clinical quickie: iron overload
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Recently a colleague asked about a client she sees who’d been diagnosed with iron overload, otherwise known as hemochromatosis.
Consider this: Hereditary hemochromatosis is now considered to be among one of the highest genetic disorders in the white population, with approximately 1 in 250 people carrying the gene that can manifest in the symptoms of iron overload.
There are two types of hemochromatosis—primary and secondary. The first is hereditary and the body absorbs and stores too much iron due to a particular sequence variation in the DNA(*). People with this variation cannot excrete iron as the rest of us can.
Iron overload for any reason can harm the body’s organs, including the liver and the heart, and can also lead to diabetes. In addition, excess circulating iron increases oxidative stress, which can prompt a host of other disease states, including an increased risk for cancer.
Secondary hemochromatosis occurs more as a result of alcohol abuse.
Here’s the info. I shared with my colleague so that she could support her client:
In terms of his diet, it’s important to know that there are two types of iron, heme iron and non-heme iron. The first is found in meat. The second in plants and in supplements. Since heme iron is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream, that’s the one he’d want to avoid or at least reduce for the state of his health.
BASELINE DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HEMOCHROMATOSIS:
- reduce red meat consumption
- reduce animal fats which can cause further free radical damage in conjunction with the unbound iron
- limit vitamin C-rich foods which enhance iron absorption from food
- avoid alcohol
- avoid sugar (also enhances iron absorption)
- increase fruits and veggies, especially spinach
- increase nuts, grains and beans (they help digestion and impair iron absorption)
- With these dietary suggestions you can clearly see how one diet does not fit all! (No Paleo Plan for this fellow.)
(*) By the way, DNA variations are otherwise referred to as SNPs (“snips”), or polymorphisms. Hemochromatosis is one of hundreds of millions of SNPs that can appear in the human genome. As of June 2012 there were found to be 187,852,828 of these possible polymorphisms, each with a different outcome.
Remember: “Genetics load the gun but environment pulls the trigger.”
What do you know and how are you supporting the environment of each and every one of your clients?
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