Iron Manifesto

In Switzerland, successful intravenous iron compensation was introduced mainly for women. More than one million patients have already been treated in Switzerland with the help of more than ten thousand doctors and Swiss hospitals. The health insurance funds have been paying for this necessary basic care for over twenty years. Now, however, the Swiss government intends to massively reduce the insurance coverage for iron therapy before the end of this year. That would be an undeserved slap in the face for women. The Swiss Iron Health Organisation SIHO and the Swiss Iron League are opposed to this. They are therefore holding a demonstration on 4 May at 3 p.m. on the Bundesplatz in Bern.

Iron is a magnetic heavy metal. Four to five grams of iron is present at the atomic level in the human body, where it performs an important role in over one hundred bodily functions. They are therefore described as “iron-dependent bodily functions”. The most important of these is generating energy in every cell of the body. To do this, iron atoms combine with sulphur atoms to produce iron-sulphur clusters that generate energy in the mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell. This is part of the vital energy necessary for life. Alongside generating energy, iron is necessary for a number of other bodily functions as a building block, not as fuel – for example generating blood, hormones, immune cells or hair follicles. It is not hard to imagine the consequences of an iron deficiency. If too little energy is generated, the cells can no longer perform their functions as efficiently as required. Typical symptoms of an iron deficiency can arise, such as exhaustion, concentration problems, ADHD, lethargy, depressive state, dizziness, sleep disorders, neck tension, headache, brittle nails, hair loss and even anaemia.

Only a few people around the world are aware of the significance of iron for the human body. Doctors, for instance, are not aware of the important role that iron plays. They only believe that iron is important for the production of blood, as their textbooks tell them. As a result, they believe that only people showing signs of anaemia can be suffering from an iron deficiency. Doctors have not learned that the other symptoms listed above can also be caused by an iron deficiency. These symptoms correspond to the early stages of an iron deficiency; anaemia only arises in the late stages. The body follows an exceptionally precise script.

When an iron deficiency first develops, iron is initially retrieved from the body’s stores so that iron-dependent bodily functions can still occur. No deficiency symptoms arise in this initial stage. The first signs do not appear until the body’s stores fall below their individual critical levels. The first symptom – and, at the same time, the main symptom – is exhaustion. Additional symptoms soon appear, such as irritability, emotional sensitivity, listlessness and other aforementioned symptoms. The body’s iron stores are continuously emptied. The main cause of this in women is menstruation. This process, in accordance with the moon’s cycle, means that iron is permanently lost every four weeks; as a result, the iron deficiency continuously worsens and the symptoms are exacerbated. In children, it is caused when their growth causes an increased demand for iron that cannot be met by normal nutrition. The iron losses caused by menstruation in women and iron deficiency caused by growth in children mean that the body’s stores are increasingly emptied until eventually the body’s blood production is affected. The body is designed so that blood production is the very last function to be curtailed – after all, this function is vital for life, as blood is the means for transporting oxygen around the body. Before the body allows anaemia to develop, the early symptoms of an iron deficiency begin to show; these are the symptoms described above, that all doctors should recognise. This is the only way to ensure that the lost iron is regained in good time and anaemia is prevented.

Interestingly, neither textbooks nor professors in lecture halls teach about the early stages of iron deficiency. It is referred to as iron deficiency syndrome. This has been ignored by the World Health Organisation and university medicine for decades, even though it was first described in 1957 at the University Clinic in Innsbruck and then confirmed in 1971 by Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin. At the time, both university clinics were very clear in stating that iron deficiency can only be effectively treated through the use of iron infusions. The iron must enter the vein directly because the gastrointestinal tract is not able to effectively absorb iron that is swallowed; what’s more, ingesting iron can often cause illness. This important discovery has not yet found its way into worldwide teachings. The unfortunate consequence is that, according to the WHO, almost half of all people are suffering from an untreated iron deficiency.

It is now time to reflect and ask ourselves why this is the case. If Innsbruck and Berlin had not already made their findings clear, it would seem like an error or ignorance. However, since both of these university clinics publicised iron deficiency syndrome and the advantages of intravenous iron therapy in 1957 and 1971, ignorance is no longer an option. The likelihood of intentional ignorance increases. Why has this knowledge not been included in textbooks? We could have a healthier population at a lower cost! Is it perhaps because certain bodies don’t want this? Such as companies and associations that earn their money from other treatments and therapies? Textbooks are produced by printers. But who tells the printers what they should print? Why do all the textbooks in the world contain the same error? Who coordinates them?

Patients suffering from an iron deficiency have no chance of recovering while they are unable to regain the iron they have lost. Instead, they are sent to one unnecessary consultation after another, treated incorrectly and often wrongly sent for psychiatric treatment – and the costs add up. Is this an intentionally established business model? Can we even go so far as to claim this? Or is anyone who dares to think this simply written off as a conspiracy theorist?

The solution was discovered and implemented in Switzerland in 1998. It was proven here that symptoms of iron deficiency can occur early on, when as little as 10–20% of the body’s iron store is lost. Let’s remind ourselves again that the body only requires between four and five grams of iron in order to function optimally. The body therefore reacts even more sensitively to an iron deficiency. If even just 500 milligrams of iron are lost, this can cause exhaustion. As soon as a doctor treats the patient, replacing the lost iron, they recover. The sooner this happens, the better the outcome for the patient. However, if we simply wait, in accordance with the teachings of the WHO and our textbooks, we are not helping our patients. We are leaving them to suffer unnecessarily. For this reason, Swiss medical practitioners across the country have introduced intravenous iron therapy. They have seen through the errors and ignorance of the WHO and their educators and acted against their teaching. And what’s more, they’ve been extremely successful.

Swiss doctors and patients are aware of the existence of early-stage iron deficiency, and they can prove it. They are also aware that iron infusions are worlds apart from treatment with tablets in terms of their effectiveness. These doctors and patients are sticking together and doing the right thing. They are being supported by health insurance providers that pay for this essential primary care. Women can do nothing about their menstruation and children are not responsible for their cell division, which causes the amount of iron in cells to halve each time it occurs.

The Swiss government has been keeping a close eye on the “iron movement”, which originated in Switzerland. They have determined that more and more women are recovering from iron deficiencies and that an increasing number of “iron doctors” and hospitals are replacing the iron that patients have lost. It is clear that this democratically generated scientific mindset calling for a new approach to medicine does not fit into the world view of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). In the end, it comes down to renegades who have chosen not to do as they were taught. We are supposed to deprive women with iron deficiency syndrome of the iron they need until, after years have passed, they “finally” develop “real” anaemia. Then – and only then – they have a right to iron. That is what the WHO and textbooks are teaching. A number of Swiss doctors and patients are protesting against this mindset; they are the “iron protesters”.

The FOPH has acknowledged the dilemma; since 2015 it has been reviewing the necessity of intravenous iron equalisation, which has been successfully introduced in Switzerland. However, this year Bern is considering imposing huge restrictions on how iron therapy is covered by health insurance, thereby indirectly punishing women for menstruating.

Now it is time for us to reflect and ask ourselves why the government is planning something so strange. Are they taking the same line as the WHO and now also attempting to sabotage women’s health by refusing to treat iron deficiency in its early stages? Or is the FOPH acting on its own accord from an uninformed or misguided position? Why is the FOPH not acting on the proven findings of the Swiss Iron Health Organisation (SIHO), doctors and patients? For years, they have been able to prove that women with an iron deficiency need the same amount of iron as a fully grown man in order to be healthy. Bern has clearly underestimated the impact of menstruation, which leaves women with ten times less iron in their body than men. The FOPH is not aware that women will menstruate for around five years in total over the course of their life; this causes them to lose iron and eventually exhibit the symptoms of an iron deficiency. The FOPH is consequently also unaware that women in this situation need to regain the iron they have lost in order to be healthy. SIHO has been stating the facts for more than ten years, confirming the findings made in Innsbruck in 1957 and Berlin in 1971.

When it comes to the “iron question”, which has in the meantime become a question of belief, Bern needs to decide: Should the government believe the SIHO and give women the opportunity to regain lost iron? Or do they want to believe the WHO and deprive women of this option?

Should essential iron therapy, which has a success rate of over 80%, continue to be paid for by health insurance companies, as it has been for over twenty years? Or should the insurers’ obligation to pay really be abolished this year, if the federal government so chooses?