Iron overload and the impact it can have on performance and health, with Dr. Tommy Wood

Oct. 22, 2015

Iron levels and biochemistry have impacted my personal performance in a dramatic way. Recently I've been racing cyclocross, something for which I lack talent. For those of you who don't know cyclocross, it's a lot like short track mountain bike racing but most of the bikes look a road bike with drop handlebars. The start is really important, and the course has hundreds of corners and so the sport doesn't suit slow-twitch athletes like me. This year I’ve been enjoying some dramatic gains in my performance. These gains are nothing to do with training, in fact, I've been training less than ever before. The key to performance is health, and that's why I've got Dr. Tommy Wood on again today to talk about some of the biochemical tweaks I've been making and also the serious issue of iron overload (haemochromatosis).

First let’s talk about anaemia.

Some people think of anaemia as synonymous with iron deficiency, but iron deficiency is just one of many things that can cause anaemia. Diagnosing anaemic tendencies requires the consideration of the production, destruction and loss of red blood cells. Other nutrients such as zinc, B6, B12 and folate are as important as iron for the production of red blood cells. Sometimes we see results that show both iron overload and anaemia.

Why is iron overload a problem?

Most micronutrients cause little harm when consumed in excess. Vitamin C is a good example--consume too much and you'll simply pee it out. Excess iron is different in that there's no easy way to excrete it. The main way we lose iron is through bleeding, and for men and postmenopausal women this doesn't happen very often. Excess iron becomes bound to proteins and acts as a pro-oxidant, literally causing your tissues to rust. If left untreated, the excess iron can cause diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver and a host of other chronic diseases.

The day after we recorded this interview four of my six follow-up appointments were with masters athletes with iron overload. Please don't guess, do the test!

How should your diet change if you are diagnosed with iron overload?

Research shows diet can have an impact of the absorption of iron. Things that block iron absorption:

  • Calcium rich foods like dairy, leafy vegetables and sardines (whole with bone).
  • Phytates from leafy vegetables and nuts.
  • Tannins in red wine and coffee.
  • Anthocyanins in any colour berry (the darker the colour of the berry the better).

Things that increase iron absorption:

  • Vitamin C.
  • Added fructose, table sugar.

Blood testing for iron levels is not that difficult to do. In fact, my team can do it for you.

Iron overload can be ruled out as part of our O2 Boost programme. Place your order and I'll send you a PDF requisition form that you can print and take directly to LabCorp--no need for a visit to your doctor's office. The results will be back in just a couple of days and then I'll send you a written report and a link to my schedule that you can use to make an appointment for the included 30-minute call.

Here’s the outline of this interview:

  • [0:02] Introduction to today’s show with Dr. Tommy Wood.
  • [0:18] An upcoming live event where Dr. Wood will be speaking.
  • [2:06] Why would you even care about iron overload?
  • [4:55] You can run your blood chemistry through Nourish Balance Thrive.
  • [5:36] What is iron and why is it needed in human biology?
  • [7:09] Ways you can tell if you have an iron deficiency.
  • [8:54] Is there any evidence to show that athletes could be in danger of Anaemia?
  • [11:14] Why is iron overload a concern and mutations in the HFE gene.
  • [15:37] What blood markers should be watched to determine iron levels?
  • [17:06] What can happen when there is too much iron (one example)?
  • [21:29] How a good handle on your iron levels can be a major win for your life and competition.
  • [22:06] What should be done if iron overload is discovered?
  • [23:30] Bloodletting as a solution? Really?
  • [30:25] How should a person who’s a victim of iron overload change their diet?
  • [37:45] The importance of testing then trying various solutions, and testing again.
  • [38:23] What is Lactoferrin and how does it relate to iron issues?
  • [42:23] How can Lactoferrin be used as an anti-microbial?
  • [43:03] How to get a blood test from the Nourish Balance Thrive team.



O2 Boost

Primal Docs

Re-find Health

Get your blood chemistry done by the Nourish Balance Thrive team

Webinar with Tawnee Prazak

Richard Nikoley’s article about iron

23andMe (salivary genetic test)

MTHFR Support

Medscape error: The second mutation involves a G→C substitution at nucleotide 197, leading to a histidine to aspartic acid substitution at amino acid position 63 (H63D).

Iron Disorders Institute

The Iron Chart Christopher Mentioned (PDF download)

Blog Post: In Defense of Low Fat Diets

Inositol Hexaphosphate


British Journal of Nutrition paper on Lactoferrin

The Spritzlet App


Chris Armstrong

Richard Nikoley

Dr. Jaime Busch

Jimmy Moore

Denise Minger

Vinnie Tortorich

Join the discussion on the NBT forum when you support us on Patreon.

© 2013-2024 nourishbalancethrive