Iron-deficiency, The Wrong Supplements Can Hurt You


Are you iron deficient? Did your doctor tell you to take and iron supplement, or even write you a prescription for one?  Did you know that there is a good chance that the iron you’re taking can cause disease and cancer?

Most iron on the market today is inorganic ferrous or ferric iron. These iron salts are poorly absorbed by the body and are also subject to iron-absorption inhibitors, such as polyphenols and oxalates, found in plants and grains. Iron-absorption inhibitors can, in some cases, completely block the absorption of iron in the diet. This is one of the reasons doctors no longer advise people to eat spinach for iron deficiency, even though it is high in iron it is also very high in inhibitors, meaning that little of the iron is available to the body.

There are two broad categories of iron, heme (or “haem” in some parts of the world) and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal sources, such as beef and seafood. Non-heme sources are found in vegetables and grains.

Heme iron

  • derived from hemoglobin and myoglobin in animal protein sources
  • less need for good levels of gastric (stomach) acid, many adults have low or ineffective gastric acid, especially as they grow older or take antacids.
  • heme iron is not affected by iron-absorption inhibitors
  • very good absorption in the body
  • far fewer gastrointestinal side effects than ferrous or ferric salts

Non-Heme Iron

  • in the diet it is primarily derived from vegetable and grain sources, though some is also found in animal meat.
  • non-heme iron is poorly absorbed
  • in the diet non-heme iron is often found with iron-absorption inhibitors which can largely prevent it from being absorbed in the body.  Spinach, kale, coffee, teas high in tannins (e.g. black, green, white teas are all high in tannins. Kombucha is lower because the bacteria feed off the tannins), nuts also have antinutrients that prevent iron absorption.
  • gastrointestinal side effects, such as constipation, are common with non-heme iron
  • vitamin C (ascorbic acid) enhances the bioavailability of nonheme iron, though does not help with iron-absorption inhibitors
  • Meat, poultry, and seafood can enhance nonheme iron absorption, whereas phytate (present in grains and beans) and certain polyphenols in some non-animal foods (such as cereals and legumes) have the opposite effect

Other causes of iron absorption problems

  • Both heme and non-heme iron can have absorption inhibited by calcium supplements, iron and calcium should be supplemented at different times of the day, at least 3 hours apart.
  • Anyone with enteritis, inflammation of the small intestine, may have issues absorbing iron from the diet and supplements.
  • Chronic diarrhea

Iron that is not well absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine (the duodenum) will go on to feed pathogenic bacteria further down. It can also be used by bad bacteria to create “biofilm” which is a tough protective barrier that the pathogenic bacteria uses to protect itself and to adhere to the intestinal wall. Unabsorbed iron can also cause constipation for many people.

You can also improve the way that iron gets utilized in the body by taking a supplement called “lactoferrin”. Lactoferrin binds to the iron making it impossible to use by bacteria, but humans can still use it. This is definitely something people should try if they suspect that they have any gut issues, such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or intestinal candida. Lactoferrin can actually help starve these organisms.

It is clear from the research that people need to consume the most absorbable forms of iron in order to treat and prevent iron-deficiency, and to help prevent intestinal disease. Meat and seafood are the best natural sources of heme iron and should be consumed on a daily basis. If you are already iron-deficient a heme iron supplement is certainly something you should try.

For more information see The Gut Health Protocol at
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John Herron
John Herron is the author of the "The Gut Health Protocol" an extraordinarily well researched book with nearly 800 endnotes, and over 500 summarized research studies. Good health starts with a healthy gut, and a dysfunctional gut is the root cause of many other health issues.

John thinks of himself as a "meta-researcher", a person who researches the research. He doesn't do the medical studies, he finds them, digests them, and translates them for his readers. John began this meta-research not out of desire, but necessity. He had been sick for many years with intestinal, stomach, and various other issues that doctors were helpless to cure. Thus he began doing his own research, not browsing the thousands of self-help websites, but scouring published medical and scientific research studies. This meta-research led him to not only find many potentially helpful natural supplements that had great potential to eliminate gut infections, but also to herbs and foods that can heal the damage done by these infections. What resulted was a new understanding of what needed to be done, and in what order, to heal his own health issues, a healing protocol. John started sharing this information with some people he met on Facebook that had similar issues, many of them, on their own accord, started testing his theories and reporting back. When their results matched his own experiences he knew he was on to something. This resulted in his first book, "The Gut Health Protocol".

John continues to research other health conditions and sharing his research with thousands of people in the Facebook group "The Gut Health Protocol". Many of the research studies have been tested in the lab, are safe and effective, but have never been used in medical practice. The reasons are simple, there are no drug companies willing to sell a product that has very little profit potential, products that would possibly cripple the sales of their existing medications. John hopes to write additional books in the future, with the hope that results of this meta-research leads more people to discover natural cures for common ailments. Ailments that modern pharmaceuticals may not have all the answers or may have serious side effects.