Category Archives: iron

Iron Toxicity and Parkinson’s

Question:

My wife has been slightly anemic for over 5 years, just after she was afflicted with PD. Her hemoglobin, iron content and  % saturation have been all below the minimum recommended range, despite valiant efforts to increase it, like taking iron pills and eating iron rich foods. Her Dr says that taking FE pills is not efficient, as it is poorly absorbed.

Apparently, a lot of PD patients have this problem….are you aware of this? Have you ever written in your blog about anemia in PD?

Well, finally her Dr wanted to “take the bull by the horns” and prescribed _*VEROFER*_ injections by IV, which apparently is effective in  raising hemoglobin levels. Unlike iron pills, IV is not constipating, as it doesn’t pass through the digestive system.

I know too much iron can be deleterious to PD patients, but that depends on the type of iron, and how it is administered. Taking iron pills isn’t recommended for PD patients, but effectively getting it into the bloodstream is apparently the way to go.

It will be interesting to see if these three injections of 300mg each (started the first one on Monday)  will be effective in maintaining her hemoglobin, as there is a tendency to it to slip back again.

I know of other PD patients that are anemic, and have difficulty in increasing their hemoglobin.  There is something about Parkinson that weakens them….that we know for sure.

G.F.

Response:

On the Parkinsons Recovery Radio Show this Thursday (June 11th, 11:00 pacific time) I interview Steven Fowkes who will talk about a number of steps people can take to get relief from their symptoms. What follows is a brief segment from the interview where he addresses the issue of iron toxicity in the body which speaks to some of the issues addressed in this question:

I would say one of the things that potentially could be a critical factor for Parkinson’s disease is iron storage. I would tell anybody who has Parkinson’s disease to get their iron storage assessed clinically early in life. If they are accumulating too much iron they can off load that iron by donating their blood to the Red Cross. This is one of the things that is sadly under appreciated.

Iron toxicity can be a cause of heart disease in men particularly, and in post menopausal women. When women stop menstruating, they start accumulating iron like men do in their twenties, so twenty to thirty years of iron accumulation can actually get to the point where you actually start to “spill” the iron. At that point your entire health starts to deteriorate very rapidly, including your cognitive function.

So, donating blood to the Red Cross can be a huge benefit to a
person?

Oh yes. When I was doing volunteer work for the AIDS community, they did a study where they were transferring antibodies from people with high antibody counts to people with low antibody counts.  The people receiving the antibodies actually did not get any benefit at all. But the surprise was that the people donating the antibodies got benefit.

I regularly give blood three to four times a year and have for a long period of time. I know that this is the best way to get rid of iron. If you are male and in your thirties, ask your doctor to give you a serum ferritin test. If you want, also ask for a transferrin saturation test and a TIBC which is a Total Iron Binding Capacity test. They are all relatively cheap. They tend not to be included in a regular annual physical because your iron status changes so slowly over time.

Normal blood tests that you get done by your doctor during an annual physical will measure the iron in hemoglobin, but it does not measure the stored iron. Hemoglobin iron and stored iron do not track with each other. Oftentimes they have nothing to do with each other.

When you are anemic, you can actually have dangerously high levels of iron, but it is not getting from your storage form into the hemoglobin. When your doctor puts you on iron supplements this can actually threaten your life.

You need to measure your storage form of iron to know whether or not you need to take B12 and folic acid to solve your anemia or whether you need to take iron to solve your anemia. In men this is critical because they do not menstruate. The only way we lose iron is to go out and fight wars, get injured, fall from trees, and get bitten by wild animals.

Get this ferritin test. If you come from a family with a history of heart attack rates in males, in their fifties or sixties, you will probably see that your ferritin will be high.  Just start giving blood.

Since iron toxicity is involved in Parkinson’s disease, men need to get this assessed. Post menopausal women need to get this assessed to see if maybe part of their long term program should be offloading iron.

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
Parkinsons Recovery
www.parkinsonsrecovery.com

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