Having an occasional alcoholic drink or two generally doesn't have an adverse effect on your body, but because your body can metabolize only small amounts of alcohol at a time, the remaining alcohol is left coursing through your body. With chronic excessive alcohol consumption, the alcohol that stays in your bloodstream can lead to organ damage and other medical conditions, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Your liver, which is responsible for the metabolism of alcohol, also is responsible for the filtration and subsequent storage of certain nutrients, including iron.
The Role of Iron in Your Body
Most of the iron in your body is found in hemoglobin, a protein responsible for the dissemination of oxygen to your tissues and organs. A deficiency of iron leads to a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin and subsequently, oxygen, in your blood. As a result, you can become weak, tired and lack endurance because your tissues and organs aren't getting enough oxygen. The National Institutes of Health explains that up to 80 percent of all people in the world don't have enough iron in their bodies. This can be due to poor nutrition or impaired nutrient absorption.
How Alcohol Affects Iron
Your body does not excrete iron in waste products like sweat, urine or feces. Instead, your body absorbs a certain amount of iron from the foods and supplements you consume. Alcohol, according to Colorado State University Extension, causes your body to store additional iron. The excess is stored in your organs and tissues and poses a threat for iron-induced toxicity. Excess iron in the body can lead to additional free radicals in your blood. Free radicals are byproducts of metabolism that cause damage to cells and can lead to an increased risk of cancer.
Iron toxicity caused by drinking too much alcohol can lead to damage of the liver and other organs. In a 1997 article published in "Alcohol Health and Research World," Dr. Jacquelyn J. Maher explains that the liver is a resilient organ that can repair minor damage. Excess alcohol consumption, she continues, in amounts larger than five or six alcoholic beverages daily for a period of 20 years, appears to be the point at which permanent liver damage occurs in men. For women, Dr. Maher states that approximately 25 percent to 50 percent of this amount is associated with permanent damage.
Symptoms of low iron include fatigue, impaired thinking and problems maintaining a consistent body temperature. A deficiency of this mineral can either occur because of increased iron requirement or decreased iron consumption. Drinking alcohol does not contribute to low iron; in fact, in excess amounts it can lead to dangerously high levels of iron. If you are experiencing symptoms of low iron or believe you are consuming excess amounts of alcohol, see your doctor.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Frequently Asked Questions - Alcohol
- National Institute of Health: Iron
- Colorado State University Extension; Iron; An Essential Nutrient
- University of Utah: Diseases of Iron Metabolism
- "Alcohol, Health and Research World"; Exploring Alcohol’s Effects on Liver Function; Jacquelyn J. Maher, M.D.; 1997