Side Effects of Eating Too Much Iron

Iron, an essential mineral, forms an integral part of enzymes and proteins necessary for vibrant health. The majority of your body's iron is found in red blood cells, which transport oxygen. The recommended daily intake of iron for men is 8 milligrams and for women is 18 milligrams. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an intake of up to 45 milligrams of iron per day is safe. However, going overboard could prove disastrous to your overall health. For that reason, you should take iron supplements only after consulting your doctor.

Too much iron in your body can lead to constipation.
Credit: Maris Zemgalietis/iStock/Getty Images

Iron Overload

By eating too much iron, you can develop a condition called hemochromatosis. Iron can be toxic for your body when consumed in excess. It can contaminate your body organs, leading to organ failure. In hemochromatosis, iron can accumulate in your heart, pancreas and liver. Buildup of iron in the liver can cause liver cancer, cirrhosis, liver failure or an enlarged liver. Cirrhosis means scarring of the liver, which causes poor liver function. You can develop diabetes from iron overload in your pancreas. Accumulation of iron in your heart can cause heart failure and random heartbeats called arrhythmias. If left untreated, hemochromatosis may cause death.

Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Consuming too much iron may produce gastrointestinal side effects such as heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, discomfort, nausea, liver damage, vomiting blood, black and bloody stools and metallic taste in your mouth.

Nervous System Side Effects

Excess iron intake can negatively affect your nervous system. You may experience symptoms such as dizziness, headache, convulsions, chills, fever and drowsiness. Overconsumption of this nutrient can kill your desire to do anything. In fact, you may also develop coma within half an hour to one hour after an iron overdose.

Pulmonary Edema

Too much iron in your body may give rise to a condition called pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema refers to an abnormal accumulation of fluid in your lungs' air sacs, which causes breathing difficulty. It may be accompanied by excessive sweating, anxiety or restlessness, wheezing sounds with breathing, the feeling of drowning, leg swelling, pale skin, coughing or spitting up blood and reduced alertness.

Other Side Effects

Although evidence is not conclusive, there may be a relationship between elevated iron levels and risk of Alzheimer's disease, cancer and heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. People with inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease seem to have large amounts of iron in the parts of their intestine that are inflamed. Other symptoms of too much iron include low blood pressure, dehydration, shock and fast and weak pulse.

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