The downsides of iron supplementation by injection or infusion

Iron injections or infusions are increasingly becoming the standard medical ‘quick fix’ response to low iron levels in women. And whilst they obviously may be necessary in life-saving or severe anaemia situations, they are not the ideal method of replenish one’s iron stores for the following reasons:

Iron is highly oxidative with a very reactive potential which can result in physiological tissue or organ damage to the body from the high amounts administered.

Sudden excess iron is in essence toxic to the body, overwhelming the body’s natural ‘checks and balances’. There are also numerous essential steps involving biochemical conversion enzymes to facilitate the storage of iron in the organs.

These enzymes can become overwhelmed; giving rise to long-term organ damage –particularly the heart, renal nephrons of the kidneys, and the liver (Chan: 2018). Significant free radical (ROS) damage is believed to occur which can potentially predispose to malignancy in later life (Chan: 2010).

A life-threatening, immediate adverse reaction to an iron injection/infusion is anaphylactic shock (Cerino: 2017), so highly atopic people or those with multiple sensitivities or allergies should be closely supervised for possible complications.

Inexpertly-given iron injections can result in cosmetic or localised tissue complications such as skin abscess or permanent ‘rust-like’ staining of the skin. Women will often report a telogen effluvium excessive scalp hair shedding due to ‘body ‘shock’.

Burns et al (1999) suggest patients in poor health, compromised immunity or autoimmune conditions should be carefully monitored post-infusion. Those with a known history of iron overload (termed: Haemochromatosis) or Thalassaemia are not usually infusion candidates.

Finally because iron or any mineral is potentially toxic to the body in excess amounts, the body will endeavour to eliminate it via the kidneys and liver. This is one reason why injected or infused iron levels become excessively elevated initially but then fall away quite rapidly – and not stored – as the body strives to excrete it.

This process essentially negates the reason/s for having the iron injection or transfusion in the first instance (in my opinion).

How to safely + effectively replenish iron stores:

  • Assess possible reasons why you have iron stores depleted enough for a medical iron infusion to be suggested. See article at this site ‘Why iron levels remain low’.
  • Once gastrointestinal causes* have been eliminated, taking the most appropriate form of (organic) iron for you is crucial to achieve optimal outcomes without side effects.
  • Iron supplementation should ideally be taken together with necessary absorption and utilisation co-factors such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and amino acids:
  • Amino acids encourage the transportation & utilisation of iron within the body.
  • Amino acids are essential for ATP production (Krebs [citric acid] cycle)
  • Hair is 98% protein – amino acids are both body ‘cell messengers’ + the building blocks for protein.
  • Be diligent and patient with supplementing. You must repay the debt’ to your muscles and organs before blood levels will commence to rise. Aim to reach 30-50% of the iron stores (Ferritin) reference range** – higher if you are a young woman planning a pregnancy.
  • Stay connected with your chosen practitioner who is experienced in the intricacies of nutrient therapy.

Pathogens such as Helicobacter Pylorri (HpSA), Blastocystis hominis o SIBO which interfere with iron absorption. Gastroscopy/Colonoscopy to eliminate sources of internal bleeding in the GIT.

Usual accepted reference range for Ferritin is 20-300 ug/L; minimum level for thyroid gland, liver detoxification + hair follicle support is 100ug/L. Pregnant women should aim to have iron stores >150 ug/L IF they do not have health conditions which prohibit this.

Human beings have evolved by having almost all nutrients absorbed and made available to the body from the gut. We should strive to replicate such nutrient supply practices (Cannell: 2012).

Copyright Anthony Pearce 2018 (revised April 2020)