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Monday, April 26, 2010

I am on iron pills and taking vit C with zinc

"I am on iron pills and taking vit C with zinc. Have you had experience with this and is there anything else you can suggest either in the way of food or supplements that will help?

I do eat meat, but I am thinking more along the lines of something that will help my body retain the right iron level long term?"

Gary responds:
("H" has a chronic lung infection and mentioned that she has been having heavy bleeding during periods over the last year or so)

We need to be careful when prescribing iron for anaemia.  I think it is over-prescribed.  Too much iron can contribute to some cancers, as can too little.  But how do we know?  A blood test of iron levels is insufficient because it may not be lack of iron that is the problem.  And iron levels can be high but can the body properly use it? There are other factors that are most likely to be the drivers behind anaemia.

When there is too much, or too little, of a mineral it can have an effect on at least two other minerals, which in turn will affect two others and on it goes.

For example, a deficiency in Vitamin C can allow copper to build up to the point of toxicity.  Too much copper will cause a deficiency in iron, potassium and selenium.  Too much vitamin C, on the other hand, can cause a copper deficiency and result in too much iron.

The minerals iron and copper are closely related and are needed in the body in the right proportions for production of red blood cells (haemoglobin) (lack of iron in red blood cells is "anaemia").  Without enough copper, iron can not be incorporated into haemoglobin.

Iron excess can interfere with the metabolic functions of copper and vice versa.

It is common to find that women with PMS have elevated copper with low tissue zinc.  Copper levels affect menstrual flow.  If her levels are high then her flow may be prolonged and heavy.

During infection, the body shifts iron out of circulation into storage compartments like the bones, liver and spleen.  This is a protective response to starve the bacteria of iron which they need for growth. Iron supplementation may not be the best course of action in such cases.

If the infection is chronic, this can cause "infectious anaemia" which may be the case for you.  This type of anaemia will not respond to iron supplementation until the infection is brought under control.

The most effective way to determine the best course of action with regards to your iron and anaemia is to carry out a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA).  Chronic infectious anaemia can be spotted on the HTMA as an elevated iron to copper ratio on the TMA assay.

So, my recommendation is to get a HTMA completed and then treat what you find.  In the meantime, I would take only small amounts of iron, if any, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, chicken broths, frequent small amounts of protein over the day and avoid all refined carbohydrates and sugars.  Once you have your HTMA results, you can take it from there.

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