Tips for fighting iron overload with diet and herbal medicine

Herbs can help protect the body from the harmful effects of too much iron in the blood. Rosemary and ginkgo biloba can help protect the whole body. Dandelion and milk thistle seed can help protect the liver. Astragalus and ginseng can help keep the immune system healthy. If iron levels get too high, schedule a blood donation or see a doctor.

Iron overload -- red blood cells absorb too much iron
© Dmitry Sunagatov | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Red blood cells can absorb too much iron. This dangerous condition is known as iron overload or hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis causes the body to absorb too much iron.

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, hemochromatosis causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. The excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas. The excess iron can poison these organs, leading to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart arrhythmias, and cirrhosis.

Hemochromatosis can be inherited.

Many people inherit the faulty genes that cause hemochromatosis — it is the most common genetic disease in Caucasians. Hemochromatosis is more likely to be serious in men. Women are more likely to develop symptoms after menopause, when they no longer lose iron with menstruation and pregnancy.

Symptoms appear in midlife.

Signs and symptoms of hereditary hemochromatosis usually appear in midlife. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, poor skin color (grayish tint), loss of sex drive, liver problems, pancreas abnormalities, enlarged spleen, and heart palpitations. Other related issues include diabetes, depression, infertility, impotence, hypothyroidism, and some cancers.

Use turmeric / curcumin to help fight iron overload.

It is thought that turmeric, which contains curcumin, can help remove iron from the blood. Turmeric is a wonderful spice to keep in the kitchen. The health benefits of turmeric are numerous and include lowering bad cholesterol levels and stopping arthritis pain.

Blood donations really help hemochromatosis.

Iron can be dropped to safe levels by regularly removing blood from the body through blood donations. Home remedies include avoiding iron supplements and multivitamins containing iron, avoid taking vitamin C with iron rich foods (vitamin C helps the body absorb iron), and drinking tannin rich tea (tannins decrease iron absorption).

Treating iron overload with diet

Diet should include lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds. Avoid red meat, sugar, and alcohol. Venison, lamb, beef, liver, shrimp, and mussels contain high levels of iron. When eating meat, choose lean pork, chicken, and fish. Spinach contains lots of iron but it is not easily absorbed due to the presence of oxalates so it is considered a safe nutritional choice for people with hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis is like rusty metal.

High iron levels in your body can be compared to the damaging effects of rust, eating away at tissue and organs instead of old metal. High iron levels cause your body to produce more harmful free radicals than the immune system can handle.

Hemochromatosis is not rare in a meat eating society.

Hemochromatosis can be overlooked by a doctor who is concentrating on treatment of other diseases. Many doctors still believe what they learned in medical school – that hemochromatosis is rare and only happens in older men. When hemochromatosis is discovered early and treated before organ damage occurs, a person can live a normal, healthy life. Any family practice physician is qualified to diagnose and order treatment for a hemochromatosis patient. 

* Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal remedy especially when pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.

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Herb Articles by Janice Boling

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