s4 e7: iron deep dive part 1

Iron Deep Dive Part 1

Strap in, we have a controversial one. It’s time for our mineral deep dive on iron! The mineral that gets many people up in arms, probably even more so than copper. Like most minerals, I think once you understand how our bodies regulate iron, you can see past the confusing information that tends to go to extremes. Most often, things fall somewhere in between. In this episode, I will go through the iron recycling system, what we use iron for in the body, and different iron imbalances.

The bonus episode will breakdown iron case studies where I show an iron deficiency case and an iron overload case that go through labs. I also have an iron rich foods list with the amount of iron per serving and a sample day showing how you can get 20-25mg of heme iron and 34-38mg of total iron. I also cover how iron impacts estrogen. You can get access to the bonus episode by joining patreon.com/hormonehealingrd

Quick reminder, this podcast is for informational purposes only. Please talk with your healthcare provider before making any nutrition or lifestyle changes. 

This episode covers:

  • Functions of iron {3:40}
  • How we absorb and release iron {9:05}
  • How bacterial pathogens can acquire iron {19:00}
  • The most important enzymes that help transport iron {24:24}
  • RDA for iron {32:30}
  • How important is bioavailable copper? {38:39}
  • How do I support my thyroid? {43:25}

Master Your Minerals Course

Free Resources:
Mineral Imbalance Quiz
Mineral Training
Thyroid Training
Feminine Periodical (monthly newsletter)

Episodes mentioned:
Calcium deep dive
Magnesium deep dive
Sodium deep dive
Potassium deep dive
Zinc Deep dive


Iron Deficiency:

Iron Biochemistry: https://themedicalbiochemistrypage.org/iron-and-copper-homeostasis/ 

Iron & Copper:

Iron, Gut Health, Pathogens


Iron Supplements:


Iron Overload:

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We have our controversial iron episode. I don’t think it’s controversial. I think that people just don’t understand, like how iron metabolism works in the body so they get upset when other people will talk about, you know, maybe how iron supplementation isn’t like the best option for everyone. And focusing on whole foods first, which I don’t think is a like controversial approach, but a lot of people do. So strap in controversial episode coming. I don’t think it is. I think that iron just gets a lot of people up in arms, probably even more so than copper, which is, you know, a lot of people feel strongly about copper. But I think like most minerals, once you understand how we regulate iron how our metabolism works, you can see past the confusing information that leads people to go to extremes like or to be on like one end of the spectrum and the other. If you’ve been listening to my podcast for any length of time, I hope you know by now that I’m usually falling somewhere in the middle. I like to avoid extremes because I just, there’s usually like something missing. And I think when you actually work one on one with people, you see every extreme and so you and all the in betweens, like it’s such a spectrum, that that’s when you’re like okay, like this one extreme does not work for everyone to this one extreme does not work for everyone, there is an in between. And so I’m gonna go through how the iron recycling system works, what we use iron for in the body like I do in every deep dive all the different functions, and then different iron imbalances. So I will talk about how copper impacts iron, how copper imbalances can impact iron, and then I’m going to go into the different types of anemia has it, there’s a lot of them.


So it’s not going to be in a ton of detail. But my goal is to show you that it’s not always iron. And you can have an anemia that can impact iron or red blood cells or hemoglobin that we have to look at other nutrients for. And then finally I’ll go through iron overload. And like a lot of people were like you talked about hemochromatosis and how some people have like the genetic issue. But then some people like with PCOS, a lot of women develop. It’s like non hereditary, like basically like type two, whatever hemochromatosis, so are secondary hemochromatosis, so we’ll talk about that. And then for the bonus resources for Patreon. There’s a lot this week, because there’s a there’s a lot involved with iron, right, I’m going to go through case studies, I’m going to go through deficiency case study and overload case study the labs. And then I’m going to talk about iron supplementation in more detail there. Because it is very nuanced. And I try not to make these episodes so so long. And then I like I do for every mineral, there’s an iron rich foods list, and then I put a sample day. So the sample day actually shows you how to get 20 to 25 milligrams of heme iron, which is like the most bioavailable form of iron, you’ll absorb the most of it. And then a total iron Sophie include the heme and nonheme of 34 to 38 milligrams a day. The RDA for women is eight milligrams normally and then during pregnancy is 27 milligrams. So if that gives you any perspective, I think we can get a lot of iron from food. And also iron rich foods are also high in zinc. So so many benefits. And then the last like big thing I’m going to cover in the bonus episode is how estrogen impacts iron status. Because there’s a whole thing there. 


So if you want to get access to all those resources, you can get them on patreon you can join patreon.com/hormone Healing rd. So just quick reminder before we jump into everything. This podcast is for informational purposes only. As always, please make sure you’re talking with your health care provider before you make any nutrition lifestyle or supplement changes. I know it’s tempting when you learn about stuff online, but you have to apply it to your own health history and like keep it in context you. Alright, let’s talk about the different functions of iron. We use iron for a lot of things in the body. So this is not like a just like all minerals. This is not like an exhaustive list. But the two most important things, we use it for oxygen transfer and then our metabolism. It also impacts our thyroid, but I would say these two are the biggest. So when it comes to iron and oxygen transfer, it’s one of the number one thing it does is it helps transfer oxygen from the lungs to other tissues. And we do this through hemoglobin. Right iron helps us make hemoglobin and that’s what transfers the oxygen. We also make myoglobin from iron and that carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscle tissues. And we need enough iron for adequate muscle function. It’s huge and like mental physical energy. It’s very important. When we don’t have enough a very common symptom is like mental and physical fatigue. But a lot of people will notice like muscle issues specific ugly and like some extreme fatigue in their muscles. We also I think a lot of that also has to do with how iron impacts metabolism. 


So it’s really important for fueling a specific metabolic pathway that helps take the nutrients from the food that we’re eating and turn them into energy. And that which is really what our metabolism does, it’s called oxidative phosphorylation. We don’t have to get into all that nitty gritty, but iron is a cofactor for a lot of the enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation. And that’s a pathway that turns nutrients into energy. So iron is very important for that. And when it comes to like minerals, I try to reiterate this because I want you guys to like understand it, because it sometimes I say that it’s like, okay, so I’ll take iron and it’ll prove that thing. It’s, we have to use it properly. And it because it acts as a cofactor. So it’s like a sparkplug, it’s kicking off that reaction, it’s making that enzyme do its job properly. When we don’t have enough of that nutrient or different minerals to carry out those different reactions, our body will compensate for a while, but eventually, it can’t compensate anymore, and then that’s when symptoms pop up. So mainly we’re using iron for oxygen transfer, which is so important for our tissues and our muscle tissues. And then for making energy from the food that we’re eating. So very important, right? Having an iron deficiency could definitely greatly impact your day to day or not being able to access that iron properly. 


So this is where I feel like the I know that’s controversial, right? I think the controversy comes in when we start talking about our iron recycling system, and how we store iron in the body. And then how we get that iron in the body. Because this is where it gets confusing, honestly, while we’re getting iron from our diet, our bodies making a lot of iron as well. And it’s very different from like, like last week, we talked about zinc, for example, we don’t store a ton of zinc in our body, like 57% is what we store and like our bones and our muscle tissue. We’ve got some on our pancreas, we’ve got some on our hippocampus in our brain. But for the most part we need to replenish think on a regular basis so that we’re have adequate levels when it comes to iron 95% of iron is from storage in the body. And then 5% is from our diet doesn’t mean we don’t need it from our diet when people say that I completely disagree. I really do. Because I just think that that is again simplifying it way too much. I think we still need iron from our diet, especially if someone has like other imbalances and deficiencies and they’re not able to access that stored iron. I think it’s still very important to get from our diet. But when it comes to iron, we’re primarily taking it from storage. We store iron in our liver, our skeletal muscles and our Andover, our reticular endothelial cells, mostly in our liver though, so we store in our hepatocytes was just another name for liver cells. 70% of our iron is found in hemoglobin and myoglobin. 


So, you know, that’s why that those hemoglobins are really it’s a, an important marker for iron status, and understanding that, but primarily, it’s like we’re taking iron from the liver, and bringing that into circulation in order to carry out those important processes like making red blood cells like making hemoglobin. So that’s kind of like the the big piece of iron storage. Again, 95% is coming from what’s stored in the body. 5% is coming from our diet, when it comes to actually using that iron. Just like our bodies regulate other minerals. You know, we talked about calcium and how we use like parathyroid hormone, magnesium, vitamin D are really important for regulating it. Sodium and potassium are very closely regulated by each other as well as like certain hormones like aldosterone to retain sodium. When it comes to iron, our bodies have an innate iron recycling system that produces bioavailable iron every day. And when I say bioavailable, I mean like a good like heme iron. heme iron means we absorb the majority of it and non heme iron, we typically absorb less of it. That’s that’s what’s often coming from plant foods. But if we’re eating something like red meat, beef, most animal foods that’s going to give us heme iron, we absorb that very readily. So we take we absorb iron, we recycle iron, and then we release it into the system. So I think when it comes to understanding iron metabolism, there’s three main areas that we want to grasp and then you kind of get like, Okay, this is how it’s working in my body. So number one is how we get iron from our diet like how we’re absorbing it in the gut. How we hide iron from pathogens, because this is very different from other minerals. Iron is like toxic in its free state to the body. 


So we actually have that’s why we store so much of it, and then how we recycle Iron and get it back out from the tissues for use in the body. So, number one we’ll go through is like getting iron from our diet, we’re absorbed both types heme and nonheme iron in the duodenum in our GI tract. Non heme iron is typically in the ferric state. So the plus three iron state in order to absorb that, and this is where like the absorption issue comes in it, we have to have iron in the ferrous state, which is the plus to state. So, we have to reduce that Varrick plus three to a plus two, in order for that to be taken up by our intera sites, which are just intestinal cells. heme iron is taken up through the heme carrier protein one, it’s like HCP. One is like the shorthand version of that, once the heme is and it enters the interior cite the intestinal cell, it’s degraded by an enzyme and released as the ferrous iron. So that plus too easily absorbed state. The absorb iron is then stored inside our intestinal cells bound to ferritin. And this is something that we’re going to talk about throughout this podcast. I can’t tell you how many questions I get about ferritin constantly. But I’m probably going to pull up images too. I know it can sometimes that you can’t always see him like super well, for those watching on YouTube. But I think it’s important to look at some of the stuff ferritin is inside the cell, okay? It’s inside the cell. So bloodwork is not always the best measurement of it. And we have to compare it to other things. No one lab value should be used to determine iron status fully. We need just like any other health concern we have. So it’s when we take that iron. That’s how we do store inside ourselves in ferritin. And that’s like it’s a very protective way to store it because it’s bound to that protein, remember, but iron on its own is toxic. So we’re either going to store it in our intestinal cells, or we’re going to release it into circulation through an enzyme called Ferro Porton, which is an iron or a protein. It’s called. It’s an iron transporter. So we get iron from our diet, we absorb it in our duodenum, if it’s non heme, like the plant version, we have to convert it. If it’s the heme version, we don’t have to convert it. And we’re either going to store it in our intestinal cells, or we’re going to release it into circulation. And that’s going to depend on like, what’s going on with our hormones. With our gut health. Do we have any pathogens present? And you’re just iron status in general? Like does your body sense that you have enough iron? Or does it sense that you need more and that’s really this is where hepcidin comes in, or have seitan I’ve heard people say it both ways. I kind of like hip Sidon, it sounds like I don’t know reminds me like The Little Mermaid or something. So when it comes to hip, Sidon, this is part of like the iron recycling process. 


So because we store so much iron, our bodies recycle it, we don’t need a lot to be replaced from a diet every single day. So we have this mechanism in place where we don’t absorb an excess amount of dietary iron, depending on like our bodies status. Because what happens is when we have excess dietary iron that’s not absorbed, or if we’re like storing in our intestinal sites of ferritin the body’s paying attention to like, Okay, what is our iron status like, and it’s paying it mostly it’s paying attention to like how much iron is bounded transparent, which is like a protein that transports iron in the blood. So we’re, you know, your liver is what makes have seitan. And it’s an iron regulatory protein and it helps basically, it’s going to bind to the iron transporter that Ferro important, or it’s really called for important one in the intestinal intero side, so our cells in our intestines and in the reticular, endothelial macrophages, so it’ll kind of touch on both things, but hep Sidon, it will bind to very important, it’ll pretty much eat it up. So that protein can’t even do its job. It gets rid of that iron. And it pretty much shuts down iron absorption in the intestinal cells and that transport of it into circulation. And it’s protective. This is your body trying noticing that, okay, if if hep seitan increases, then iron absorption decreases. So it’s doing this into a response to excess iron. Our bodies are very smart. And because iron is so inflammatory in its typical state and it’s free state. And because pathogens can feed off of it, this hub site and can be impacted by different things, but it’s primarily like how is the iron status in the body? Okay, if we have too much iron, then we’re going to increase upside and which is going to decrease the absorption of iron And so they’re opposites. If we need iron and our body senses that we need iron, we don’t have enough, then we’re going to decrease hip Sidon and iron absorption is going to increase. So have Sidon blocks is a protein that blocks iron absorption helps us decrease iron status. When it goes down, we absorbed more so think of them as opposites. And primarily it’s expressed by liver cells, but it can also be expressed by microglial cells and astrocytes in the brain in the heart, I’m very into microglial cells right now, I’m not going to go into this because you guys have like, I don’t care. I’m taking this functional mental health practitioner course. Where it’s, it’s looks at like a different take on mental health. 


And it looks at it from like a metabolic perspective. And it’s so so interesting. And it focuses so much on microglial cells I’m going to have, I’m hoping to have Brendan, the guy that created the course, on in next season and like, do a whole thing on mental health because it’s extremely interesting. But when I saw this, I was like, that’s, it’s very interesting, because microglial cells and like, our brain can be very heavily impacted by inflammation. And of course, if we have excessive amounts of iron, that’s going to more information. So just a little sneak peek of what hopefully fun things that we’re going to talk about in season five episodes. So have seitan goes up, iron absorption goes down, if something goes down, our absorption goes up. That’s a big part of regulating iron levels in absorption in the body. But when we take in iron, we’re absorbing it in our intestinal cells. And then we’re either going to store it or it’s going to go into circulation, or we can store it, it’s primarily going to be stored like in the liver and the intestinal cells. So that’s like the first aspect of iron absorbing it from food. When it comes to hiding it from pathogens, there’s a really great article that I’m gonna put in the show notes. It’s called the battle for iron between bacterial pathogens and their vertebrate hosts. And it is by Eric P. Scar. It’s SK AR I don’t know if I’m saying that correctly. But I think it’s probably one of the most comprehensive and easy to understand articles on this topic. It’s got some really great visuals that I’ll share it too. So free iron is toxic to our bodies. Remember, I’ve said that multiple times. That’s why we have to store it in our tissues and then use our iron recycling system to transport it to those other tissues in the body for us. So we don’t have iron just floating around, it’s either going to be stored in the liver or some other tissue, but most likely the liver. And then we’re going to have like transferring that protein that transports in the blood to another place, it’s always bound to something though.


Our bodies will also sequester iron, when there are pathogens present since pathogens feed and thrive off of iron bacteria or just like us, like I went through how important iron is for transporting oxygen for our metabolism for making energy from food. Bacteria are just like this, they require iron in order to thrive, and in their case replicate. So you know, luckily, most of our iron is stored inside the cell. So we don’t have a ton of free amounts for bacteria to thrive off of. But the issue is that when we have certain pathogenic bacteria, they can actually release cytotoxins that damage ourselves, and they release ferritin. Here’s ferritin. Again, it’s coming up again, before we talked about it inside our intestinal cells where it stores iron inside ferritin we have to load it into ferritin, which requires copper, shocking. I’ll talk about copper in a bit. And then when those cells get damaged, we release ferritin, which would go into the bloodstream. And so again, high, really high ferritin levels are typically not good. It’s a sign of a lot of inflammation and that your cells are being damaged. But that a lot of that ferritin is storing iron and then because they’re good at breaking down the cells releasing the ferritin, then they can thrive off that iron from the ferritin hemolytic. toxins can damage Earth recites and release hemoglobin and remember hemoglobin stores up to 70% of the body’s iron. So that will really allow them to thrive. And then lastly, bacterial baths, pathogens can acquire iron they have like these receptors called receptor mediated recognition. So I’ll actually do a screen share on this so you guys can see it one second. Because this is going to be important. So what you can see here is on this on see image see at the bottom here The top ones are them doing like healthy cells. And then here are the cells putting giving off the cytotoxin toxins and damaging the epithelial cell and taking the ferritin. But if we look at image, see this is the bacterium, the pathogenic bacteria. And you can see these receptors on the little ends here. So they’ve got the transferrin receptor, which allows them to bind a transferrin, which has iron, and transports iron in the body, the lactoferrin receptor, the hemo for receptor Hema protein receptor, and then this goes for receptor. So this is how it can bind and gobble up that iron because it’s almost acting as if it is similar to iron in the body. So this is part of the defense mechanism of certain bacteria that are pathogens, and how they can essentially, sneakily get iron in the body, we do have mechanisms in place to prevent this. 


So that is something that is important. We especially like the pseudos, for siderosis, fours cero fours, that was one of the receptors that bacteria can have. Basically, that removes iron from transparent lactoferrin, or ferritin. So that the siderophores, or the what the bacteria allows him to just gobble up the iron from the different proteins. But our main, our innate immune system has a protein called siter Ocalan, which prevents this, it’s just hopefully our immune system is working optimally and has enough energy to function in order to prevent all this, but this is why free iron not a good thing. We don’t want too much. When we have certain bacterial infections, it can greatly negatively impact our iron status. A lot of times you’ll see things like ferritin, elevate, sometimes you’ll see iron elevate to very high levels. And then sometimes you can see it become deficient. But typically ferritin is going to be high. And that’s a sign of like not only inflammation, but like hey, that, you know, we’ve got some serious, most likely some sort of pathogens present. But that’s how, you know, we sequester the body will literally try to sequester that iron to protect it and prevent it from these pathogens. But that can end up looking like a deficiency, or you can have the other end of the spectrum. But I link that article, it’s got a lot of good, great images in there in the shownotes. So definitely look out for that. So that’s number one, how we absorb it in our intestinal cells. Number two, how we try to hide it and sequester it from pathogens and then finally how we recycle it. So we all have an iron recycling system, called the reticular endothelial system, or the RAS, this system produces 24 milligrams of iron every 24 hours. This is why a lot of people say you only need like one to two milligrams of iron from food. I just think that’s like if things are working in tip top shape. And like that’s probably not the case for everyone. And I think it also depends on like, what season of life are you when are you pregnant? Are you postpartum? Are you trying to fix a deficiency previously, something like that? Do you have a lot of blood loss, that sort of thing, obviously, that’s going to differentiate these things. And this is why this podcast is informational purposes only. But hopefully, it helps. Our bone marrow uses this iron to make red blood cells. And then those red blood cells ideally live for 120 days, and then they’re broken down the process starts again, when red blood cells are healthy, that’s how long they last 120 days when they’re not when the body is inflamed. And typically from like chronic stress, red blood cells don’t last as long. And this puts a major stress on the body because they carry oxygen. And our tissues need that oxygen in order to function properly. So that’s kind of like the first aspect of the iron recycling system. We make 24 milligrams of iron every day. To get iron out of storage. 


This is like the other part of this like transportation recycling of iron ore where we store 95% of it. We need certain proteins to get it in motion. So like we don’t want to just constantly have iron stored and we’re storing our intestinal cells, we’re storing our liver tissue, we want to make sure it’s in motion. This requires many different enzymes and many different proteins. I’m going to highlight a few of them. For simplicity’s sake, the ones that I think are some of the most important because my goal is I want this to be digestible. I want someone to listen to this and maybe you have to listen to it two or three times and you don’t like fully grasp it but you know, that iron is more than just it’s slower. It’s fine, or a tie, like there’s more nuance to it. So the first one which is like the star of the show, is when it comes to getting iron out of the tissues and into circulation is very important. It’s very important one, it’s the enzyme that allows iron to leave our tissues. It’s greatly impacted by hip sight. And remember I talked about how hepcidin basically like gobbles it up and gets rid of that iron when it’s an excess because our senses that our body already has too much iron. So it’s greatly impacted by F Sidon. That’s what controls different iron levels in the body and it prevents very important one from letting it out of our tissues. If hepcidin levels are increased, because remember, high hip Sidon equals decreased iron absorption, low half side and equals increased iron absorption. And this forces iron to sequester in the tissues instead of being recycled throughout the body because our bodies already have too much. So that’s one aspect of it. So fair, important one is like how we get iron out of the tissues. For our important one is greatly impacted by Cirilo plasmon and have Peston which are two really important proteins that help transport iron throughout the body. And they mainly are like activating that fair important. So they’re both called for oxidase enzymes. And these are what symbolizes bioavailable copper. So you’ve probably heard me talk about how copper is the key for iron deficiency. And some people get so up in arms when I say that, and I’m like I’m talking about iron deficiency. I’m not talking about anemias that don’t have anything to do with iron. 


Okay. I think there’s just so many anemias out there that people don’t fully grasp it. And understand that sometimes it can be fully, sometimes it can be B 12. B six, there’s many different types of anemia. I’m not saying copper is the key for all of them. But when it comes to iron and the iron recycling system, we do need bioavailable copper. Now copper, and we’ll talk more about bioavailable copper and what that is in like my section on copper that’s coming up. But basically Copper has to be bound to a protein in order to be used for iron recycling. So plain old copper doesn’t work so we have to turn copper into Cirilo plasmin. And then that is what helps the Pharaoh Porton one protein enzyme work properly and allow iron to leave the tissues we need that because what happens is Cirilo plasmon donates an electron. So it turns that ferric iron, the plus two iron turns into ferrous iron. So we need that if there isn’t enough bioavailable copper, then fair important, one can’t respond properly and release that iron. And iron can build up in the tissues. And if we’re having a lot of iron buildup in the tissues, and it’s not getting into circulation, then have Sidon is not regulated properly. So this is kind of where we can get too much building up in the tissues. And then that can cause issues. But it still looks like we have deficiency because maybe transparent is not you know, it’s we’re not transporting the iron. So because the next big thing that comes is transparent is like the big important one. So we’ve got a very important one gets iron out of the tissues. It requires cerebral plasma or hip estrogen, in order to do so because we have to donate an electron to the iron to get it out of the plus two state and turn it into the plus three state. When we don’t have that we lead to iron building up in the tissues. 


But if we do the big the last thing that happens is transferring comes into play. This is a protein made in the liver. And it’s what transports iron in the serum so in our blood, and while there’s there’s actually quite a few metals that can bind to transfer and ferric iron the plus three has the highest affinity ferrous iron, the plus two does not bind to transfer. And so this is why we need this a ruler plasmid to come in. Very important is in the play we’ve got the plus to the ferric state we need to put it to the ferrous I always mess those up, we’ve got the plus to the Ferris State we need to make it the ferric iron ore plus three state. So basically just plus two to plus three we need to reload plasmon in order to bind it to transparent we can bind two molecules of iron to transfer it at a time and our cells then take up the transport iron through the interaction of different like receptors on the cells. But basically transferring is taking you know that bound up stored iron and transporting it and one of the measurements when you do like a full full iron panel is transparent so you can see like how are your transparent levels but we don’t always know of iron is bound to that transparent which can be tricky. So iron bloodwork can be very tricky, but I’m going to talk about that in the bonus episode because it’s way too much to go over. But this is this is like the process of iron recycling getting it out of the tissues Fairport in one surreal plasma and or hip Estrin by built basically just bioavailable copper and then transparent which is made by the Liver. So our liver is heavily involved in storing iron and then getting it into motion. We also need enough of bioavailable copper, which is copper and vitamin A, which I’ll get into more in a second. But um, yeah, that’s really like how we’re transferring it. And then I guess I’ll share this image quick just if you guys want for the YouTubers, if you guys want, this is from the medical biochemistry page. I mean, they have so I linked it here. They’re also in my show notes. They have a lot of great information if you want to dig deeper into any of this or just like read it all. This is a hepatocyte. So this whole entire cell, it’s a liver cell. And I think this is helpful to understand because it’s like okay, so we have iron stored in the liver. You can see it’s, we’ve got some iron in the ferritin. We’ve got some iron and endzone. And then you can see this is very important. This is that really important protein that we get iron out. You see there Cirilo plasmon, it’s irons plus two goes through some real plasmin gets donated the electron, it’s plus three, and then it can bind to transparent. And then that transparent can put it into circulation and bring it to different parts of the body that need it. So I think this is like a great visual. And again, there’s fertin inside the cell. So just kind of keep highlighting that because it’s like, I can’t believe how many questions I got on ferritin. I’m like, Okay, guys. It’s not that we can’t use the measurement at all. But it’s like, to me, it’s probably one of the least important measurements. Unless it’s super high, like for iron, then it’s okay, it’s big red flag. But that’s how we’re transporting iron. So hopefully that helps you understand how we store iron, we need different proteins to transport it. And then again, based on our iron status, we can add our body will actually change how much we’re absorbing, it’ll decrease it or increase it based on that have side and protein which is just basing it off. Our iron status in the body. issues arise when we don’t have enough of other nutrients like copper, like vitamin A, we’ll talk about zinc think’s important for absorbing it in our intestinal cells. Or if we have a lot of inflammation in the body, or bacterial pathogens, something like that, because they’ll thrive off of iron. 


But in general, that’s how storage and recycling works. When it comes to the RDA for iron. So the RDA for iron it’s it’s pretty high. I think we’ll go through the exact parts of it. But to like to preface this so that people understand like why I think it’s likely higher iron deficiency is one of it’s considered to be one of the most widespread nutrient deficiencies in the world. It affects almost 25% of the population. Get 95% of our iron is stored in our bodies. So for most people, iron supplements are not the answer. A lot of people can improve their deficiencies, working on getting iron in their diet, but then also understanding what is the true deficiency do they have other deficiencies with iron I have never seen an iron deficiency alone. There’s always another nutrient that’s likely out of balance as well. And a lot of times it’s not having enough bioavailable copper. The issue is sometimes people have too much copper, but they can’t use it they don’t have enough or maybe it’s they have plenty copper but they don’t have any vitamin A. Maybe they’re deficient in vitamin A specially for women. Very common to be deficient in vitamin A most women enter pregnancy deficient in vitamin A, unfortunately, and if we think of I think of specific populations that are often deficient endometriosis and PCOS, endometriosis, especially, they often have a genetic defect where they cannot convert beta carotene to retinol, which is the active form of vitamin A. So an endo is connected to iron as well that we’ll talk about. So basically, we have this RDA, the current RDA for women for irons 18 milligrams a day, it increases to 27 milligrams during pregnancy, it decreases to nine milligrams during lactation. This is likely because a lot of women don’t get their period while they’re breastfeeding. But I just know so many that do I mean, I got mine five months postpartum. So obviously, it’s like they probably have a higher iron requirement if you’re bleeding more and a lot of women lose a lot of blood during birth. So it’s a little confusing, but that’s okay. And then you’re gonna notice that for men the RDA is much lower. It’s eight milligrams because obviously men are not bleeding every month. They’re not getting a period every month, which was, you know, blood loss is really the only way that we’re getting rid of iron. 


Everyone has different opinions on the RDA, I personally think that we can get plenty of iron from food, like I made that sample day that you get 20 to 25 milligrams of heme iron from food but if we add The non heme sources in there and I go through, like try to have citrus with this one, or adding some sort of vitamin C rich food to the non heme sources because that increases absorption, I put that in there as well. If you can get that combination, I mean, you can get a lot of iron from food, I don’t think it’s difficult to reach this. I think that sometimes people have issues with making enough stomach acid to digest and absorb those foods properly. Or they may have pathogens in the gut that are making it difficult and utilizing the iron. But I think for the most part that if people can prioritize the iron rich foods, and they’re going to get a lot of copper and zinc rich foods to and that’s going to support their overall iron recycling system. If we pair this with the fact that our body makes 24 milligrams of iron daily, I think it starts to become apparent why iron supplements may not be the key to resolving an iron deficiency long term for someone. There are other factors at play.


But yeah, that’s those. That’s the RDA for iron. i If you want to look at I have the article from NIH linked if you want to see like for kids and everything, it’s it’s pretty much like birth to six months is point two, seven milligrams, it’s based off what it’s an adequate intake, it’s what’s in breast milk. But then once you know beyond six months, it’s 11 milligrams a day. That’s a lot of iron. I think zinc is also very, very important for kids and their development, especially boys, but girls too, for sure. And then it goes down one to three years. It’s seven milligrams. And it kind of fluctuates until you get to adulthood but very important for kids as well, when I’m going to do a whole thing in the bonus episode on iron supplements, but I just want to mention this because I know that some people like get very confused with like whether or not they should take iron supplements. Same thing with zinc. But there is some like when it comes to iron supplementation. If you’re taking over 25 milligrams a day, it can impair zinc absorption. And zinc supplements can also impair iron status, because zinc can deplete copper. And we need copper to have bioavailable iron, a lot of studies that looked at for zinc for postpartum depression. For last week’s episode, they improve postpartum depression, but they actually decreased their iron status because of how it impacted copper, which I thought was really interesting. So there’s always going to be a give and take with supplementation doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate for you. But I think there’s a lot to take in. When it comes to iron supplements during pregnancy, they are pushed so heavily. And it’s frustrating for me because I see a lot of women struggle with like retinol, like vitamin A deficiencies zincs another big one. And zinc is so important for the development of the placenta, it’s important for postpartum depression. 


It’s one of those things where it’s like, we need to have adequate levels of it. And if we’re supplementing with iron, we can deplete zinc. So it’s just something to consider again, I think if we can focus on whole food or whole food, iron supplements, like blood vitality from ancestral supplements, or spleen supplements, that has a ton of iron as well. So yes, those are going to give you probably like 25 to 30 milligrams of iron, but it’s a food form and it’s not going to throw other minerals out of balance. So 25 milligrams from food not going to impact zinc. It’s when we take the synthetic supplement that does so just you know, use caution talk to your doctor, if you have concerns about your zinc status, and they recommend iron ask him to test plasma zinc. Ask for just like always ask questions and try to advocate for yourself. I know it can be hard, but it’s so so important. Okay, understanding iron imbalances. Now we’re finally going to talk about copper, and how important copper is already talked about Cirilo plasmin pretty much iron is essentially useless. If we don’t have enough bioavailable copper, it gets stored in the tissues, it looks like we don’t have enough available for use in the body. Because all because we need copper in order to convert that ferric iron and into the ferrous iron, I think that’s opposite again, I’m just gonna say plus to the non absorbable iron to the plus three iron we need that Cyrillic plasma and the bioavailable copper to donate an electron and electron. So yes, I’m focusing on copper and I feel like a lot of people talk about copper now with iron deficiency, but what most people really need is probably vitamin A, because in order to make cereal plasmon we need the activated copper and that requires retinol which is like the active form of vitamin A. It’s not the same thing as beta carotene. We have to take beta carotene and convert it to retinol in the body. But we can get retinol the act of vitamin A from animal foods. So like beef liver, we can get it from dairy, egg yolks, that sort of thing. 


So retinol, very important. It’s usually the missing piece for a lot of people. I have so many clients that I’ve worked with that you know, they haven’t eaten Aryan years they had to eliminate eggs, because they had food sensitivities, and they couldn’t tolerate those foods. And then we test their retinol levels and they’re low, especially when we compare them to their other labs and things like vitamin D. So, Retinol is often the big one. If someone didn’t grow up eating copper rich foods, I think it can be an issue, or a lot of people have supplemented with zinc I did when I was in college, I used it for immune health. And I would take a bunch whenever I didn’t want to get sick. I mean, that’s short term use, but a lot of people are doing taking zinc supplements ongoing. And I think now especially because zinc is so important for both female and male fertility. If someone’s concerned about that, and they do any research, they’re probably gonna see zinc and they may supplement with it. It may be appropriate, it may not, but it can impact your copper levels and your bio available copper. And that can have a big impact on your iron status. That’s why when that study came up with that postpartum depression, you know, these women did improve their postpartum depression, but they actually had worse iron status. And it’s because the zinc can, it’s antagonistic to copper. So we need enough bioavailable copper. And that’s really when copper is at its best when it’s expressed inside proteins and enzymes. And that’s what bioavailable means. It’s Cirilo plasmons, the main one it’s for oxidase enzyme, it basically is taking an iron to converting it to iron three, it’s donating the electron if we don’t do that we can’t attach it to transparent can’t move it around. It’s you know, surplus is really the major copper carrying protein in the blood. It’s the I would say it’s one of the keys because you know, fair important so important but we can’t even use it we can’t even like do it if we don’t we can’t convert copper and get it on transparent if we don’t add the electron from surreal plasmon when it comes to how we make enough cyrilla plasma and like what impacts it. 


The adrenals are what gives the main signal to the liver to produce Cirilo plasma and, and this is why liver health and supporting the liver and your adrenals it’s so so important for adequate copper and iron status. When the body is stimulated, serial plasmon is okay. But after you get past that, like, you know, burnout exhaustive stage like if your adrenals are constantly in fight or flight, and you start to use up a lot of your mineral resources and energy resources, and then things become impaired. That adrenal activity then impairs your livers ability to make Cirilo plasmin. So we don’t have enough real plasmin then we what do we do, we start to accumulate copper, and it’s not the good copper is not the bioavailable copper, it’s just regular copper. And when that happens, that can have a huge downstream effect on the body, it can impact our estrogen levels, it can have a really big impact on how the body is utilizing zinc. It has a really big impact on inflammation, it could potentially increase our C reactive protein, which is something that you’re going to hear me talk about when we talk about the anemia section, because there are certain anemias and even iron overload that are associated with an increase in like inflammation in the body. And that’s something you guys can look at. So basically, we need this real plasmin bioavailable copper to absorb iron, give it the electron, get her to transparent and transport it in the body. A combination of copper and vitamin A rich foods are super important. But and I have a list of those that go with the bonus episode with this episode, but we also need enough thyroid hormone. 


So active thyroid hormone T three that helps stimulate the liver to make cyrilla plasmin. Eating regularly, everyone, how do I support my thyroid eat regularly I want to like pound on my desk but I won’t because I think that’d be annoying when you guys are listening to this. But that’s the kind of energy I have behind that statement. Because if you’re skipping meals that’s going to lower T three production but if you can keep your blood sugar stable, especially getting that adequate regular intake of protein, protein and carbs balanced in a ratio that works for you. That is amazing for helping maintain T three levels. That is really important for healthy thyroid function healthy adrenal function. And like I said, we need adequate adrenal function to make Cirillo plasmin. So that’s big. One of the hormones that we released during that stress response with our adrenals like as we are going through that fight or flight is DHEA. And that stimulates our liver to make sort of the plasmon as well. Eating Enough food is essential for avoiding burnout eating regularly. I love adding an adrenal cocktails for people I’ve talked about those a million times there’s a blog on my website about them that can help support healthy sodium potassium levels that supports and it has vitamin C all those things support your adrenals Yes, magnesium is important but if we take too much, we can deplete sodium. So listen to the magnesium episode for more on that. But I think Looking at Are you eating enough? How are you timing your food? How’s your thyroid status?


Are you constantly in fight or flight and super burnt out because then you’re not gonna be able to make a real plasmid. And then that can be where we see issues like either iron deficiency or excessive iron stored in the tissue. But bioavailable copper is super, super important. And then vitamin C that so it’s like copper, vitamin A, enough T three adequate adrenal function and then vitamin C. It helps with cytochrome oxidase. It’s an enzyme that helps the liver producer la plasmin. So these are just some of the highlights. I did a copper deep dive episode i’ll link in the shownotes where I talk about like, what do we do if we have too much bio unavailable copper, how do we rebalance it, it’s going to be different for each person. But I think the episode has a lot of great places to start. But by global copper a central when it comes to what is bio unavailable copper, it’s just copper that’s not activated by the proteins of the enzymes is means that we can’t use it for all the essential functions. Two big issues, you don’t have the copper you need. So it can really look like copper deficiency truly like you can have copper deficient symptoms with having an excess of bioavailable copper. I think that’s why copper imbalances are so tricky, because they’re harder to understand. So we can have anemia, especially like iron deficiency anemia, we can have high cholesterol, fatigue, immune system issues, you’re more susceptible to infections. 


And oftentimes, you’re going to have a lot of hormonal imbalances as well, because Copper has a great impact on estrogen. And if you have you know, you also have that excess of copper that you can’t use and that leads to more stress and inflammation in the body which can end up building up an impact our liver and our brain. Mental health is very greatly impacted by excess of copper. So I don’t like to call a copper toxic toxicity. I like to say excess copper, because it’s it’s not always that we have too too much. Sometimes we do but it’s often that it’s getting out of balance because of nutritional deficiencies because of chronic stress or because of poor thyroid function. So those are that’s kind of like the major highlights when it comes to copper and how it’s going to impact iron status. It’s really donating that electron. It’s helping get it into motion, but we need other nutrients to make that happen.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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