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Iron & Its Impact on Perimenopausal and Menopausal Women

female-friends-chatting-over-coffee-sqIron plays an integral role in our health. It’s essential for the production of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen, and without a sufficient supply, you might experience fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms associated with anemia. It’s recommended we take supplements and add iron-rich foods to our diet to aid our bodies when our levels are too low.

On the flip side, when our bodies have too much iron, it often goes undiagnosed until significant damage has been done to many of our organs. Hemochromatosis is the most common cause of this, which can be hereditary and passed down through genes.

The Dangers of High Iron Levels

I recently spoke with Dr. Christy Sutton, author of the book The Iron Curse and a passionate advocate for understanding the complexities of iron levels in our bodies. As she explained to me, any excess iron we adsorb is stored in various organs, leaving a wake of severe damage in places like your liver, heart, pituitary gland, gonads, and pancreas.

Left undiagnosed, this can trigger heart problems, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, liver cancer, and diabetes, and it can cause fatigue, other heart problems, and hormone disruption.

One way to think about the effect of iron on your body is to imagine setting a piece of iron outside in the rain. It will be exposed to oxygen and water—both of which are plentiful in the human body—and over time, it will rust. And that rusting process is oxidative, and not good for our bodies as we age and face increased risks for cancers, dementia, and other diseases.

Why It’s a Problem for Menopausal Women

As women in our second phase of life, it’s important to understand iron and its impact on us as perimenopausal and menopausal women. During our menstruation years and pregnancy, women can easily become anemic due to the blood loss each month and pregnancy’s intense, iron-depleting effects. This protects women, in a way, from the negative and sometimes disastrous effects of high iron, and they tend to have more low iron issues, which are typically solved through supplementation.

As perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, however, we see an uptick in a diagnosis of iron levels that are too high because they’re no longer menstruating each month. Additionally, about 30 percent of the population has one or more hemochromatosis genes, and having one or more of these genes increases the risk of hemochromatosis disorder.

Testing Is Key for Damage Prevention

Waiting for symptoms is not an effective way to garner a diagnosis, and all too often, it’s impossible to get a general practitioner to hear you out and order relevant testing for this concern. It’s too late by then, and damage has already occurred.

The best way to be proactive about our iron levels is to order a direct-to-consumer genetic test, including hemochromatosis gene indicators. You can also ask for a full iron panel with your annual blood work, including the CBC (hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cells) and the iron panel (ferritin, serum iron, UIBC, TIBC, iron saturation). It’s not an exotic lab to ask for and is relatively inexpensive.

Prepare yourself, however: your doctor may dismiss or order the request but not report to you about what they observe. Or they may tell you you’re in the clear because you just have one gene. However, with hemochromatosis, that’s all it takes to increase your risk for high iron.

Helping You Be Proactive About Your Health

We’re passionate about providing women with the guidance they need to make their way through these somewhat unexpected problems that can arise as we move through perimenopause and menopause.

It’s hard to know what you don’t know as you enter new realms of your health and wellness experience. We’re to help you get to a diagnosis and find a solution to your struggles. Our next blog will discuss how to treat high iron and what supplements can best benefit your body.

If you’re ready to improve your health, well-being, and peace of mind, we are here. Connect with us today to schedule an appointment.


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