Iron is an essential mineral. You need it for life. For example, if you're too low in iron, you can develop iron deficiency anemia, which restricts the supply of life-giving oxygen to your cells. On the other hand, iron is a highly reactive mineral and when there's too much of it, tissue damage and inflammation can be the result.
Several studies have reported a positive association between high body iron stores and the risk of PCOS and type 2 diabetes.
Why might you have an iron overload?
Iron absorption from your diet is controlled by a hormone called "hepcidin". The role of hepcidin is to make sure that you don't have too much iron floating around in your body.
When you have plenty of iron, hepcidin increases to inhibit the absorption of iron. If you are deficient in iron, hepcidin decreases in order to allow increased absorption of iron.
Other contributory factors besides hepcidin are insulin resistance and absence of menstrual function.
Iron excess can contribute to insulin resistance and abnormal blood sugar levels. Your iron status is important but often overlooked by most health professionals.
So if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (or diabetes), don't take any iron supplements until you first check with your doctor. You may also wish to restrict foods rich in iron if you're are found to be suffering from iron overload.
Excessive body storage of iron leads to increased inflammation and cell damage. This worsens your PCOS symptoms and contributes to the development of other diseases.
Too much or too little iron is a problem that should be corrected. It would be wise to ask your doctor to check your iron status with the appropriate lab tests.
Ask your doctor for a serum ferritin test, which is a measure of iron storage. It's also a good idea to have your liver enzymes checked, such as gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). This blood test could help to identify possible liver damage resulting from iron overload.
If your doctor won't cooperate, you may be able to order a test from www.healtheiron.com.
By the way, if your visit our online supplements store, you'll notice that our multi-vitamin/mineral does not contain any iron. We don't have any iron in it because your hepcidin hormone may not be working properly.
PCOS Symptoms Page
Escobar-Morreale HF. Iron metabolism and the polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;23(10):509-15.
Rajpathak SN et al, The role of iron in type 2 diabetes in humans. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Jul;1790(7):671-81.
Luque-Ramírez M et al, Role of decreased circulating hepcidin concentrations in the iron excess of women with the polycystic ovary syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Mar;96(3):846-52
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