Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘too much of a good thing can be bad’? If so, you might be surprised that this doesn’t just apply to your favorite take out meal - it can also apply to one of the most essential minerals: iron.

From red meat to dried fruits, iron can be found in a number of different foods and you should be able to get all the iron you need from your daily diet. With that in mind, is it possible to actually take too much iron? How much iron is too much?



Can you take too much iron?


Iron plays a crucial role in the body by helping make red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. With this important role in mind, it might be surprising to hear that iron can be harmful in large amounts.

Like a number of other essential minerals, a healthy diet should be enough to help you get all the iron you need day in and day out, according to the National Institutes of Health [1]. So, how much iron do you need?

The recommended daily intake of iron is:

  • 8mg for men over 18
  • 18mg for women over 18
  • 8mg for women over 51+

See also: Iron Deficiency Anemia: Symptoms and Causes


What happens if I take too much iron?


While having too much iron in your body can be a result of hemochromatosis: an inherited condition where iron levels build up over a number of years. High iron levels can also be a result of taking too many iron supplements or simply consistently consuming foods high in iron.

If you are taking in too much iron - whether it be from supplements or food intake, you may experience certain side effects and symptoms, these include [2]:

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain

If high levels of iron, or iron overload, goes untreated, it can result in a number of complications, some of these include:


Heart problems


If there is too much iron in the heart, it can affect the heart’s ability to circulate blood around the body; the medical term for this being congestive heart failure.


Change in skin color


Excess iron in the body can also cause a change in skin tone and make skin appear bronze or gray.


Liver problems


Permanent scarring of the liver, cirrhosis, can also occur. This condition can increase a person’s risk of other liver problems and complications.

See also: What is Hemochromatosis? Symptoms and Causes


How do you know if you’re getting enough iron?


Although a healthy, balanced diet is typically enough to ensure you’re getting the right amount of iron. There are some instances where people may need to take iron supplements, some examples include:

  • A person has iron-deficiency anemia
  • A person is at risk of iron deficiency anemia
  • A person experiences heavy menstrual periods and loses iron through the blood loss
  • A person follows a vegetarian/vegan diet

One of the most reliable ways to know if your iron levels are healthy is with a blood test

See also: What is Hemochromatosis? Symptoms and Causes


If you want to know more about your iron levels, the best way to do just that is by visiting your local doctor or by taking a lab test from the comfort of your own home.

LetsGetChecked’s at-home Iron Test can check for iron deficiencies in the body. Online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated team of medical experts will be available to answer any questions you may have along the way.

You should consider taking the test if:

  • You are suffering from an iron deficiency
  • You are suffering from hemochromatosis
  • You are vegetarian
  • You frequently donate blood
  • You are suffering from fatigue, low energy, or low mood
  • You have a family history of hemochromatosis
  • You are from Northern Europe, you are more likely to suffer from hemochromatosis

See also: How do you Check Iron Levels From Home?



References

  1. National Institutes of Health. Iron. Online: Ods.od.nih.gov, 2020
  2. NHS. Vitamins and Minerals. Online: Nhs.uk, 2017