Hemochromatosis: Foods to Avoid

Hemochromatosis is an inherited disease in which the body absorbs extra iron from the daily diet. Normally, a person absorbs about 10 percent of iron found in foods. However, a person with hemochromatosis absorbs more, by as much as four times the normal amount. The human body has no natural way of eliminating the extra iron. In the presence of hemochromatosis, iron gets stored and accumulates in body tissue, especially in the liver, heart and pancreas. Untreated, hemochromatosis leads to failure of these major organs. Conventional medical treatment includes therapeutic phlebotomy, which is the removal of some blood to reduce iron levels. If you have hemochromatosis, there are certain foods you should avoid.

Red Meats

Iron, which is a mineral necessary for the normal function of red blood cells, exists in two forms known as heme and non-heme. Meat, particularly red meat, is a source of heme iron, which is the most easily absorbable form. If you have been diagnosed with hemochromatosis, your physician will recommend that you limit your intake of red meat. Venison, which may not be commonly consumed, has the highest amount of iron in comparison to other red meat. The dietary guidelines offered by the Iron Disorder Institute say that beef and lamb contain more iron than pork and poultry.

Sugar-Sweetened Foods and Beverages

Both the Iron Disorders Institute and the Hemochromatosis Information Center say that sugar enhances the absorption of iron. If you have hemochromatosis, this is exactly what you want to avoid. Limit your intake of fruits because they contain fructose, the natural sugar found in fruits. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda and use honey and molasses sparingly. As with any medical condition, talk with your physician about what you should eat to control your symptoms but still maintain a balanced diet.

Raw Shellfish

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that naturally thrives in warm coastal waters. A person who eats raw or undercooked shellfish from this environment is at risk for developing a serious infection caused by this bacteria. People with liver disease, such as may occur with hemochromatosis, have a high risk for infection caused by Vibrio vulnificus and are advised to avoid eating raw shellfish.

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