Table of Contents
The iron recycling system……………………………………………………………….1 Ceruloplasmin……………………………………………………………………………. 1 Copper and ATP production…………………………………………………………….1 Plague of iron-fortified foods……………………………………………………………1 Estrogen, estradiol, and hepcidin………………………………………………………1 Iron and hypothyroidism………………………………………………………………..1 Copper andVitamin C…………………………………………………………………….1 Copper and serotonin……………………………………………………………………1 Foods sources of copper…………………………………………………………………1 Zinc depletes copper…………………………………………………………………….1 Magnesium and zinc……………………………………………………………………..1 Ferretin ……………………………………………………………………………………1 Pregnancy………………………………………………………………………………….1 Morley Robbins and Root Cause Protocol (RCP)……………………………………..2
Anohter introduction to RCP
After listening to several of Morley’s interviews, I still wasn’t feeling the whole picture. This conversation between two women practitioners worked better for me. This is my reduced, adapted, revised version–while maintaining Emily’s and Amanda’s “voice.” It came from “Are You Menstrual? S1 E6: The Connection Between Copper & IronPodcast Sep 13, 2021 -https://www.hormonehealingrd.com/blog/S1E6
Bruce has no plans to publish this version. Produced for sharing with practitioner friends to interest them in RCP.
Okay for Amanda and Emily to use any of this for their own purposes. No restrictions from me.
Amanda Montalvo is a Women’s Health Dietitian. She is a Root Cause protocol consultant.
Emily, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I don’t see more info for Emily
In this text and elsewhere, “oxidation” is used synonomously with “inflammation.” Iron attracts oxygen. Wherever you have stored iron, you will have excess oxidation-inflammation, like how a cut apple turns brown in the presence of oxygen.
Both conventional and functional medicine focus a lot on iron. You probably have had your iron levels tested at some point. If levels are low, often there’s big recommendations around iron supplementation; or, making sure your multivitamin or prenatal has iron. A lot of times they’re not even measuring iron for this, they’re actually measuring your ferritin on your bloodwork; then, saying we need 80 to 100 ferritin levels in order for things like hair growth to happen.
The reality is iron deficiency is a lot more complex than either conventional or functional medicine communities present it to be. A lot of us already have too much iron accumulated in the body. If we’re adding more iron on top of this, we’re simply adding fuel to the fire and creating more inflammation which leads to a lot more hormone problems. if we don’t have enough copper, we have a harder time making energy. If ATP production slows down, our metabolism slows. This leads to hormone issues.
we’re told copper is toxic. I’m sure you’ve heard about copper toxicity, how we have to make sure we are getting rid of copper in the body. You’ll hear this especially if you’re someone diagnosed or has bloodwork showing high copper levels. Copper excess is really rare. In reality, the copper you have is not available for use. So, there’s just a lot more to the copper and iron picture. Historically, healthcare practs only want to measure minerals and see which are high or low and recommend based on that. [This is “two-body problem solving.” Mineral X is either high or low. If too low, we have to raise it. If too high, we have to lower it. RCP is “three body problem solving,” multiple factors in play, juggling multiple interaction, not just up or down with each mineral.] Doctors simply have not been looking deeply at how minerals interact with each other. [This is is why RCP is catching on and doctors are getting trained in it]. Patients are being told left and right that they are deficient in this mineral; when in many cases, their bodies are just not equipped with the vitamins they need in order to transport and make use of it. Think bio-availability.
RCP suggests copper is the biggest ignored trace mineral. Low levels of copper can lead to low levels (bio-availability) of other minerals, principally iron.
vitamin A is also absolutely critical to support our iron recycling system.
The iron recycling system
Most people, most doctors, including functional medicine docs, are unaware humans have an iron recycling system. Most people are unaware of how our iron recycling system works. This is why so much confusion exists around iron; and, why chronic inflammation is such an epidemic. When iron is not moving, when it’s stuck inside tissues, it becomes inflammatory. How? Because iron rusts. Rusting iron disturbs our cells and tissues.
Iron is so important, our bodies actually have a system which recycles iron. It produces (recycles) 24 milligrams of iron every 24 hours.
Our bone marrow uses this iron to makes red blood cells. of course, if you have too little iron, you’ll make fewer red blood cells. This impact your oxygen delivery system and definitely make you not feel great.
once red blood cells are getting their iron, they live for about 120 days; then they’re broken down, the iron is recycled; and, the cycle is repeated. This is a sophisticated iron recycling system. you have this system. It provides 24 milligrams of iron for you every day. It simply needs certain trace minerals to function properly.
The recommended daily allowance for iron is eight milligrams for men, and 18 milligrams for menstruating women. Given we recycle iron, this is where we ask, do we really need this much new iron daily? [What if the RDA-setters are only guessing, hedging their ignorance?] If we need 25 milligrams of iron daily to make those red blood cells; and, our iron recycling provides 24 milligrams daily, we really only need one more milligram of iron per day from our diet.
Emily and I like the Weston Price nourishing nutrition foundation. We believe we should have a mix of animal and plant foods which will give you well over one milligram of iron a day. So there’s no reason to supplement with more iron.
To make the iron already in your body bioavailable, it comes down to two things: your copper and your vitamin A. How do we keep our iron recycling system moving? how do you optimize how your iron recycling system is working? that’s really copper. Copper is how you’re going to keep the iron recycling system moving.
Here’s why. iron is meant to be in constant circulation within our recycling system. If iron is NOT circulating; if iron slows down and gets stuck in tissues, this creates unneeded oxidation-inflammation. We want to keep iron moving. It’s not a matter of pumping more iron in; that’s two-body problem thinking. To support recycling and recirculating iron we have, we need three-body problem thinking. Then we realize we are juggling copper, vitamin A and iron. Copper and vitamin A are the facilitators keeping iron moving instead of stuck.
There’s an enzyme for this activity. It’s called ceruloplasmin. It’s made from copper and vitamin A. It facilitates keeping iron in motion. Ceruloplasmin transports iron throughout our body and gets it to where it needs to go. if we don’t have enough copper or vitamin A in our diets, our iron cant stay in motion and circulate. If iron can’t stay in motion, it slows down and gets stuck in tissues. it gets stored in our organs. It get stuck in our weakest organs, where iron is moving the slowest. Without ceruloplasmin, iron can’t do what Nature intended it to do, keep moving around and around. If iron can’t be kept moving, our recycling system breaks down.
This may be the biggest pattern behind excess inflammation, obesity and many chronic diseases. And to think convention MDs and most functional medicine MDs are still stuck at the old idea of reading blood tests, only looking for, only aware of “iron deficiency.”
From now on I will refer to this not as “iron deficiency” but as “iron dysregulation.”
To digress for a moment, my husband has sickle cell. we’ve completely reversed all of it with using copper and vitamin A.
Copper and ATP production
Lets shine more light on copper. In conventional medicine, iron gets all the credit for transporting oxygen and hemoglobin. What’s more accurate is copper is the mineral responsible for regulating oxygen. Why? It’s the only metal which can catalyze oxygen and turn it into harmless water. This how our body “defuses” oxygen in our cells where it not wanted and not needed. This is why, in the area of iron and oxygen transport, we are studying the roles of copper-driven and copper-dependent enzymes.
Amanda: The typical patient associates iron with energy. I’ve worked with so many women who talk about they’re so low in energy and believe they need an iron supplement. they do typically get an initial boost when they first take it– then their fatigue comes back. if you don’t have the copper [and] vitamin A, iron recycling functions have not improved. How is iron recycling function relevant to energy? This requires us to look at ATP production.
copper is crucial for how we make ATP (cellular energy). if we don’t have enough copper, then we can’t make ATP, our cells’ main energy source. One heartbeat requires 1 billion ATP. So 1 billion of those energy molecules suggests how much we need copper in our diet.
remember we need vitamin A to use copper. If we don’t have enough, and we have too much iron, we aren’t going to produce enough ATP.
We did a whole podcast episode on metabolism. we talked about taking in enough energy. if we’re not producing enough ATP, our metabolism slows down. When our metabolism slows down, then we get hormone imbalances. This is why we’re talking about copper and iron today. they are crucial to our metabolic health and our hormone health.
Plague of iron-fortified foods
Emily: Earlier you described how we only need one milligram more of iron daily. This is why iron deficiency is so unlikely. 36% of the planet is actually made of iron. it is the fourth most common element.
Complicating matters is iron-fortified foods. Commercially, eight different types of iron are added to our foods, especially wheat flour. This means there is added iron in breads, pastas, wheat tortillas. That’s a lot of foods. even if we don’t eat red meat, most of us will still have enough iron from our diets. If you are still eating non-organic wheat, you are consuming extra iron. This is why RCP talks about an iron excess in our foods.
While we’re on red meat, much research says if you’re anemic, chances are it’s from a vegetarian diet; or at least, you aren’t eating enough iron-rich meat. what’s interesting about this is researchers say 20% of the population is anemic, yet only about 8% is vegetarian. So there’s a big disconnect here, right? This suggests something deeper is going on; it’s not just an iron problem. At the end of the day, it’s a copper problem or a vitamin A problem or both.
Unfortunately, our foods are not fortified with copper. Getting enuf copper in our diets is tougher. Farm soils in the US have been deficient in copper for so many years. this has led to lower copper levels, both in plants and animals. This makes it hard to get enough copper from only the foods we eat. Most everyone has their iron recycling system thrown off due to low copper and/or vitamin A.
if we don’t have enough copper and vitamin A, iron recycling slows down, iron gets stuck in tissues. we’re start accumulating iron where Nature does not intend it to be. My bloodwork can say low iron; yet, it doesn’t mean it’s low inside my tissues. The iron reading on bloodwork tells us nothing about iron trapped in our tissues.
Estrogen, estradiol, and hepcidin
Another whole layer to this is how estrogen relates to iron. when we have excess estrogen, the most common form is estradiol, this is our strongest one. When I think of all the PMS, period problems, I think “estradiol.” This is what typically leads to problems.
When we have excess estrogen, we get a decrease in a hormone called hepcidin. hepcidin is a hormone regulating iron balance. It’s in charge of suppressing iron absorption.
Let’s do some three-body thinking. Consider this sequence:
– When estradiol goes up, we become estrogen dominant.
– When we are estrogen dominant, hepcidin goes down.
– If we eat iron-fortified foods, when hepcidin goes down, our iron absorption goes up.
– When iron absorption goes up, if we have too little copper/Vit A, more iron is stored in our tissues.
– If more iron is stored in our tissues, there is more unwanted oxidation- inflammation,
– If there is more unwanted oxidation-inflammation, our metabolism slows down – If our metabolism slows down, a vicious cycle is reinforced.
While it useful to spell out these factors in a linear fashion, as above, it is more useful to visualize this as a 3D hologram, each element a node on the hologram; each node connected and interacting with every other node-element.
The basic takeaway on estrogen? As iron as estrogen goes up, iron absorption goes up.
The above cycle is a way to understand how estrogen dominance is exacerbated and perpetuates itself. So I think this is the relevance of estrogen to our iron recycling system. It’s not just minerals, foods and stress. our sex hormones impact our iron recycling system.
This is why you cannot just test one thing, right? There’s multiple interactions between multiple players when it comes to assessing iron status and what’s off with our our iron recycling system.
Emily: Right, when we do have extra iron stored in our tissues, it’s outside of our blood. here’s how doctors make this worse. We go to the doctor, we get a blood test, the iron hidden in our tissues doesn’t show up on the test at all. It can appear as if we need more iron. we get iron supplements thrown at us. Our iron goes higher, we are more fatigued, the cycle is continued and perpetuated.
It’s really good, like Amanda said, to be aware of what’s happening; and what can be happening.
Iron and hypothyroidism
How this all relates back to metabolism is if you’re someone who’s having cold hands and feet or a cold sensitivity, that is one big symptom of iron dysregulation. as many of you probably know, it’s also a symptom of hypothyroidism. there’s a study showing cold sensitivity due to iron deficiency anemia was accompanied by inadequate thyroid responses. So the two go hand- in-hand. it was Dr. Broda Barnes who discovered measuring your basal body temp is an excellent way to monitor your thyroid function.
we talk about this so much with our patients. Just by keeping tabs on your, your body temps every day and making sure they’re above a certain level is going to help you maintain thyroid health and make sure you’re staying in a good state, not letting your metabolism slip or your thyroid under function, if that makes sense. Hey, do I have these hypothyroid symptoms? It could be iron dysregulation as well.
How this all relates back to metabolism is if you’re someone who’s having cold hands and feet or a cold sensitivity, that is one big symptom of iron dysregulation. it’s also a symptom of, as many of you probably know, hypothyroidism. there’s actually a study which showed cold sensitivity due to iron deficiency anemia was accompanied by inadequate thyroid responses. So the two kind of go hand-in-hand. it was Dr. Broda Barnes who discovered measuring your basal body temp is an excellent way to monitor your thyroid function.
we talk about this so much. Just by keeping tabs on your, your body temps every day and making sure they’re above a certain level is going to help you maintain thyroid health and make sure you’re staying in a good state, not letting your metabolism slip or your thyroid under function, if that makes sense. Hey, do I have these hypothyroid symptoms? It could be iron dysregulation as well.
Copper andVitamin C
Optimal hormone health is also dependent on how copper and vitamin C impact thyroid hormone production. thyroid relates to metabolism. all these work together in the body.
Amanda: does it get any cooler? When I learned about vitamin C, it’s known for adrenal health, and your immune system. C also has a huge impact on making thyroid hormone [this is unsupported. Delete?] If thyroid is low on thyroid blood test, then we take thyroid hormone medication, right? We don’t think thyroid medication is bad. Emily takes thyroid medication.
Emily: I take thyroid meds on top of vitamin C and eat copper-rich foods. it’s a whole picture.
Amanda: And vitamin A.
Emily: Yes, and lots of vitamins.
Amanda: we have a blog on vitamin A and your thyroid, it’s a good one. So we know copper we need copper for iron, we need copper for a billion other things in the body. However, there are so many other things we could be checking. are we really addressing the whole picture? The iron recycling system? And why do you not feel better when you take your thyroid meds?
Copper and serotonin
excess iron appears to lead to a lot more stress and inflammation inside the body. Copper helps to balance this out. Copper also helps us with balancing serotonin.
“Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a monoamine neurotransmitter. It also acts as a hormone. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin carries messages between nerve cells in your brain (your central nervous system) and throughout your body (your peripheral nervous system).” – https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22572- serotonin#:~:text=Serotonin%2C%20also%20known%20as%205,(your %20peripheral%20nervous%20system).
A lot of people know serotonin for mental health and mood, right? What fewer people know is we can have an excess. Excess serotonin leads to a lot of gut and digestive issues. when we have excess serotonin, typically we’re dealing with more anxiety, depression, digestive problems. Copper is really important for keeping serotonin in check.
Emily: Speaking of the immune system, copper works well with vitamin C. Copper does several things with, in tandem with vitamin C. It strengthens your collagen, supports bone health, it also supports your adrenals, and helps to make enough adrenaline in order to appropriately respond to stress. This is important for hormones.
Foods sources of copper
Where do we get it? We really, really love beef liver. the main reason is because it doesn’t only have copper; it also has vitamin A. You can also get copper in the form of cacao or liquid chlorophyll; these give you a lot of copper.
Bee pollen, royal jelly those are going to have copper and B vitamins.
hopefully by now you understand even if you add in a bunch of copper, you may not be getting vitamin A you need from those foods, right? So we can’t leave out Vitamin A. Beef liver is our favorite. Duck liver also has very comparable vitamin A and copper levels. Chicken liver is lower in copper; yet, it’s still good.
If you say, “oh, I can’t do beef liver; what can I do?” We’ll probably get those questions. did I find a kosher beef liver supplement? I can’t remember. Do you know of one?
Emily: I don’t actually know off the top of my head.
Amanda: I don’t think that there is one? Let us know guys. Do you know of a kosher beef liver supplement? That’s a question that I’ve gotten quite a bit.
we have a few women in our group program that are kosher and they just get kosher…they buy kosher beef liver, cut it up, freeze it and swallow like capsules. I’ve looked online a million times and I usually come up empty-handed. beef liver is a big one, or duck liver, chicken liver. These are the most bang for your buck.
You don’t need a lot of it, which is nice. I would say start very slow. we love the Ancestral Supplements company for beef liver. It’s a great option and very nutrient dense. We always call liver Nature’s multivitamin, because it’s got lots of copper, vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, selenium; there’s so many nutrients in there.
Some other great foods like citrus, you know, like, citrus has whole food vitamin C, which also has copper.
Zinc depletes copper
Shellfish, even oysters have so much zinc; yet, also have copper. Shrimp, stuff like that. then cacao I mentioned.
Emily: along with eating copper-rich foods, make sure you’re avoiding foods which deplete copper. two common supplements deplete copper in the body. the first one might surprise you. It’s zinc. I know everyone loves taking their zinc especially when they’re feeling under the weather or think they might have a cold. Zinc was praised during pandemic times for helping us with our immunity. zinc is not bad. We definitely need zinc. Still because they are antagonists, we need zinc and copper to be in balance. So when we supplement with zinc, this increases metallothionein production.
Emily: Metallotionein production. Thank you, Amanda. It binds to copper and makes it unavailable for use in the body. So just keep this in mind, if ever someone tells you to supplement with zinc, it’s going to throw off your copper.
Magnesium and zinc
Amanda: sometimes people get their bloodwork done. They come in and say, my zinc is low; we see this all the time. We have to remember if we run out of something like zinc, even if you take it daily, what else is deficient leading to an imbalance, right? minerals always work together.
Magnesium is a really important one. I think the majority of us do not get enough magnesium, even if we supplement you might just need more. The more physical-mental-emotional stress you have, the more magnesium we’re going to use.
[Bruce believes this is only true in three cases:- if you get charley horse pains in legs (liquid mag chloride topically),
– if you get neck pain due to fuzzy vertebrae (liquid mag chloride topically),
– if you see 20 or more clients in energy clearing work weekly (muscle test best magnesiums for yourself).
Everyone else seems to benefit more from more B5 Cal Pantothenate for high stress.]
magnesium and zinc have the same valence. So if your body runs out of magnesium, it’s going to use up zinc. whenever people have low zinc stores, a huge red flag goes up for me. we want to think about, do you need more magnesium [or B5]?
same thing with vitamin D. Typically low vitamin D is much more related to magnesium than actual vitamin D status. we’ll probably do a whole episode on that.
if people see low zinc levels, I would say, one: oysters are going to be the best source eating them or taking like a supplement. Oyster-zinc from Smidge is a great one. They’re very high in iodine, though. So talk to your doctor or practitioner before you start taking it.
[26:36 discussion of benefits of canned oysters omitted here. benefits of blood
and hair tests omitted here. ]
…the bloodwork is going to show you what’s going on outside the cell. The hair test is going to show you what’s going on inside the cell…
31:00 Ferretin Emily: I want to talk about ferritin. It’s the most common thing tested when we’re looking at iron in the United States. ferritin is a protein made inside our cells to help store iron. as stress and inflammation go up, we release more ferritin into the blood [they may be verging on an explanation of chronic fatigue here]. It’s usually not a good thing to have high ferritin. what doctors will say is if your ferritin number is low, you’re iron deficient. again, this is NOT the whole picture. This “up or down” view of iron is too primitive and uninformed given what we know now.
31:40 Amanda: Yeah, we’re always told ferritin is the storage form of iron. it is; yet, there’s actually two types of ferritin. There’s a heavy chain the heavy chain requires copper. So what doesn’t need copper at this point? then there’s the light chain. The light chain is what we see on your bloodwork.
I remember when I learned thais I was, wow, I’ve never even seen these two distinguished on a test before. when we have inflammation present, we’re going to see more of the light chain ferritin discharge. This is going to show up higher on the bloodwork typically. You can still have normal ferritin and have iron accumulated in the tissue. So again, when we work with someone, it is more complex, a lot more than we can explain in a podcast episode.
we like to mention ferritin as it’s confusing. yes, it stores iron; however, iron should be inside our cells. Right? It should be inside our mitochondria. when it’s outside our cells, in our blood, that’s actually not a good thing. if you have lower levels, 20 to 50 it doesn’t need to be higher than this. there’s even some research showing, we technically should not have any ferritin in our blood, right? It should all be inside the cells. I don’t like extremes like that; I don’t think it’s necessary. I also don’t think we should just be chasing a number on a lab, right? We want to keep everything in perspective.
33:07 Emily: For sure. Go for the Full Monty panel. you want to look at everything. Hemoglobin is a big one. 70% of our iron is in hemoglobin. it’s also important to look at copper levels and vitamin A levels as well.
33:22 Amanda: people don’t really look at hemoglobin anymore for iron status, except when you’re pregnant, right? Your third trimester that’s typically when your hemoglobin decreases. Because you have [hemo-dilution going on] you have
your copper [shared between] mom’s liver and baby’s liver.
they used to use cod liver oil for low hemoglobin; that’s what doctors used. There’s a really cool study. it compares using iron supplementation for hemoglobin; or, cod liver oil for hemoglobin levels. Two groups compared. In the group supplemented with iron, the hemoglobin goes up really high initially; then it comes back down. In the group supplemented with cod liver oil, hemoglobin goes up and it stays up. cod liver is packed with vitamin A, right? if you don’t have vitamin A, then you can’t use copper, then your hemoglobin isn’t going look great.
So keep all these factors in perspective. there’s a lot of misinformation out there. a woman often gets scared when they’re pregnant. they ask themselves, “Do I need to supplement with iron?” You might actually need more vitamin A.
34:54 Emily: Okay, to sum up, keep in mind our bodies are so smart y’all and they know what to do.
when we are exposed to too much iron, our immune system reacts, inflammation goes up. then we start storing iron in our tissues to protect from potential infection.
this is a protective mechanism, this is why we’re storing excess iron. when people are mis-led, told this is an iron deficiency, or they’re being treated for an iron deficiency, the important thing to remember is it’s more likely a copper issue and vitamin A deficiency.
Morley Robbins and Root Cause Protocol (RCP)
Amanda: I also highly recommend looking at Morley Robbins therootcauseprotocol.com. I’ve learned so much from Morley. He’s an amazing resource, and he has probably the most free content out there, especially if you like videos. He’s also been on so many podcasts. he has a whole page on his website of hours and hours of video interviews on RCP topics. sometimes it’s very dense. You’re unlikely to grasp the whole picture quickly. Yet there’s always so many little takeaways. I still listen to these videos all the time. I can’t recommend them enough. He has a ton of blogs with all the studies I’ve been talking about linked in the blogs. He’s so good at finding research. I’m like, how do you find all these research articles, especially for those topics? It’s not always easy using search engines. It’s work. So go check out the Root Cause Protocol, read the blogs we link to.
if you really want to do hair testing, if you’re really getting invested in “becoming all the way healthy,” consider joining the Master Your Minerals course. You can, once you purchase the course, you can get your hair test, we send it out to you; you send it back. then once you get test results, you can go through the course
videos on how to interpret your test results. What does it mean? What do high levels of certain things mean? Low levels, your ratios, how to start making changes. I personally think it’s the best thing you can do on your healing journey. it gives you a lot of direction. So if you’re revved up about this, definitely consider checking out Master Your Minerals.
37:31 Emily: For sure. You will not regret it. I am definitely biased. I think it’s seriously the best course out there right now.