Iron is a vital mineral your body needs to function normally. However, the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements, or ODS, indicates that too much iron can cause serious health complications. You may want to take iron-free vitamins and eschew iron supplements to avoid iron overload, a medical condition that causes excess iron to be stored in vital organs such as the liver and heart.
More About Iron
Iron is essential to good health in just the right amounts; iron is an integral part of your hemoglobin and myoglobin, which deliver oxygen to your muscles and tissues, respectively, states the ODS. The Centers for Disease Control further indicates that iron is a part of the enzymes that help you digest the food you eat. Iron deficiency affects all parts of the body, causing fatigue and a weakened immune system. Too much iron, on the other hand, may be toxic-–and even fatal.
Iron-free vitamins are appropriate-–and even necessary-–for people already suffering from iron overload. This condition can be inherited, says the Iron Disorders Institute, or it can be acquired by ingesting too much iron or receiving iron shots and injections. Genetic disorders that may cause iron overload include all types of hemochromatosis, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, X-linked sideroblastic anemia, deficiencies of specific enzymes and disorders that affect how protein is transported in your body.
Signs and Symptoms
A surfeit of iron in your body causes numerous undesirable signs and symptoms and can even result in life-threatening medical conditions, says the Iron Disorders Institute. Iron overload is characterized by chronic fatigue, abdominal and joint pain, hair loss, decreased libido or impotence, depression and skin that's ashen or bronze in color. Iron overload can lead to disease of the liver, diabetes, heart attack, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and problems with adrenal functioning.
Who Doesn't Need Iron
Adult male and postmenopausal women rarely suffer from iron deficiency and are at a higher risk for iron overload. If you fall in one of these populations, the ODS stresses the importance of talking to your doctor before taking vitamins with iron or iron supplements. Additionally, people who've just received blood transfusions are more at risk for iron overload. The ODS indicates that people with hemochromatosis absorb iron extremely easily; however, this condition is often not detected until iron overload has already caused organ damage.
Iron, Vitamins and Diet
Iron supplements and vitamins with iron may be appropriate if you have iron-deficiency anemia, says the ODS. Supplemental iron may also be appropriate for expecting mothers, premature babies, infants, toddlers, teen girls, women of childbearing age, and those with renal failure or disorders that don't allow them to absorb iron. However, the ODS states that your nutritional needs should be met by the foods you eat–not the vitamins and supplements you take. Iron is abundant in animal- and plant-based foods such as beef, turkey, beans, lentils and iron-fortified cereals.
Talk To Your Doctor
According to MayoClinic.Com, if you're a healthy adult who eats a balanced, well-rounded diet, supplementing your nutrition with vitamins shouldn't be necessary. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about dietary supplements that may be beneficial to you, given your caloric intake, diet, stage of life and health status. Make sure to ask if dietary supplements will interact with medications you currently take or if they'll cause any side-effects, MayoClinic.Com advises.