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2013-06-25 5:33 PM

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Subject: PSA re: iron deficiency
Hi everyone--

I'm currently training for my second IM, but had noticed this spring that no matter what I did, my times on the swim and run were getting slower, my HR was spiking, and I found it really hard to keep going sometimes. At first I blamed allergies, and the trees on the East coast were indeed trying to kill me, but this circumstance lasted way longer than it should have. So I saw my doctor last week (I'd been out of town for a couple of months) and asked for not only a referral to an allergist (because not training outside is not an option!) but a ferritin test-- one that looks at/for the amount of iron stored in the bone marrow that the body can use to make red blood cells and thus deliver oxygen where it needs to go. (Full disclosure: my mom actually sent me a useful article from the _Globe and Mail_ newspaper (*waves to fellow Canadians*) about precisely this test-- turns out that one of the things that led to Paula Findlay's heartbreaking Olympics was a seriously low ferritin score-- and doctors don't usually see this as part of a typical CBC. (No, not the broadcaster, fellow Canadians...)) My doc agreed, drew some blood, and off I went.

She called me the next day: sure enough, my hemoglobin counts were slightly low, but my ferritin was in the basement. So I'm now on iron supplements, and it should take 1-3 months (I hope) to get back to normal.

Low ferritin can apparently strike endurance athletes, particularly female ones-- so I thought I'd put this out here as an FYI: if you're feeling craptastic and not sure why, might be worth asking your doc for a ferritin test whenever you go and see him/her.

Happy training, everyone!


2013-06-25 6:22 PM
in reply to: wrkinprogress

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Yup female endurance athletes are at the highest risk for this. Running is actually the most damaging sport to your body.
2013-06-25 6:52 PM
in reply to: wrkinprogress

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Had this diagnosed at the end of February combined with an "overreaching period"--it's been a long slow build back.  Still not running as fast as I was in January pre-crash.

Good luck, be patient, take care of you :)

2013-06-25 8:00 PM
in reply to: switch

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
What is an overreaching period? Any idea what caused it?
2013-06-25 8:53 PM
in reply to: chayes

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Is there anything you can do other than taking iron? I took iron during my pregnancies and hate the way I feel on it and what it does to my digestion.
2013-06-25 8:54 PM
in reply to: wrkinprogress

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
I was diagnosed with chronic anemia (single digit Fe levels and an extremely worried doctor) in 2006, after suffering for 2 years with tiredness, absolutely no energy, a myriad or throat infections, catching just about every bug around, and generally feeling "craptastic" (I've learned a new word today!). Apparently, it's a problem that affects all the women in our family from the age of 40+ as we stop absorbing Fe efficiently from food, but my mother and sister didn't tell me that!!!!! I packed the weight on during these 2 years, and triathlon has been absolutely wonderful for getting me fit again, and keeping the weight at bay.

I was initially on Fe-shots for 3 months, which consists of a nice/not-so-nice nurse sticking a harpoon in my backside every week. I'm not kidding about the harpoon-size-of-a-needle either, this thing was about 4-5" long as the liquid Fe had to injected really deep into my glutes. Ever since then I've been on heavy-dose Fe tablets (the ones that pregnant women take), and will be for the rest of my life. They occasionally mess with my stomach, but I've learned to live with them, as the alternatives aren't so great.

Based on your post, I think I'll stick with sprints and olys, with a long-term dream of a HIM, especially if training may make me even more Fe deficient!!!!


2013-06-25 9:20 PM
in reply to: wartho

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Originally posted by wartho I was diagnosed with chronic anemia (single digit Fe levels and an extremely worried doctor) in 2006, after suffering for 2 years with tiredness, absolutely no energy, a myriad or throat infections, catching just about every bug around, and generally feeling "craptastic" (I've learned a new word today!). Apparently, it's a problem that affects all the women in our family from the age of 40+ as we stop absorbing Fe efficiently from food, but my mother and sister didn't tell me that!!!!! I packed the weight on during these 2 years, and triathlon has been absolutely wonderful for getting me fit again, and keeping the weight at bay. I was initially on Fe-shots for 3 months, which consists of a nice/not-so-nice nurse sticking a harpoon in my backside every week. I'm not kidding about the harpoon-size-of-a-needle either, this thing was about 4-5" long as the liquid Fe had to injected really deep into my glutes. Ever since then I've been on heavy-dose Fe tablets (the ones that pregnant women take), and will be for the rest of my life. They occasionally mess with my stomach, but I've learned to live with them, as the alternatives aren't so great. Based on your post, I think I'll stick with sprints and olys, with a long-term dream of a HIM, especially if training may make me even more Fe deficient!!!!

Ugh...those shots hurt!  I had it done once because my ferritin was in the single digits.  Now I take iron supplements regularly to try to avoid this.

2013-06-26 8:10 AM
in reply to: KeriKadi

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Originally posted by KeriKadi Is there anything you can do other than taking iron? I took iron during my pregnancies and hate the way I feel on it and what it does to my digestion.

Vitamin C helps you absorb iron from the food you eat and caffeine blocks iron absorption.

HERE is a list of the top 10 foods that are high in iron. This is a pretty good article in iron absorption- even the comments are informative. (I just found this Goggling about iron- I am not affiliated with this site)

Black Strap Molasses is a good natural source of iron if you can handle the taste. Also the herb Alfalfa is pretty high in iron- along with many other minerals.

This is something I think I am struggling with also (anemia). I will ask my Doc about running some tests this week. I have a gene mutation which makes it hard for my body to absorb some minerals and vitamins, I seem to do better with whole food sources. 

2013-06-26 11:12 AM
in reply to: chayes

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Originally posted by chayes What is an overreaching period? Any idea what caused it?

 

Overreaching is sort-of like low-grade over training, similar symptoms, but you can usually recover from it more quickly.

Mine was caused by a combination of things--too many weeks of high volume, too much intensity, a big work deadline, a personal issue, and then a max all out effort in a race.  It was a perfect storm, and knocked me on my butt.  It was complicated by both a strange complete iron panel which included (falsely high ferritin--ferritin is an acute phase reactant, so can test high during an illness, even when it's really low), but both a serum iron and a total iron saturation that were 50% below the lower end on normal. 

Interestingly, I was not anemic, and my first round of blood work looked relatively normal.  The only reason my doc agreed to do an iron panel was because I pushed for it, saying I felt like complete s*&^, my run splits were over a min/mile slower than they had been, and I was having trouble word finding and making it through the day from extreme fatigue.   Ladies, as a point of reference it was fatigue that was worse than first trimester pregnancy fatigue.

A couple of things I like to stress to people:

  • Advocate for yourself with your doctors.  You know when things aren't right.
  • One of my main symptoms of overreaching was that I was having horrific, drench the sheets night sweats ~5 nights/week, and very fitful sleep.  If you're experiencing night sweats, back it down for a few days--both volume and intensity.
  • Even if you eat completely clean and have a diet packed with iron rich foods, you can still be iron deficient.  My doc was BLOWN AWAY by my iron results, as she is a personal friend and knows how I eat.  She was resistant to doing a complete iron panel on me because of how well she knows I eat.  She still can't believe it.  Don't make an assumption that because your diet is awesome you can't be iron deficient.
  • Personal or work stress is still stress on the body and can contribute to overreaching and overtraining.  Look at your life's whole picture when thinking about and planning your training cycles.
  • Yes, iron deficiency is more common in menstruating women, but it does occur in men, especially in endurance athletes--1 of 5 iron deficiencies occur in men.

My max-out race that pushed me into the over-reaching zone was at the end of February, and I'm still not totally recovered.  Like many of us, I can fall into the more/harder is better trap, but I'm trying really hard to watch that now.  When I feel the tank getting too low, or if I have trouble sleeping or night sweats, I back it right down right away.  I do not want to have to rebuild again.  It sucked.

2013-06-26 8:41 PM
in reply to: switch

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Ooooh... I was thinking period as in monthly visitor. In retrospect that makes no sense. But thanks for the thorough explanation. (Wish there was still a blushy emoticon.)
2013-06-26 9:41 PM
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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Originally posted by chayes Ooooh... I was thinking period as in monthly visitor. In retrospect that makes no sense. But thanks for the thorough explanation. (Wish there was still a blushy emoticon.)

haha that is what I thought too...  Embarassed



Edited by Meljoypip 2013-06-26 9:42 PM


2013-06-26 9:59 PM
in reply to: Meljoypip

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by Meljoypip

Originally posted by chayes Ooooh... I was thinking period as in monthly visitor. In retrospect that makes no sense. But thanks for the thorough explanation. (Wish there was still a blushy emoticon.)

haha that is what I thought too...  Embarassed



Hey how'd you get that blushy one? I only have happy, sad, winky and "whaaaa?" (which, admittedly, is what I deserve)
2013-06-27 12:43 AM
in reply to: wrkinprogress

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Originally posted by wrkinprogress Hi everyone-- I'm currently training for my second IM, but had noticed this spring that no matter what I did, my times on the swim and run were getting slower, my HR was spiking, and I found it really hard to keep going sometimes. At first I blamed allergies, and the trees on the East coast were indeed trying to kill me, but this circumstance lasted way longer than it should have. So I saw my doctor last week (I'd been out of town for a couple of months) and asked for not only a referral to an allergist (because not training outside is not an option!) but a ferritin test-- one that looks at/for the amount of iron stored in the bone marrow that the body can use to make red blood cells and thus deliver oxygen where it needs to go. (Full disclosure: my mom actually sent me a useful article from the _Globe and Mail_ newspaper (*waves to fellow Canadians*) about precisely this test-- turns out that one of the things that led to Paula Findlay's heartbreaking Olympics was a seriously low ferritin score-- and doctors don't usually see this as part of a typical CBC. (No, not the broadcaster, fellow Canadians...)) My doc agreed, drew some blood, and off I went. She called me the next day: sure enough, my hemoglobin counts were slightly low, but my ferritin was in the basement. So I'm now on iron supplements, and it should take 1-3 months (I hope) to get back to normal. Low ferritin can apparently strike endurance athletes, particularly female ones-- so I thought I'd put this out here as an FYI: if you're feeling craptastic and not sure why, might be worth asking your doc for a ferritin test whenever you go and see him/her. Happy training, everyone!

I had my ferritin checked in Dec when Canadian Blood Services (hi fellow Canadian Wink) wouldn't let me donate for the first time ever.  I was at 10.  (<15 is diagnostic of iron deficiency, 15-49 is likely, 49-100 is probably).  Ironically, I didn't really start to feel tired until AFTER I knew I was low...  My iron was higher when I was a vegetarian...  I went on 150mg iron daily, with Vit C.  3 months later: 25.  Sigh.  This is going to take awhile.  3 months after that (last week): 36.  Sigh again.  I hope yours goes up quicker. I am feeling fine, no fatigue or anything, but I would like to get back to donating blood.

2013-06-27 7:52 AM
in reply to: wrkinprogress

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
What about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help.

Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.

2013-06-27 8:14 AM
in reply to: lakelandsledder

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.
2013-06-27 8:23 AM
in reply to: switch

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by switch

Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.


I agree with that, but I don't take any multi vitamins but looking at a bottle I had in the cabinet it had iron in it at 15mg! I have a blood test coming up for some other things and may try to get that checked as well


2013-06-27 8:35 AM
in reply to: lakelandsledder

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
I have been diagnosed as anemic since I was a teenager.  It became very obvious (and treated) while I was pregnant.  I know to seek out iron rich foods.  I have noticed that the more I run the more tired I am.  I just attributed it to the exercise, but when I look at other surrounding factors (diet, rest, stress) I realized that my iron intake is next to nothing!  I, also, don't like to take the iron tablets, as they completely mess with my digestive system.  I'm trying to increase my intake but have found that my red meat consumption has been pretty low over the last 1.5 years.  HMMMMMMM!
2013-06-27 10:01 AM
in reply to: switch

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency

Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.

This all (the symptoms) clicked with me- but I went in this morning and was tested and my iron levels are fine (did not do the ferritin test).

My (similar symptom) issues are steaming from low thyroid and my heart not functioning like it should. :/

2013-06-27 11:41 AM
in reply to: Meljoypip

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by Meljoypip

Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.

This all (the symptoms) clicked with me- but I went in this morning and was tested and my iron levels are fine (did not do the ferritin test).

My (similar symptom) issues are steaming from low thyroid and my heart not functioning like it should. :/

Meljoy-all of my regular bloodwork was normal, I had to push for a specific iron panel which included the ferritin.  What "iron levels" did you have checked?
2013-06-27 11:47 AM
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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by Meljoypip

Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.

This all (the symptoms) clicked with me- but I went in this morning and was tested and my iron levels are fine (did not do the ferritin test).

My (similar symptom) issues are steaming from low thyroid and my heart not functioning like it should. :/

Meljoy-all of my regular bloodwork was normal, I had to push for a specific iron panel which included the ferritin.  What "iron levels" did you have checked?
\

Honestly- I do not know- my Dr said they were normal and I did not need to supplement with iron. He felt sure for me it is my thyroid and my heart. I may see if i can get a copy of the blood work. I go back in 2 weeks. If I do not feel any better I will ask for the ferritin test.



Edited by Meljoypip 2013-06-27 11:48 AM
2013-06-27 11:50 AM
in reply to: Meljoypip

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by Meljoypip
Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by Meljoypip

Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.

This all (the symptoms) clicked with me- but I went in this morning and was tested and my iron levels are fine (did not do the ferritin test).

My (similar symptom) issues are steaming from low thyroid and my heart not functioning like it should. :/

Meljoy-all of my regular bloodwork was normal, I had to push for a specific iron panel which included the ferritin.  What "iron levels" did you have checked?
\

Honestly- I do not know- my Dr said they were normal and I did not need to supplement with iron. He felt sure for me it is my thyroid and my heart. I may see if i can get a copy of the blood work. I go back in 2 weeks. If I do not feel any better I will ask for the ferritin test.

Having thyroid problems can certainly make you feel bad--and the symptoms are very similar.  Actually, that's what my doc suspected when she ran my bloodwork based on my symptoms. 

Your heart??!  I hope you're OK.  Hugs.



2013-06-30 10:47 AM
in reply to: switch

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Thanks for all of this.

Although I am a male, I am having the same symptoms described at the top of the post. My run times are ridiculously slow, and it seems that the efforts are harder than times 2 minutes per mile faster just months ago.

I am going to call my doctor this week, and will ask for the iron test.

It also seems that I am winded more often, having never been winded in the past, this is very strange to me.

Thanks again for sharing, this info is great when we are trying to figure out what is wrong.
2013-06-30 1:31 PM
in reply to: switch

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Subject: RE: PSA re: iron deficiency
Originally posted by switch

Originally posted by Meljoypip
Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by Meljoypip

Originally posted by switch
Originally posted by lakelandsledderWhat about us men? I tend to get tired and bonk a lot. I was reading this thread so I started looking at what I eat daily. No red meat, just chicken, fish, and occasional ground turkey, almonds, brocolli and spinach, oats, fruit, greek yogurt. I believe the suggested daily amount is around 8mg. I added up what I eat and I think I only get about 50% of the RDA. I think I may try to take a lower doze iron supplement at around 10mg and see what happenes. Too much and it can be toxic. I think for men it's 45mg per day is toxic. So if I'm at around 5mg right now taking a supplement at 10 may help. Not saying I am or not but thanks for this thread, it's something for me that clicked.
Get tested if you are concerned. DO NOT JUST START SUPPLEMENTING. And, again, you can not determine what your iron levels are by what you eat.

This all (the symptoms) clicked with me- but I went in this morning and was tested and my iron levels are fine (did not do the ferritin test).

My (similar symptom) issues are steaming from low thyroid and my heart not functioning like it should. :/

Meljoy-all of my regular bloodwork was normal, I had to push for a specific iron panel which included the ferritin.  What "iron levels" did you have checked?
\

Honestly- I do not know- my Dr said they were normal and I did not need to supplement with iron. He felt sure for me it is my thyroid and my heart. I may see if i can get a copy of the blood work. I go back in 2 weeks. If I do not feel any better I will ask for the ferritin test.

Having thyroid problems can certainly make you feel bad--and the symptoms are very similar.  Actually, that's what my doc suspected when she ran my bloodwork based on my symptoms. 

Your heart??!  I hope you're OK.  Hugs.



Before anyone goes all-over on iron . . . there is a flip side, called hemochromatosis, which is when your body retains TOO MUCH iron. It's inherited. My dad suffered from it, but fortunately I do not. (You get an Fe test for it as well.)
As with a lack of iron, the short-term symptoms are hard to spot. The buildup of iron through a lifetime, though, can cause failure in the heart, liver and pancreas.
It generally affects men more than women. The iron tends to build up via the bloodstream. The menstrual cycle can help forestall that buildup.
More at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hemochromatosis/
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