its not uncommon to experience joint pain, loss of bone density or arthritis.

The endocrine system:

Thyroid malfunctions and productive system problems such as irregular or the stoppage of the menstrual cycle can occur.

These are just an example of the major systems that can be affected from too much iron. Then there are specific organs that can suffer from this as well, which can create symptoms like abdominal pain, high blood sugar and ill effects on the liver.

The causes:

Simply taking the wrong or too many iron enriched supplements can be one cause. Then there are deficiencies such as a vitamin C deficiency that could be the culprit. Cancer could be a source of too much iron production as well. Aside from these there are several other causes and the root cause has to be investigated and treated.

The consequences:

If your body has too much iron or is producing too much then it will end up storing it in some of your vital organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. If this is allowed to happen it will end up damaging the organs that are being used as storage units for the excess iron, and you will then end up having to deal with the damage that has affected the applicable organ.

The key to good health when it comes to iron content is to strive to keep it in balance.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.