BLOG & RECIPES
Do you suffer from an iron deficiency, and are taking the regular prescribed high dose iron from your GP, which is most likely making you constipated?
Then you need to read the below!
Hepcidin is an enzyme released by the liver which was initially thought to have antimicrobial properties. In addition to this, hepcidin regulates ferroportin, an iron transporter that exports elemental iron from cells, and is essential for the distribution of iron between tissues.
Hepcidin regulates the entry of iron into plasma, and increased levels of iron increase hepcidin production; regulating the degradation and inernalisation of ferroportin.
In lamens terms, increased hepcidin concentration reduces iron absorption and transfer into tissues.
Therefore, when taking an iron supplement, it is important to take it in the morning, and not every day; that way the more iron is absorbed, without Hepcidin blocking it's bioavailability.
IRON DEFICIENCY AND YOUR GP'S RANGES:
Typically, Ferritin (storage form of iron and most sensitive to assess iron deficiency) reference ranged for a GP is anywhere from 30-300 or 30-200 ng/mL, whereas functional pathology references ranges are much more specific.
Generally GP references ranges are much larger to allow for the vast majority of the population.
However, why would you want to me 'normal', or 'the same as the majority?' Don't you want to be OPTIMAL?!
Functional Ferritin ranges are 90-250 ng/mL.
I see clients EVERY DAY where their Ferritin levels are 30 or just over, and the doctors send them on their merry way telling them everything is ok.
THIS IS NOT THE CASE.
In my eyes, that is a clear iron deficiency, and can often be paired with smaller red blood cells; which most certainly is not ideal for one's optimal health.
SIGNS OF AN IRON DEFICIENCY:
An iron deficiency can result in symptoms such as fatigue, brittle nails, breathing difficulties, a sensitivity to the cold, constipation, poor cognitive function, digestive disturbances, dizziness, headaches, mitochondrial DNA damage, poor appetite, poor immune system function, spoon shaped distortion of the fingernails, general weakness, as well as pale sclera, pale palms and pale gums/ inside your lips.
IRON, HEPCIDIN, INFECTIONS AND INFLAMMATION.
The release of Hepcidin is also increased by higher concentrations of pro-inflammatory metaboliytes and cytokines; acting as a guard to reduce pathogenic microorganisms taking the iron out of cells. If pathogenic infection is present, some pathogens have evolved to have the ability to extract iron from heme by lysing erythrocytes (red blood cells). However if infection is present, neutrophils and macrophages also have the ability to synthesize hepcidin, which reduces the availability of free plasma iron. In the presence of TNFa, IL-1, IL-6 and INFy further strengthen iron withholding defenses.
As the body’s defense mechanism against pathogenic microorganisms, excess iron is bound to transferrin (which is a transporter protein that carries iron around the body) as well as other plasma molecules such as amino acids, citrate and albumin. With a reduced concentration of free plasma iron, the pathogen(s) have a reduced ability to sequest iron from the host.
So why alter/cease iron supplementation, and what do we do if infection is present?
Excess iron, and free iron throughout the body (resulting from high dose supplementation) not only increases oxidative stress (and increased free radicals in the body) and causes high amounts of constipation, but also acts as fuel to enhance pathogenic growth and colonisation.
Iron supplementation in the immuno-compromised results in higher rates of infections. Although there is little clinical evidence, iron supplementation should cease when signs of pathogenic infection is present, such as diarrhoea, stomach upset, fatigue, body tenderness, fever, or infection of any body system.
Cessation of supplementation during bouts of infection will not significantly reduce stores in a small amount of time; and stores can be repleted as soon as the infection has subsided; thus supplementation may restart as soon as infection has subsided and fever is no longer present.
Long term chronic infections that take longer to subside would need to be monitored concurrently with the clients Doctor, and ongoing iron studies should be performed to ensure they do not get dangerously low.
If you're concerned about your iron levels, I urge you to get in contact with a functional practitioner as soon as possible.
Even more so if you're wanting to conceive as it is essential your iron stores ( as well as other vitamin and mineral stores) are at their optimal level as soon as possible.