By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2016, L.D Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Definition. Hemochromatosis is a health condition in which the body either absorbs too much iron from food, and/or cannot get rid of iron adequately. As a result, iron deposits throughout the body.
Who is affected? It affects 1 million Americans and many more people around the world. People of Northern European descent are more prone to it than other ethnic groups. Men are more prone to hemochromatosis than menstruating women.
The condition can be fatal. Iron builds up in the heart, liver, pancreas, joints, pituitary gland, and other organs and glands.
What occurs? Hemochromotosis can also lead to many other conditions. These may include diabetes, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, infertility, heart attacks, arthritis, osteoporosis, gall bladder disease, depression, impotence, hypothyroidism, and hypogonadism.
Symptoms are often vague and non-specific. Among the most common symptoms are fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, brain fog, loss of sex drive, heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat.
Gender differences. In men, the symptoms often begin between ages 20 and 40. In women, the symptoms often begin 10-15 years after the cessation of the menstrual period. The loss of iron every month in the menstrual period offers some protection for women against this condition.
Babies are usually protected because breast milk is very low in iron. However, a condition called neonatal hemochromatosis begins in infancy.
A rarer condition called juvenile hemochromatosis can also occur in which symptoms begin in the teenage years or before.
Genetic predisposition or Type 1. There are genetic markers for the condition. However, not everyone who has the genetic markers develops hemochromatosis.
NOTE: Genetic markers do not necessarily indicate problems with the DNA. They can indicate problems with DNA transcription, copying errors, or RNA, and/or protein synthesis or biosynthesis.
These latter problems may be correctable, unlike DNA. For more on this important topic, please read Genetic Testing on this website.
Secondary hemochromatosis, iron overload or Type 2. Millions of people have some degree of iron toxicity, even if they do not have the genetic markers. This is sometimes called iron oveload. Doctors do not know the cause, but believe it may be due to lifestyle, diet or other unknown factors.
Nutritional balancing science indicates that mineral deficiencies and adrenal weakness definitely contribute to iron overload. More about this, and its correction, is found in the Iron Toxicity article.
Identifying hemochromatosis is often not easy. One may have few symptoms in early cases, and the symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain can be caused by many other conditions.
Blood tests. Medical websites say that in hemochromatosis, the serum ferritin is often elevated above 150 ng/ml. However, Gerry Koenig, previous director of the Hemochromatosis Foundation, says your ferritin should not be above 80 ng/ml. I believe this is a better measure. In fact, a ferritin level between 40 and 60 is best. Here is his website you can check - HealtheIron.com.
Also, you can check the GGT, a liver enzyme. If it is elevated, there is some liver stress or irritation present.
Also, at times, the TS percentage or transferring saturation is often above 45% with hemochromatosis. This determination is derived from a personŐs serum iron level and serum TIBC or total iron binding capacity.
Liver Biopsy. A liver biopsy showing high iron is diagnostic, but is not often done.
Genetic tests. These are only used to confirm a diagnosis of the genetic cause of some hemochromatosis.
Other tests. Other testing may detect problems in the liver, pancreas or elsewhere. These may include blood tests, MRI of the liver, or others.
Hair mineral testing. Often, the hair iron level is less than 1.2 mg%. This indicates a poor eliminator pattern.
This range of iron, however, is common on hair mineral analyses. It is not specific for hemochromatosis, although it does indicate excessive iron in the body, to some degree.
In general, there is no need for diagnostic tests. This is because:
1. We assume people have some degree of iron overload because it is so common.
2. A complete nutritional balancing program will automatically correct most iron overoad.
Medical control. Modern medicine is not able to eliminate hemochromatosis. The medical methods of control of hemochromatosis are:
1. Eat a diet low in iron. Foods high in heme iron are red meats, eggs and some fish. Green vegetables also contain a fair amount of iron, although it is not as well absorbed as heme iron found mainly in red meats.
2. Avoid vitamin C, which increases iron absorption.
3. Give blood frequently – usually once every 2 to 4 months for life. This removes iron from the body.
4. A therapy that is not as good is chelation therapy with deferoxamine. This is a chemical that binds and removes it from the body through the kidneys. However, it has many serious side effects!
Problems with medical therapy. A serious problem with giving blood every 2 to 4 months is that a person will lose significant nutrients with the loss of blood. These include many minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. These can be difficult, slow or even impossible to replace if one is giving blood often.
Other, less important problems are the inconvenience and sometimes weakness associated with giving blood every few months.
Nutritional balancing. This healing method will remove iron from the body without the need for blood transfusions. It also has the advantage of replenishing many nutrients, rather than depleting nutrients, as occurs with giving blood or phlebotomy.
For much more about iron toxicity, please read Iron Toxicity on this website.