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IRON OVERLOAD

FOODS THAT HARM

  • Iron supplements and iron-rich multivitamins
  • Alcohol (if there is liver damage)
  • High doses of vitamin C
  • Raw shellfish

    FOODS TO LIMIT

  • Iron-rich foods, such as lean red meats and organ meats
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

    WHO’S AFFECTED

  • About 43 million Americans of Northern European descent carry the single or double copies of the hemachromatosis gene and are susceptible to developing the disease
  • 100,000 Canadians of Northern European descent have hereditary hemachromatosis
  • Secondary hemachromatosis affects people who have anemia, alcoholism, and other disorders
    Hemachromatosis is the most common form of iron overload disease and can be inherited or caused by anemia or alcoholism
    Left untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to the body
    Hemachromatosis causes the body to absorb and store excess iron
    The body stores the excess in muscles and vital organs, specifically the liver, heart, and pancreas
    An iron overload does not produce symptoms until a harmful amount has accumulated in the body
    The symptoms and signs often surface in middle age, and they include a ruddy complexion, fatigue, joint and intestinal pain, and an irregular heartbeat
    As the liver becomes damaged, jaundice may develop
    Unless treated, the damage can lead to serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease

    Nutrition Connection

    The main focus in dealing with hemachromatosis should be avoiding excess iron intake and foods that increase iron absorption
    Avoid eating foods high in vitamin C with iron-rich plant foods
    For those who are predisposed to store extra iron, this combination may be harmful
    Consume the vitamin C items between meals
    Be careful with multivitamins and supplements
    Unless prescribed by a doctor, supplements containing iron and large doses of vitamin C should not be taken
    Some experts advise that anyone who is contemplating taking a vitamin C supplement should first have a blood test to measure iron levels
    Avoid alcohol
    Alcohol may cause liver damage
    Avoid raw shellfish
    Those with hereditary hemachromatosis are prone to infections, particularly ones caused by bacteria in raw shellfish

    Beyond the Diet

    If anyone in your family has hemochromatosis, it’s important to get screened by a physician who can help you manage the disease before it inflicts any damage to your organs
    Make note of the following steps: Receive an in-depth diagnosis
    Your doctor may run blood tests to diagnose an iron overload
    In some cases, a test for a gene mutation or a liver biopsy may be necessary
    Look at blood removal
    This safe and effective treatment, which is just like donating blood, involves periodic removal of 1 pt (0
    5 L) or so of blood, which reduces iron levels by forcing the body to use some of its stores to make new red blood cells
    10 years or more of taking iron supplements or having blood transfusions may lead people to suffer iron overload

    Special Feature

    INTERACTION WARNING:
    When Food and Medicine Don’t Mix
    In our body, drugs share the same route of absorption and metabolism as nutrients, which creates the potential for interactions
    Foods can affect drug action in many ways
    The most common interaction is when foods interfere with absorption, which can make a drug less effective
    Nutrients or other components of food can also interfere with a drug’s metabolism, or how it is broken down in the body, and vice versa

    FOOD-DRUG INTERACTIONS

    Here are some of the most common prescription and over-the-counter medications that may interact with everyday foods
    Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about medications that you’re taking