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Hemochromatosis Diet

Nicks J Jun 6, 2019
Hemochromatosis diet is recommended by specialized doctors and includes the avoidance of iron supplements, limited intake of vitamin C supplements and a cut back on alcohol consumption.
Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disorder in which the body has abnormally high levels of iron. This happens because the body absorbs iron from the food we eat, in a higher quantity than required. Normally our body absorbs 10% of the iron found in a variety of foods.
However, in hemochromatosis, the person absorbs extra iron that can interfere with normal functioning of the body. In this condition the body's ability to break down the iron decreases. The excess iron gets accumulated in different organs of the body, especially pancreas, heart and liver. This extra iron build up can cause much damage to these organs.

Types of Iron

Dietary iron contained in a variety of foods is of two types; heme and non-heme iron; The main difference between these two kinds of iron lies in their absorbability. It is observed that the body does not require much effort when it comes to absorbing heme iron.
On the other hand body finds its rather difficult to absorb non-heme iron. Exclusion of foods that contain this readily absorbable form of iron (heme iron) forms the basis of this diet.

Hemochromatosis Diet - Foods to Avoid

With too much iron in the body, one certain cannot afford to have foods that have a significant amount of heme iron. Restricting or avoiding these foods forms the cornerstone of this type of diet. It is explained here:

Alcohol

One should avoid alcohol or drink it in moderate amounts, as the iron and alcohol combine to form harmful substances that may cause further damage to the liver.
Moreover, alcohol encourages iron absorption, which means consuming alcohol can only aggravate hemochromatosis symptoms. So, if one is serious about impairing iron absorption, stopping the habit of drinking alcohol is essential.

Supplements

As the level of iron in the body is high, the patient must avoid iron supplements as well as multivitamins that contain iron. Vitamin C, although an antioxidant, increases the ability of the body to absorb iron, hence consumption of vitamin C supplements should be strictly avoided.
However, drinking vitamin C rich juices in between meals will not cause any harm. Including food in the diet that contains vitamin C, is also not a cause for worry.

Seafood

Seafood such as fish contains high amounts of heme iron. Apart from saying 'No' to meat, avoid or sparingly eat fish (stay away from undercooked or raw seafood) to prevent iron overload in the body.
Eating raw shellfish can further deteriorate the health of a hemochromatosis patient. This is because bacteria present in raw fish can cause severe infections in people with high levels of iron. However, well cooked fish or shellfish can be tolerated by the body as cooking kills the germs that cause infections.

Sugary Products

Although sugar products like pastries and cakes are not a good source of heme iron, their consumption instigates the body to absorb more than normal amounts of iron from the daily diet, which is unacceptable for patients diagnosed with hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis Diet - Foods to Include

Foods that are good sources of non-heme iron and those that hinder heme iron absorption are added in this diet. It is explained here:

Vegetables and Fruits

Doctors often advice plenty of vegetables and fruits in this diet as these foods contain non-heme iron which is not easy to absorb. Vegetables like lima and kidney beans when consumed with fiber, eggs or supplemental calcium can further decrease the absorption of iron.
Especially vegetables like spinach should form an inseparable part of this diet. This is because spinach has a high concentration of oxalate, an excellent heme iron absorption inhibitor. Oxalate not only combine with iron to give ferrous oxalate, but also nullifies the usability of the iron contained in spinach.
As fruits such as grapes and apricots (dried) are high in non-heme iron, eating them is not a cause for concern.

Whole Grain Products

Many people ask 'are whole grains good for people suffering from excessive iron build up. Whole grain products such as brown rice, tofu and whole wheat bread are good sources of non-heme iron. The patients are encouraged to eat whole grain products.

Nuts

Like to have nuts but worried about iron overload in the body. Don't be! Non-heme iron is predominantly present in nuts like almonds and Brazil nuts and so there is no harm in having them in moderation.

Beverages

Drinking coffee or tea during meals decreases body's capacity to absorb iron, as these beverages contain a high amount of tannins that restrict iron absorption. Having coffee or tea along with lunch or dinner certainly helps to inhibit the body to absorb iron.
On the whole, animal based food products are found to be heavily loaded with heme iron. So taking these foods do not serve the purpose of reducing iron levels in the body. Opting for plant-based foods and taking the necessary treatment is certainly the best remedy to manage hemochromatosis.