Find Answers and Restore Health in Iron Overload
Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HH) can be scary, lonely, and intimidating. As a Naturopathic Doctor with the condition of iron overload, my goal is to help you learn the safest and most effective diet and supplement strategies to help support your health.
Hereditary Hemochromatosis - One of the Most Common Genetic Diseases
You are not alone!
In fact, estimates show 1 in 9 people of Northern European descent are carriers of the HFE gene mutation that can cause this disease of iron overload and 1 in 200 carry two genes.
Two copies of the C282Y gene is the most likely mutation to cause symptoms.
These individuals are called homozygous carriers-- and their health is very seriously at risk.
A combination of the C282Y gene with a mutated H63D gene is also likely to express symptoms of the disease. The term for this condition is called "compound heterozygote."
Many resources will tell you that people with only one copy ("heterozygotes") of the HFE gene are unlikely to express any symptoms or problems. Well, as an individual with just one copy, but plenty of symptoms of too much iron, I beg to differ!
Hemochromatosis Help from a Holistic Doctor
Hello, and welcome to my site!
My name is Eric Lewis, and I am a Naturopathic Doctor. Like you, I also have a genetic predisposition to iron overload.
My approach to hemochromatosis is holistic, integrative, and hopefully fun!
My goal is to integrate the best ideas of science with the art of holistic healing.
My wife Kristina and I are both Naturopathic Doctors, and we share a holistic mindset when it comes to health and well-being.
In our practice, we work with all of our patients to help them understand their condition and to feel better naturally. We hear people's stories... their successes, their failures, and their questions and struggles.
As a husband and a father with hemochromatosis, I want to know as much as I can about the subject so I can live a long, healthy, and happy life. I'm certainly trying my best to walk the walk!
My goal with this site is to assimilate, synthesize, and deliver the best information about diet and supplementation strategies for iron overload to you in a clear, easy-to-understand, and friendly way.
So let's get started, shall we?
What is Hemochromatosis?
Just what is hemochromatosis, after all? Because you are reading this page, it is likely that you or a family member have been diagnosed with this condition of iron overload.
It is also possible you are having a hard time pronouncing, or even spelling, hemochromatosis.
As my daughter called it when she was two-and-a-half years old, "Hemo-chro-sis-too-sis."
While blood levels of iron may be elevated, the primary problem stems from the accumulation of iron in the body's cells, tissues, and organs.
The process of iron overload is typically slow to develop and may not affect a person's health until they are in their 30s, 40s, or even their 50s or 60s.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the disease itself can be fatal if it is not identified in time.
Genetic Causes of Hemochromatosis
For most people the condition of iron overload is genetically inherited, thus why it is often referred to as Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HH).
As a genetic condition, it is very important that family members of an affected person get tested for their iron levels and genetic markers.
Primary, or genetically determined, causes include:
- Type 1: HFE Gene
- Type 2: Juvenile Hemochromatosis
- Type 3: Transferrin Receptor
- Type 4: African Iron Overload, Ferroportin
** Note- The primary emphasis for this site will be on the Type 1, HFE gene mutation because it is the most common cause of iron overload (approximately 90% of cases of what is hemochromatosis).
Secondary, non-genetically determined causes include:
- Blood Transfusion Related Hemochromatosis
- Iron in Water
- Iron in Supplements
- Foods High in Iron (and the impact of alcohol intake)
HFE, C282Y, H63D, and S65C... oh my!
Type 1 Hemochromatosis is the result of a mutation to the HFE Gene, located on Chromosome 6.
The term for "HFE" is kind of creative, and it stands for "High Iron." Iron's chemical symbol is Fe... thus HFE. See the creativity?
This gene codes for a protein involved in iron absorption, and when mutated, causes the body to take in excess iron from food and water.
Genes often have alternative forms of expression, called alleles. Different alleles can lead to different traits (like hair or eye color), but alleles can also mutate and create "missense" proteins. This change in the DNA is permanent, and can be passed down through the generations.
In the genetics of what is hemochromatosis, the most common mutated alleles are:
There are different types of mutations, and the severity of the disease is determined, to great extent, by which type of gene mutation is present:
- Homozygote --> 2 copies of C282Y. Most likely to be severe.
- Compound Heterozygote --> 1 copy of C282Y + 1 copy of H63D. 2nd most likely to be severe.
- Heterozygote --> 1 copy of C282Y (or 1 copy of H63D). Least likely to be severe.
Doctors will often state that clinical hemochromatosis is only found in individuals homozygous with two C282Y mutations. As a result, many people that are compound heterozygous or heterozygous may be told that they don't have iron overload and that there is no reason for them to treat this condition.
Yet estimates still show 15.3% of individuals expressing the compound heterozygote or heterozygote copy of Hemochromatosis DNA have clinical symptoms (from the American Journal of Epidemiology titled, HFE gene and hereditary hemochromatosis: a HuGE review. Human Genome Epidemiology).
Clearly there is a disconnect in how to define "what is hemochromatosis." I have personally experienced symptoms from having too much iron and I have worked with and communicated with many people who also suffer from an excess of iron in spite of "only" having one mutation. As a result, I see a benefit in supporting the health of individuals who are either heterozygous or homozygous.
Solutions for Iron Overload
The good news is that there are excellent treatments that, if started early enough, are highly successful in controlling the condition of too much iron and potentially highly successful in reversing symptoms and improving overall health.
Conventionally, the primary therapy is phlebotomy, venesection or blood donation. This is absolutely the best way to "de-iron" an individual.
Medicines are available for those who are not able to tolerate phlebotomy.
In fact, clinical research has shown many potential health benefits of natural and holistic remedies for iron overload.
With that in mind, let's really get to know what hemochromatosis is all about.
Hemochromatosis Help 101: The Essentials
Hemochromatosis Help is here to help you find answers and restore health when facing iron overload. To get started on your educational journey of hemochromatosis, read the following articles to familiarize yourself with the condition of iron overload.
Index of Articles on Hemochromatosis Help
Help For Your Hemochromatosis
The best way to support your health when facing iron overload is to integrate the science of medicine with the art of holistic healing. This is the most comprehensive, and successful, approach to finding the best solutions for better health.
How I Can Help You
Dr. Eric Lewis is a naturopathic physician who also has hereditary hemochromatosis. With his unique perspective of being both a practitioner and a patient, he brings new insight into holistic approaches to iron overload, providing new understanding about the best diet and supplementation strategies to help support health with hemochromatosis.