Haemochromatosis is a disease caused by excess iron in the body.
When iron accumulates in the body it becomes toxic and can damage the body’s organs. This is usually caused by a hereditary abnormality which causes increased iron to be absorbed from the intestine even when the body does not require it.
A secondary type of haemochromatosis can be caused by large numbers of abnormal red cells being destroyed and releasing their iron, but this is usually associated with disorders such as thalassaemia major and haemolytic anaemia.
Haemochromatosis is more likely to occur in men and at an earlier age, as women use up iron stores during menstruation and pregnancy.
In people suffering from haemochromatosis two iron proteins are found to accumulate in larger than normal amounts, haemosiderim and ferritin.
When excess haemosiderim is deposited in the liver it can cause liver damage, leading to
symptoms such as abdominal pain, jaundice, swollen liver and swollen ankles.
Excess iron can also cause diabetic like symptoms by the successful competition of iron with chromium, which damages the insulin producing cells. Often haemosiderin is deposited in the skin giving it a bronze discolouration.
This has led to haemochromatosis sometimes being called ‘bronze diabetes’. Other
complications can be heart disease and abnormal heart rhythms. Symptoms can be
tiredness, lethargy, shortness of breath and ankle swelling.
Joint pain and arthritic problems can also occur along with low libido.
Copper is also involved in haemochromatosis and can also be deposited in high amounts in the liver and other organs. One theory on the possible cause of haemochromotosis surmises that if the liver is not metabolising copper for some reason then iron builds up and the proteins transferring the iron throughout the body become saturated.
The usual orthodox treatment for haemochromatosis is the regular taking of blood, known as venesection. This effectively improves survival rates but does not alter the basis of the disease.
Symptoms of tiredness, weakness, abdominal pain, liver enlargement and heart function may improve but joint problems may not.
Also venesection needs to be undertaken regularly in order to keep symptoms under control.
However if basic recommendations are followed it is possible to lessen the number of venesections that are needed.
These recommendations would involve:
– reducing the dietary intake of iron (i.e. red meats, organ meats and dark green vegetables).
– avoiding all iron containing supplements, avoiding excessive intake of Vitamin C, as Vitamin C increases iron absorption.
– avoiding alcohol intake as this would make any liver problems worsen.
These suggestions are all fairly basic.
Other suggestions that have been known to help the condition are:
– Drinking black tea, as tea contains tannins that will slow down iron absorption. Green tea capsules have also been suggested, 4-10 daily as Green tea is also a wonderful anti-oxidant.
– Supplementing with Zinc, as Zinc also inhibits the uptake of iron (In one report, the dose used was 10mls daily of liquid Zinc) and the taking of a calcium supplement as this also inhibits iron uptake. Be careful, as an excess of these supplements can also inhibit the uptake of many other minerals which would then have to be replaced, for example chromium and Selenium.
***I have seen several instances of haemochromotosis improving with the supplementation of colloidal minerals. These do contain Iron but it is plant derived and present in very small amounts. I can only presume that it is the prensence of all trace
elements that bring about the correct balance of Iron in the body.
See pages on ‘Minerals -facts’ and ‘Minerals – why we need to supplement’.
– Extra antioxidants are also needed to protect from the free radical damage that excess iron can cause, but the use of vitamin C can be controversial in this case.
Vitamin E may be a better choice as it has been shown to be decreased in haemochromatosis patients and can help combat liver damage.
– Glutathione has also been shown to be deficient and is a very good liver detoxifier. Other useful antioxidants would be grapeseed, ginkgo, garlic and lipoic acid.
– It would also be advisable to take a Liver tonic as this would help the mobilisation of zinc from the liver, help protect the liver from oxidative damage caused by iron accumulation and also help liver function. St Mary’s Thistle (silybum marianum) is a very potent liver tonic and recent research has also shown that it has the ability to bind strongly with ferric ion (Fe3) which may also help inhibit iron absorption.