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Ask the Pharmacist: 8 major drug muggers of iron

Suzy Cohen
Columnist
One common symptom of both iron deficiency and hypothyroidism is exhaustion! The fatigue may last all day, even if you slept well the prior night.

The symptoms of iron deficiency mimic those of hypothyroidism, and low iron levels go hand in hand with low thyroid levels. It usually occurs due to reduced gastric acid production as we age, which then reduces iron absorption.

The iron deficiency results in sluggish conversion of T4 to T3. Since iron deficiency goes hand in hand with hypothyroidism, I will be switching back and forth between the two conditions periodically.

Symptoms for both conditions are similar. One common symptom of both iron deficiency and hypothyroidism is exhaustion! The fatigue may last all day, even if you slept well the prior night. Additionally, you’ll see reduced immunity (higher risk of cough/cold), slow wound healing, pale lips and skin, dizziness, weakness, hair loss and mild depression.

The reason for the paleness is because your red blood cells store iron, and without enough iron, you have smaller, sicker and fewer red blood cells (RBC). You’ll appear pale. Furthermore, since your RBCs tote oxygen to your body’s organs and cells, you won’t have enough oxygen, so you’ll feel weaker, short of breath and easily tired.

So many people have iron deficiency (or hypothyroidism) that I want to highlight a few other symptoms such as dizziness, anxiety, frequent miscarriages, cold hands and feet, and occasional abnormal heart rhythm changes. Again, these symptoms are often connected to thyroid insufficiency which makes it critical for you to tease out exactly what you have! 

Iron is important during pregnancy, and many women go into their pregnancy with years of mild insufficient iron. In doing so, this raises the risk of problems (and death) for both mother and child. It’s hard to believe but worldwide, the maternal and neonatal deaths account for about 2.5 to 3.4 million every single year! For this reason, if you’re exhausted, and want to get pregnant, soon, it’s best to evaluate your iron status (and thyroid) levels first. You can easily correct iron and thyroid deficiencies prior to conception. When testing for iron, obtaining a “ferritin” level is important.

Iron levels in the body can be influenced by many factors such as inflammation, infections, pregnancy, gastric acid levels, drug mugging medications and even the amount of orange juice you drink! 

Drug muggers of iron

  1. Aspirin
  2. Acid suppressing drugs
  3. Antacids
  4. Indomethacin, naproxen and ibuprofen a.k.a. NSAIDS
  5. Calcium supplements
  6. Chamomile, ginger and peppermint tea
  7. Coffee
  8. Babesia, a co-infection of Lyme 

It’s easy to detect low iron and correct deficiencies. The use of supplements of iron is something you can do for a short-period of time, however there are better ways to obtain iron. For example, minimizing the foods, coffee and medications that mug it, while simultaneously raising levels through diet. Heme iron (as opposed to nonheme iron foods) are the fastest way.

If you have low iron (or the symptoms I’ve described today) you should ask yourself if this is driven by hypothyroidism, or an infection like Babesia? Is it possibly related to a medication you take each day? Spend some time testing and thinking it through, don’t just buy an iron pill because that doesn’t solve the root cause and can irritate your gastric lining. If this topic interests you, I have a much more comprehensive version at my website, suzycohen.com.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.