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Why Women Are More Susceptible To Iron Overload

Why Women Are More Susceptible To Iron Overload

Why Women Are More Susceptible To Iron Overload

Have you heard of the myth that suggests women are less prone to iron overload because they suffer from anemia more frequently than men? Well, I'm sorry to say, but the oh-so popular tale is actually a fallacy. In fact, women have a unique advantage over men when it comes to absorbing iron because of their body's natural mechanism. Research shows that women can absorb almost 30% more iron than men, making them more vulnerable to iron overload. 

Understanding Iron and Copper

You may not know it, but iron and copper make a powerful duo when it comes to many processes in our bodies. These two essential minerals work synergistically together, meaning that each enhances the effectiveness of the other. For example, copper is vital for the absorption of iron, while iron helps to transport copper throughout our bodies. Additionally, these minerals work together to create potent antioxidant enzymes that protect our cells from damage. It's fascinating to see how our bodies are reliant on these small but mighty minerals to keep us healthy and functioning at our best. 


Now, let's talk about copper dysregulation in women and how it relates to estrogen levels. Copper is an essential mineral that supports red blood cell formation, immune function, and bone health. However, excessive copper levels can cause unwanted symptoms like headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and skin issues. Research suggests that copper retention may occur with unbalanced estrogen levels, especially in pregnant women or those taking hormonal birth control.

What is Iron Overload?

Iron overload is the condition in which there is an accumulation of iron in the tissues. This can be dangerous because an excessive amount of iron can lead to inflammation, hormonal imbalances, liver damage, and more. Most of the iron we have in our bodies is stored in certain organ systems like the liver, spleen, bone marrow, duodenum, skeletal muscle. 

Iron is an essential nutrient for the body, but too much of it can be harmful. When the body absorbs more iron than it needs, it can lead to damage in major organs such as the liver, pancreas, and heart. Over time, the excess iron can also cause joint pain, fatigue, and even diabetes. Some folks have a greater chance of iron overload due to genetics, while others might develop it from factors like iron-rich diets, blood transfusions, or certain health conditions. That's why it's vital to stay informed about the risks of too much iron and take preventive steps.

The Iron Recycling System

Remember that blog where we wrote about iron and the fascinating RES system? It’s back again, and this time we’re discussing iron overload. Did you know our body is smart enough to recycle 24mg of iron a day? Yes, you heard that right! But what about when we exceed that amount and have too much iron in our body? Well, that’s where our liver comes in. Our liver regulates iron absorption through a protein called hepcidin. So, no need to worry about iron overload, our body's got it covered! Want to know more about this amazing RES system? Check out our previous blog here.


Iron plays a crucial role in various physiological processes, including oxygen transport and DNA synthesis. However, too much iron in the body can lead to significant health issues such as iron overload. This is where hepcidin comes into play. As the master regulator of iron metabolism, hepcidin controls the absorption and distribution of iron in the body. The liver produces hepcidin in response to high levels of iron stores, which then blocks the absorption of iron and increases its sequestration. With this mechanism, the body maintains optimal iron levels and prevents damaging iron overload. The role of hepcidin in iron regulation highlights the intricate and intricate balance between too little and too much of essential micronutrients in the body.

Iron, Copper, and Their Relationship

What comes to mind when we think of iron and copper? Maybe pennies, rust, or maybe even music? However, these two metals play an important role in our bodies that we may not often think about. Surprisingly, they work together to aid in various bodily processes. Copper helps with iron absorption, which in turn helps with oxygen transport throughout the body. Iron and copper also work together to produce energy in our cells through certain enzyme reactions. It’s incredible to think that these two elements, often overlooked, have such an essential partnership in keeping our bodies running smoothly.


These elements are an essential part of our body, playing vital roles in various physiological functions. However, when these metals are not properly managed in the body, things can go south pretty quickly. Just like with most things in life, moderation is key when it comes to metal consumption. Missing essential minerals can cause various health problems, like fatigue, disorders, organ damage, and even cancer. Prevention is key. Keep an eye on your metal intake and reach out to a healthcare pro if you notice anything unusual.

Making Copper "Bio Available"

Making copper bio available with ceruloplasmin and hephaestin may sound like a scientific mouthful, but it's actually a fascinating process. These two enzymes work together to deliver copper to our bodies in a form that's easily absorbed and utilized. You see, copper is essential for a wide range of bodily functions, from forming red blood cells to supporting the nervous and immune systems. Without it, our health can suffer. 


When it comes to understanding how copper is made bioavailable in the body, liver function plays a crucial role. The liver makes proteins like ceruloplasmin and hephaestin which help with copper absorption in our body. If the liver isn't working well, it can affect how much copper is absorbed. That's why it's important to take care of your liver through healthy choices, so you can get all the copper you need to feel great!

Women's Susceptibility to Iron Overload

Women are more prone to ion overload because they naturally absorb more iron, especially during their menstrual cycles. The copper-estrogen connection is crucial as regulating copper levels, which involves producing enough ceruloplasmin and hephaestin to bind to copper, usually coincides with healthy estrogen levels and effective clearing of excess amounts. When the liver gets stagnant, it can lead to symptoms resembling estrogen dominance, copper toxicity, and iron overload. These can include mood swings, painful and clotty periods, long and irregular periods, hypothyroidism, weakened immune system, recurring infections, and more.


Copper plays a significant role in our body's estrogen levels. In fact, copper is essential for estrogen production and regulation in both men and women. Estrogen, on the other hand, is an important hormone that affects our reproductive system, bone density, mood, and more. But too much or too little copper can lead to adverse effects on our body and our health. So it's crucial to maintain a balance of copper in our diet. Now, isn't that something to think about?


This isn’t to say men can’t develop iron overload- both sexes have estrogen. Especially in a world in which we are surrounded by endocrine disruptors, the rise of veganism and and estrogen-like metals, it’s bound to happen. However, higher estrogen levels can make one more susceptible. 

Misdiagnosis and Iron Deficiency Anemia

It's a frustrating reality that many women may be receiving the wrong diagnosis when it comes to their iron levels. Iron deficiency anemia is a common health issue among females that can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. However, more and more research is being done to show that misdiagnosis of this condition is rampant. Some women might have chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or thyroid problems causing their symptoms. Finding a healthcare provider who will take the time to properly diagnose can be challenging. It's frustrating and can leave you feeling stuck. But the more awareness we spread, the better!


We often hear about the importance of iron in our diets, but what happens when our bodies aren't getting enough of it? Low iron levels can lead to a variety of health problems, including fatigue, weakness, and even anemia. As tempting as it may be to simply start taking iron supplements, the truth is that the root cause of low iron levels can be complex and multifaceted. Factors such as diet, medication side effects, and underlying health conditions all come into play. Don't forget, taking iron supplements without finding out the cause of low iron levels can make things more complicated. Remember, when it comes to health matters, it's always wise to consult with a healthcare professional to figure out the best way forward.

Zinc Deficiency

In addition, women tend to also struggle with zinc deficiency more widely than men, and zinc is a vital prerequisite to stimulating the production of metallothionein which is a protein in helping binding to metals and regulating them in the body. You can find more info about that here


Iron Overload, Copper Dysregulation, and Zinc Deficiency Tests

If you've been feeling run down lately, it might be time to get tested for iron overload, copper dysregulation, and zinc deficiency. These conditions can cause a myriad of symptoms including fatigue and mood swings, but they can be difficult to diagnose without the proper testing. That's why we recommend a hair tissue mineral analysis test - it's non-invasive, affordable, and can provide important insight into your mineral levels. Plus, the results can help guide your treatment plan, allowing you to feel better and live your best life. So why not give it a try? A little encouragement could be just what you need to take control of your health!


In conclusion, it's vital to understand that managing iron, copper, and zinc levels in the body is not a straightforward task, especially for women due to their unique physiology. The common misconceptions surrounding iron deficiency anemia, coupled with the potential for misdiagnosis, can lead to iron overload, copper dysregulation, and zinc deficiency. These conditions pose significant health risks, including inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and liver damage. Therefore, it's crucial to consider getting a hair tissue mineral analysis test for accurate diagnosis and proper management. Awareness and understanding of these issues are the first steps towards maintaining good health and ensuring our bodies function optimally. We highly recommend a hair tissue mineral analysis test with us to determine potential iron overload, copper dysregulation, or zinc deficiency. You can order the test by clicking the link here, and we'll take care of the rest.

Barbara Madimenos
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach

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