Did you know too much iron in the body is a common genetic disease that can be toxic to your organs? Well I just found out this disease runs in my family! So off to the doctor I go for a simple blood test to uncover if I have this disease called hemochromatosis. People who are diagnosed with primary hemochromatosis inherit two genes, one from each parent and are at risk for iron overload and symptoms of the disease. Surprisingly, it is one of the most common genetic disorders in the United States yet rarely talked about.
Silent and Deadly
“Hemochromatosis is an iron disorder in which the body simply loads too much iron. This action is genetic and the excess iron, if left untreated, can damage joints, organs, and eventually be fatal.”
Iron is an essential nutrient found in many foods. Iron carries oxygen (in hemoglobin) to all parts of the body. Normally, humans absorb about 8-10% of the iron in foods that they eat. People with hemochromatosis (too much iron) can absorb four times more iron than normal.
Undiagnosed and untreated hemochromatosis increases the risk for cancer, heart, liver and pancreas diseases.
“More than one million Americans have the genes for this type. It is estimated that as much as or more than 16 million Americans have some degree of elevated iron and are at risk for the same diseases…”
Common symptoms include memory fog, lack of energy and abdominal pain which can easily be associated with other diseases. The symptoms usually begin in men in their late 20’s to early 30’s. In women, symptoms usually start about 10-15 years after they stop having a period due to menopause, birth control pills, or hysterectomy.
When hemochromatosis is discovered early and treated before organ damage can occur, a person can live a normal, healthy life. Ask you family doctor to order the simple blood test or request a referral to a specialist in this field.
According to my source listed below there are 3 tests that together make up the Iron Panel Test. These tests need to be taken as a panel, not independently, to receive a comprehensive and accurate assessment of a potential Hemochromatosis diagnosis. The tests are the Serum Iron (SI), Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC) and Serum Ferritin (SF).
The most common treatment to get iron levels down to normal is donating blood. The goal is to bring blood ferritin levels to a range of 50-150ng/ml.
Balance Iron with Healthy Diet
When your body has high iron levels, you will want to consume foods that lower the amount of iron absorbed.
Two types of iron are consumed from the diet:
- Heme iron is contained in meat and is a highly absorbable form of iron.
- Non-heme iron is contained in plants and supplements reducing iron in the body.
Avoid consumption of red meat, raw shellfish, foods high in animal fat, processed foods, sugar, and sugary beverages.
Limit dairy and vitamin C as this enhances iron absorption and consume alcohol in moderation. Red wine can be beneficial because it contains tannins.
Eat a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants and non-heme iron foods like; fruits, vegetables especially spinach and kale, nuts, grains and beans including eggs, pork and chicken.
Refer to this Diet Recommendations PDF for more ways to eat healthy from IronDisorders.org
Another great resource for information about this disease is Mayo Clinic.
I hope my post is helpful and will save a life!
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