Something You’re Swallowing May Be Aging You

By Dr. Rick Morris


Didn't our parents tell us to eat iron rich foods so we'd grow to be big and strong? I believe it was Popeye who did that and instantly turned into the governor of California?

So I Should Take A Multivitamin With Iron?

Not Necessarily!

Yes, iron helps our blood carry oxygen to our cells, our brains and nervous systems to develop and our muscles to contract. But many of us have too much which can actually speed up our aging process.

How Can Taking Iron Speed Up Our Aging Process?

Think about rust. Iron that’s left to the elements oxidizes and rusts. This “rusting” is actually visible to the naked eye during surgery.

Since, it’s difficult for humans to excrete excess iron, there’s considerable potential for iron toxicity. This internal “rust” is proven to be harmful and actually accelerates aging. It’s become such a problem, that many of us are warned to avoid supplements containing it.

What Are The Effects Of Excess Iron?

  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal Fractures
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Decreased Kidney Function
  • Elevated LDL (Bad Cholesterol)
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
  • Heart Attacks
  • Strokes
  • Macular Degeneration (the most common cause of blindness)

Some of Us Have A Genetic Disease That Could Make Taking Iron Supplements Dangerous...Even Deadly (and Don't Know It)

1 in 250 people, of northern European descent, have a disease called Hemochromatosis which causes their bodies to absorb too much iron. This condition is often undiagnosed until there’s serious organ damage and even death. A simple blood test (Serum Ferritan) could catch this condition early and avoid serious damage.

But Aren't Some People Iron Deficient? How Would I Know?

Popeye wasn’t completely wrong. Some of us need to take extra iron.

The World Health Organization believes iron deficiency is the number one deficiency in the world today with as many as 80% of the population effected. This is usually due to food and calorie insufficiency (not often seen in our country), excess sugar intake, nutrient poor foods (both commonly seen here) and deficiencies in vitamins C or A (eat your fruits and vegetables...both are important to the absorption of iron). In other words, a "junky" diet will lead to iron deficiency.

Some of us require more iron and may require a supplement. These groups include:

  • Newborns who aren't breast-fed
  • Kids (needs extra iron due to growth)
  • Pregnant Women (the fetus requires extra iron)
  • Menstruating Women (loses iron through menstrual bleeding)
  • Patients with Renal Failure (loses iron through the urine)
  • People with Gastrointestinal Malabsorption Diseases like Celiac or Chronn's Disease
  • Vegans (vegetable sources of iron aren't absorbed as well as meat sources, but taking extra vitamin C will help)
  • Male Distance Runners (they seem to lose blood through broken capillaries in their feet), and
  • Female Athletes

Being deficient in iron causes adults to feel tired and kids to not fully grow and develop. But two simple blood tests, Serum Ferritin and a CBC (complete blood count), would detect the problem before it's serious.

How Can I Tell If My Child Is Iron Deficient?

Iron's essential for the development of our brains and nervous systems. These are a few signs your child may be deficient:

  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Decreased work and school performance
  • Slow cognitive and social development
  • Difficulty maintaining body temperature
  • Decreased immune function and frequent infections
  • Glossitis (an inflamed tongue)

Take Home Message

  1. Have your Serum Ferritin levels and a CBC (complete blood count) checked with your annual physical. Ask your doctor to specifically include both these tests—most don’t.
  2. If you are deficient, take the best form of iron supplement Ferrous Fumarate. The others are not absorbed as well, so why bother with them. The CDC recommends taking 50-60 mg. of elemental iron twice daily (the amount of elemental iron will be listed on the bottle). Start gradually to avoid side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain and dark stools. Those that are “enterically coated“ have fewer side effects, but aren’t absorbed as well. But speak to your doctor first.
  3. If you don’t fit into the groups most often seen as iron deficient, stop taking it. Look at your multivitamin and buy one without iron.
  4. Cut down on junk food and add a few fruits and vegetables each day to your meals. It helps in so many ways. Iron balance is just one of them.

80% of the world is deficient in iron while many American’s have excess. Both have significant negative effects that can easily be discovered with a simple inexpensive blood test.

When you come to our office, feel free to discuss your iron levels with us. Excess or deficient iron intake can affect your back and spinal nerves and make healing difficult. We believe our patients are highly informed and take charge of their health. Share this article with your friends.

For more information regarding this subject, visit the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institute of Health.

National Institue of Health Factsheet on Iron



Rick H. Morris, D.C., C.C.S.P., Q.M.E., A.B.A.A.H.P.

1243 7th Street, Suite B, Santa Monica, California 90401
tel: 310-451-5851 | fax:310-458-0051
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