Iron Supplements May Cause Overgrowth of Intestinal Salmonella

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Iron Salmonella growth lawyer
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Iron and Increased Potential for Salmonella Infection

Obviously, eating raw cookie dough could make you ill. Consuming improperly cooked foods, puts you at risk of a Salmonella infection. But, did you know overconsuming oral iron supplements induces overgrowth of Salmonella in your intestines?

Interestingly, excess iron in your intestines could select for pathogenic bacteria at the cost of beneficial bacteria in your gut microflora. This imbalance increases susceptibility for a Salmonella infection.

In the research paper, “Iron Availability Increases the Pathogenic Potential of Salmonella Typhimurium and Other Enteric Pathogens at the Intestinal Epithelial Interface” by Kortman et al. (2012), the data from recent trials reached the consensus that taking oral iron supplements is “not without risk.”  Excess iron can induce pathogenic overgrowth and “increase the virulence of prevalent enteric pathogens” like Salmonella.

Food Safety Guru Laila Carter
Contributor Laila Carter, food science major at Kansas State University

In order to replicate at high levels, Salmonella and other enteric pathogens rely on certain micronutrients like iron. The body absorbs iron through the intestines. When large, untargeted volumes of iron are ingested (through an iron supplement), the excess iron provides bacteria like Salmonella with the opportunity to overgrow and out compete other beneficial bacteria within the gut.

Overgrowth of either Salmonella or other enteric pathogens in the gastrointestinal track leads to salmonellosis or gastroenteritis. Salmonellosis and gastroenteritis is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and leads to symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

After a brief incubation period following an incident of food contamination, symptoms of salmonellosis or gastroenteritis arise after 12 to 72 hours and can last up to a week. According to the CDC, people usually recover completely from an infection from Salmonella, but it “may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal”[1].

Kortman GAM, Boleij A, Swinkels DW, Tjalsma H (2012) Iron Availability Increases the Pathogenic Potential of Salmonella Typhimurium and Other Enteric Pathogens at the Intestinal Epithelial Interface. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29968. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/general/index.html

Speak to salmonella lawyer Tony Coveny

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