What Happens To Your Body When You Consume Too Much Iron

Iron is a naturally-occurring mineral that is needed to make proteins that move oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. Normally, we get iron from foods that we eat, like beans and red meat (via theĀ National Institutes of Health). For people who don't get enough iron in their diets, there are supplements that can supply the necessary type and amount of iron they need to stay healthy. But taking too much iron can cause harmful, and sometimes permanent side-effects.

Low iron is the most common mineral deficiency in the world (via Healthline). The human body normally produces just the right amount of a hormone called hepcidin, which helps regulate iron absorption. If for some reason you produce too much hepcidin, your iron levels may become low. This can lead to anemia which can cause an upset stomach, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and feeling cold. Conversely, if you don't produce enough hepcidin, you may become overloaded with iron. While this isn't as common as an iron deficiency, it can still be dangerous.

Watch for these symptoms

There are a variety of iron-centric health problems, so just be sure you notify your doctor if something feels off.

Hereditary hemochromatosis is an iron overload disorder that causes the body to absorb more iron than usual from the digestive system. It can cause serious issues like cancer, diabetes, and even heart failure. Fortunately, this genetic condition is not very common.

Acute iron toxicity happens quickly and is usually caused by taking hundreds of thousands of milligrams of an iron supplement. The recommended upper limit for daily iron intake is 45 milligrams for adults over the age of 19. Because iron can cause damage to cells if it isn't absorbed properly, excessive amounts of iron in the bloodstream can lead to symptoms like nausea and vomiting. At high enough doses, iron can cause organ failure, coma, and even death.

Before taking iron supplements, have your iron levels checked to make sure you are deficient and talk to your doctor to learn how much you should be taking. And if you do require extra iron to stay healthy, always follow the recommendations for proper dosing to avoid harmful outcomes.