When it comes to nutrient absorption, consuming more is not always better. This is surely the case with iron dosing. Even for those who are iron deficient, taking too much iron can actually make the problem even worse.
In fact, you can suppress your body’s ability to take up and store iron by taking too much, too often, even though your body is in need of it.
For instance, one study showed that a sixfold increase in iron dosing (40-240mg) only resulted in a threefold increase in iron absorption (6.7-18.1mg).
The question is, where did all that other iron go? Unfortunately, it went about irritating their digestive lining, promoting weight gain, inflammation, and eventually into the toilet.
Iron supplementation on alternating days has shown 2x the absorption compared to daily iron supplementation. This is especially important when supplementing with greater than 30mg of elemental iron daily.
Is your iron dosing doing more harm than good?
If you are consuming more than 30mg daily, I can’t recommend strongly enough to get an iron panel every 4 weeks to make sure your iron levels are consistently going up. If your iron levels aren’t improving then you are likely getting significant irritation from the iron that could potentially be greater than the benefit you are receiving from the iron you are consuming.
I have given 60mg of elemental iron using hydrolzyed whole protein chelated iron in a few cases but rarely is it necessary even in the most deficient cases.
The key of course is to use highly absorbable iron in a whole food package.
Many people are suggesting using 150-300mg of elemental iron daily to increase ferritin levels. But when you look at their labs you see their iron is hardly improving. Not to mention they usually are having adverse effects in the process.
Iron supplements taken daily at doses of 60mg have consistently been shown to increase hepcidin levels, which shuts down the ferroportin transporters and iron uptake into the blood. These hepcidin levels stay elevated for 24 hours post iron supplementation.
So, if you are going to take this much iron you would want at a minimum to take your iron every other day but also, you would not want to dose multiple times per day because you will be lengthening out the time of hepcidin upregulation.
Taking iron daily or twice daily does not offer more benefit, in fact, it is counterproductive at high elemental iron doses. Iron absorption is highly regulated. This is because our bodies are well aware that iron is absolutely necessary for life but is also toxic in excess.
Hepcidin and Iron Metabolism
Iron is absorbed in the duodenum, the first part of your small intestine by enterocytes. It is then transported from enterocytes to the bloodstream by ferroportin. Ferroportin like I mentioned earlier is controlled by hepcidin.
Hepcidin is created by the liver and will destroy the transporter protein, ferroportin if there is too much iron showing up at the enterocyte. This stops ferroportin’s ability to transport iron out of enterocytes (intestinal) cells and into the bloodstream.
Many iron metabolism researchers suggest that you could potentially be getting a toxic build-up of iron in your intestinal cells with massive iron dosing.
Hepcidin is essentially the regulator of iron absorption. If too much iron is being absorbed more hepcidin is created, leading to more destruction of ferroportin transporters.
The human body is so awesome. This is why I highly recommend taking physiological doses in the right packaging to get your ferritin levels up fast and efficiently without creating an undue burden on your body.
So often in our American medical culture we think if some is good, more must be better. But this essential for life mineral iron is a prime example of the necessity to work with the wisdom of our bodies. Our bodies are always putting survival first.
Please like and share this with your iron-deficient friends and family. Iron deficiency is the number one nutritional deficiency worldwide and preferentially affects women. Every woman deserves to feel energized and alive. Optimized iron is nutritional step number one for millions of women.