How Can Too Much Iron Make You Fat, Fatigued?

When I think of iron, the first thing that comes to my mind is iron anemia (not enough iron) which is a major cause of feeling fatigued, unexplained weight gain, and depression.

Signs that You Have Too Much Iron

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Weight Gain – Especially in the Tummy
  • High Blood Sugar or Insulin Resistance
  • High Cholesterol – LDL
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Joint Pain
  • Liver Disease
  • Poor Immune Function

Too much iron leads to these symptoms as it can act as a toxin.  Some of the key nutrients like arsenic are needed in small amounts but too much can be toxic.  Our bodies help to maintain healthy levels of certain nutrients, metals, and other compounds through regulatory proteins.  For iron, the hormone known as hepcidin regulates how much iron we actually absorb from our food.

How is Iron Metabolized in Our Bodies

Iron is absorbed and metabolized through a very complicated process that depends on regulatory proteins.  Hormones like hepcidin regulate how much iron you actually absorb from your food.  This starts with the digestion process in our stomach that breaks the iron molecule from the food that we eat.

Iron by itself or free iron is a very reactive mineral in our bodies so it is transported and stored in protein molecules like transferrin and ferritin protecting us from free iron causing oxidation or “rusting”.

This oxidation damages organ especially the liver and pancreas which leads to insulin resistance, high cholesterol, unexplained weight gain, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and extreme fatigue.  Over 2/3 of people with iron overload have diabetes.

What Are the Major Causes of Iron Overload?

The number one cause of iron overload has been found to be genetic mutations that run in certain populations like the Irish and Africans.  Besides genetic mutations, alcoholism is also a major cause of iron overload as alcohol increases iron absorption.

So how do you know if you have iron overload?

To determine if the iron is behaving badly for you, start by testing a full iron panel which is what I do for all my clients who are struggling with unexplained weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, and osteoporosis.

In most cases, iron overload in women will not occur until post-menopausal as the number one way to reduce iron stores is bleeding.  Without a monthly cycle, iron builds up and eventually leads to iron overload in women especially those who have genetic mutations.

Before you run off and donate blood which is about the only way to reduce iron stores – might be a good idea to make sure that you need to.

Also, offering genomic evaluations to determine if you have the genetic mutations involved with iron overload as well as mutations that in the nutrients like vitamin B6 that play major roles in the metabolism of iron.