Hemochromatosis is an inherited disease in which too much iron builds up in the body. Iron is a mineral found in many foods. Your body normally absorbs about 10 percent of the iron in the food you eat. In hemochromatosis, body absorbs more iron than it needs. Your body has no natural way to get rid of the extra iron. It stores it in body tissues, especially the liver, heart and pancreas. The extra iron can damage your organs. Without treatment, it can cause your organs to fail.
The most common treatment is to remove some blood, just like when you donate blood. This is called therapeutic phlebotomy. Medicines may also help remove the extra iron. Your doctor might suggest some changes in your diet.
- Calcium to Block Iron Absorption - A practical way of lowering iron is to interfere with its absorption from food.
- Tea Drinking - Drinking black tea rich in tannin with meals can reduce iron absorption.
- Vitamin Supplementation
Recommendations included following a diet rich in the following:
- Bread and cereals (non-iron fortified)
- Fruits (non-ascorbic acid varieties)
- Fresh vegetables
- Ascorbic acid-rich fruits and juice (particularly when taken with meals) as Vitamin C helps uptake of iron in body
- Meat (quantities should be limited)
- Norwegian brown whey cheese (an iron-supplemented cheese common in the Norwegian diet)
- The ingestion of black tea has been shown to decrease the absorption of iron. African tea which is becoming popular may contain iron so too much should not be consumed.
- Green tea extract is a potent iron-chelating agent. Green tea is an antioxidant that helps to remove excess iron from the liver. Hemochromatosis patients should take 4-10 green tea extract capsules with at least 300 mg of active polyphenols per capsule.
- Vitamin E – as an antioxidant may be of some help because too much iron may act as an oxidant. However it is probably important not to exceed 400 to 800 IU a day of Vitamin E.
- Soluble fibers such as psyllium seed husks (Metamucil), guar gum, and the pectins also help to block iron (and other mineral) absorption.
- It is non-heme iron or the iron found in sources such as vegetables that are excessively absorbed in hemochromatosis. Thus a patient with hemochromatosis may consume a steak and not be overly concerned. Meat and blood are sources of heme iron.
- Meals cooked in cast-iron cookware should be avoided.