Lately I’ve been doing a lot of learning about the dangers of excess iron. In the clinical nutrition course that I did I learnt a lot about the importance of adequate iron status for preventing fatigue and anemia and especially it’s importance with regards to nutrition for children. Apparently iron deficiency in children is linked with many learning difficulties. I was also taught about iron haemochromatosis, which is also known as iron overload. However it was emphasised that this is a rare genetic condition. In most people the body stops absorbing iron once it has detected that it has enough, but in people with iron haemochromatosis, the body keeps accumulating iron even when levels in the body are adequate. The Wikipedia article does mention there being secondary causes of iron overload such as overdosing on iron supplements or having a high dietary intake.
Iron is necessary for good health but to much is a bad thing. Iron is a free radical and the damage caused by these free radicals is indistinguishable from the damage caused by things like x-rays and gamma rays according to Ray Peat. You can read his great article on the dangers of excess iron over here.
The first time I heard about iron overload was a few years back when I used to frequent Dr. Mercola’s website. The video is pretty good, but it didn’t mean much to me at the time. I’d been eating a mostly vegetarian diet for years anyway and had very little chance of being overloaded with iron.
Over the last few years my diet has changed dramatically. Gone are the days of living on green smoothies and small servings of fish and vegetables. Since 2009 I’ve been eating meat … A LOT of meat, up to a whole chicken a day at times. It would seem natural that my iron levels have gone up, since meat and seafood are the best form of dietary iron. Various doctors have ordered ferritin (the blood test for the storage form of iron) tests for me over the years and I reviewed them tonight after reading Danny Roddy’s latest blog post. Here are my results:
Early 2009 ferritin – 30 (after nearly a year on a primarily vegetarian diet with small amounts of seafood, meats, eggs and dairy)
Early 2010 ferritin – 66 (started rising)
Early 2011 ferritin – 104 (rising about 35 points a year)
The lab reference range for ferritin is 20-300, so technically I’m in the “normal” range, however it seems that many health authorities recommend having one’s ferritin levels on the low side of normal for optimal health. In Andy Cutler’s great book “Amalgam Illness” (great book by a great biochemist which I’ll review sometime in the future) he says the following:
“Iron excess is a common toxic condition in men. Iron catalyzes free radical production and low iron increases survival in experimentally poisoned animals. The best place for you to be is in the low end of the normal range.”
In Danny Roddy’s great book Hair Like a Fox he recommends getting your ferritin level between 25-40. Dr. Mercola recommends 40-80. Paul Jaminet, author of the great book, Perfect Health Diet says the following:
I do favor low ferritin because iron is highly beneficial to many pathogens and some have evolved the ability to grab it from ferritin. So I make a point to give blood at every opportunity.
So far it seems like having our iron levels on the low end of normal is our best bet for health but how does this relate to depression and anxiety? In the book Perfect Health Diet Paul Jaminet gives a few good examples of various pathogens causing behavioural changes in humans and animals, including things like depression and anxiety. Keeping our ferritin low seems like a good way to help our body deal with some of these critters
Keeping our blood sugar under proper control is probably by the best way to deal with anxiety. Any time our body senses a drop in blood sugar it increases adrenaline to raise blood sugar back to normal. Adrenaline is the hormone that makes us shaky, panicky and anxiety prone. Hypoglycemics often suffer from depression! Anthony Colpo in this post mentions how he greatly improved his blood sugar control by lowering his ferritin levels.
Also, don’t forget that anything that increases our overall well being and health will directly contribute to the relief of anxiety and depression. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years it’s that if you heal one part of your body, you are healing other parts without you even realising it. Everything heals together.
Tomorrow I’m going to do a therapeutic phlebotomy, which is kinda like the age old “blood letting” from ages past. I can’t donate blood at the moment, due to not exactly meeting their requirements. Regardless, the idea of giving my blood gives me the willy nillies! Wish me luck in reducing my ferritin. Perhaps it’s wise to get yours checked?