Iron and cheese: how I used lactoferrin to treat iron overload (part 4)

This is a follow-up to a three-part series about how I used lactoferrin to treat my iron overload under the supervision of a doctor (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Disclaimer: this is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making medical decisions.

A lot of people have emailed me about lactoferrin and iron overload, which I really appreciate! Since many people are asking similar questions, I decided to answer them in a follow-up post.

Q. What brand of lactoferrin did you use?

Initially, I used Jarrow brand lactoferrin, which one of their support staff confirmed to be apolactoferrin in 2018. I personally don’t think the brand matters as long as it is apolactoferrin, which most lactoferrin products are. I am currently using the Vitacost brand of lactoferrin and it seems to work just as well as the Jarrow.

Q. When did you take lactoferrin and was it with or without food?

I was taking lactoferrin in the morning, along with a lot of other supplements and medications, and sometimes with food and sometimes without. I don’t think it matters much when you take it or whether you take it with food. Theoretically, I would guess you would get the best effect by taking it away from any food containing iron, but if you have iron overload you are probably already limiting your iron intake. Based on my personal experience, I don’t think the timing of the dose matters as much as the quantity.

Q. Where does the iron go after it binds to the lactoferrin? Does it stay in your body?

I was trying to be delicate about this in the original post, but I guess I just have to say it: you poop out the lactoferrin and the iron that binds to it. You swallow the lactoferrin, most of it stays in your GI tract, binds to iron from your body (becoming hololactoferrin), and then you poop it out. So taking apolactoferrin removes iron from your body by depositing it into your feces.

Q. Will my iron overload symptoms go away and how quickly?

It depends on the symptom. For me, the fatigue improved within a few days and I believe it was because it was lowering the free iron in my blood stream, which causes at least some of the fatigue. Some people have a reduction in joint pain after lowering iron levels, but most do not, and some start having joint pain! Sometimes taking colchicine can reduce the joint pain. Symptoms from organ damage depends on whether the organ can repair itself and how bad the damage was.

Q. How bad are the black tooth spots from taking lactoferrin?

Here are my teeth after taking lactoferrin for about 1.5 years:

Closeup of a smile with white teeth

I do actually have some minor discoloration here and there but it’s really hard to tell if you’re not my dentist. Most of the discoloration is from the spots I got when I first started taking lactoferrin and didn’t know that I could get black tooth spots. If you’re reading this, you can do a better job of brushing your teeth than I did.

Here is my entirely cosmetic recommendation if you are worried about developing black tooth spots while taking lactoferrin:

  1. Take several photos of your teeth before you start taking lactoferrin.
  2. Brush at least twice a day, using baking soda and/or a stain-removing toothpaste.
  3. Check your teeth for new spots every few days, using your photos as a reference.
  4. Stop taking lactoferrin if you notice spots that you don’t like.

Q. I have lowered my ferritin to safe maintenance levels, but my serum iron and iron saturation are still high. What is happening?

This sounds like “iron avidity” and happens a lot to people with iron overload who have swiftly reduce their iron stores. It appears as though the body decides that iron is scarce and it needs to hang on desperately to every bit of iron it can get. The solution is apparently to treat iron avidity like iron deficiency and actually supplement iron until the iron saturation goes down! Iron metabolism is weird, man.

Again, if you talk to your doctor and try to lower your iron levels using apolactoferrin, please email me and let me know how it went!


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