Hemochromatosis Diet

The healthiest hemochromatosis diet should be conscientious to lower foods high in iron, yet we need to make sure to not be overly restrictive as we emphasize healthy, well rounded, balanced, nutritious foods.

What You Need to Know about
Diet & Nutrition in Hemochromatosis

Eating a nutrient-rich, substantive diet helps us to stay strong and healthy.

A very common reaction upon first hearing a diagnosis of hemochromatosis is to stay away from any iron rich foods.

It’s natural to feel anxious in this situation. If you are concerned with how to eat when facing iron overload, it is common to ask:

  • Ho​w will my life change?
  • What do I have to give up?
  • Can I really never eat steak again?
  • Do I have to become a vegetarian?
  • Do I really have to stop eating healthy foods like spinach or oranges?
  • What can I eat- I’m so confused?!?

In discussing the best choices for a hemochromatosis diet, I want to emphasize what we can and should eat as opposed to what we cannot eat. Focusing upon what we can't have generally leads to feelings of stress, anxiety, and guilt. Of course we will want to reduce the foods high in iron, yet it is a rare situation to need to entirely avoid a specific type of food.

You’ll be surprised there are less restrictions than you might think!

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Important Considerations to Keep in Mind for a Hemochromatosis Diet

Fortunately, I did my research to familiarize myself with a diet helpful for hemochromatosis, and found that there are only a small number of strict dietary restrictions that we must follow. We also have a few considerations to keep in mind that relate to our nutritional choices.

Before we get to dietary specifics, another important consideration to keep in mind is your level of iron overload. The following factors may be very important to how strict or how casual your dietary restrictions should be:

  1. 1
    Genetics- Homozygote, Compound Heterozygote, or Heterozygote
  2. 2
    Iron Metabolism- Absorption, Use, and Storage of Iron
  3. 3
    Lab tests- Ferritin Level and Transferrin Saturation
  4. 4
    Your age, gender, how long ago you were diagnosed, and the current state of your treatment

The greater the level of iron overload you have, the more cautious your dietary choices need to be.

The Most Important Restrictions

The most important restrictions in a hemochromatosis diet include:

  • Avoiding Iron Supplements
  • Avoiding Raw Seafood
  • Avoiding, or Strictly Reducing Alcohol Intake

Iron supplements often contain much higher levels of iron than do foods. Additionally, supplemental iron is often created for maximal absorption-- that is the last thing we need!

Raw seafood and hemochromatosis do not mix. A bacterium called Vibrio Vulnificus is present in raw seafood and proliferates in an environment of too much iron. Though very rare, this bacteria has caused serious complications and even death.

Alcohol may compromise the health of our liver-- which just so happens to be the most sensitive organ to iron overload. Plus, alcohol has an effect of enhancing iron absorption of food. The combination can be very serious.

Iron Rich Foods to Limit

Again, we do not have to eliminate foods high in iron.  I did a quick bit of math, and if my calculations are correct, one therapeutic phlebotomy removes the iron absorbed from 18 pounds of red meat.

If your symptoms are severe and your health is seriously at risk, however, reducing the most iron rich foods is important:

  • Heme Iron Containing Foods
  • Non-Heme Iron Containing Foods
  • Iron Fortified Foods

Heme Iron is derived from animal foods, and Non-Heme Iron is derived from plant based foods.

Learn more about Heme vs Non-Heme Iron in Food

Specific Nutrients to Limit

Again, although it seems like a no-brainer, make absolutely certain that you do not take any iron supplements or supplements that contain iron.

The following nutrients specifically enhance iron absorption from meals.  Whether from food or from a supplement, care should be taken to avoid these nutrients when consuming foods high in iron:

  1. Vitamin C
  2. Beta Carotene

While iron, vitamin c, and beta carotene are all essential nutrients that we cannot function without, a combination of these vitamins and minerals at the same time can have an additive effect on iron absorption.  Do your best to get your vitamin C and beta carotene AWAY from iron ingestion.

Specific Nutrients to Encourage

The following nutrients specifically reduce iron absorption from meals.

Whether from food or from a supplement, please include these health enhancing and life-saving nutrients a major part of your diet and supplement regimen:

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Milk Thistle
  3. 3
    Green Tea
  4. 4
  5. 5
    Polyphenols and Tannins
  6. 6
    Oxylates and Phytates

If you have hemochromatosis, be sure to check with your doctor prior to starting any supplement, diet, or exercise routine.

A Diet Helpful for Hemochromatosis

Recall, hemochromatosis is a genetic condition of too much iron absorption.

A proper hemochromatosis diet, as a result, is often based upon other nutrient factors that enhance or diminish the uptake of iron by the body.

Certain food and supplement choices can absolutely make a positive impact.

I personally feel that our attention should be focused on the addition of these iron absorption blocking nutrients... on top of our overall, healthy, delicious and nutritious diet.

And while I have outlined several restrictions to keep in mind, please understand that there are so many nutrients our bodies need.

Foods that happen to have some iron in them also have an abundance of the very most health promoting vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients to help us be healthy and strong.

These foods should be included!

Nourishing our bodies and enjoying our food are just some of the many reasons why a hemochromatosis diet should not be too restrictive.

Bon Appetit!

Natural Treatments for Hemochromatosis

The healthiest diet for hemochromatosis should be conscientious to lower foods high in iron, yet we need to make sure to not be overly restrictive as we emphasize healthy, well rounded, balanced, nutritious foods.

Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are complementary tools that may help improve the health of an individual with hemochromatosis. Integrating these natural remedies with a number of holistic dietary strategies in coordination with your doctor’s care plan may be an excellent way to improve your symptoms and your health.

  • Beneficial natural remedies for iron overload tend to work typically through one or more of the following three actions: Chelate iron from the body, block iron absorption, protect from free radical damage
  • Turmeric Benefit for Hemochromatosis: The best natural remedy shown by clinical research to reliably reduce the build-up of iron in the body. Turmeric can lower ferritin by chelating iron from the body.
  • Milk Thistle Benefit for Hemochromatosis: Milk Thistle is a favorite herbal remedy for its strong hepatoprotective properties that support liver function all while blocking iron absorption and protecting the body against toxins and oxidation.

How We Can Help You

Hemochromatosis Help Diet Book

Evidence-based analysis of dietary, nutritional and herbal remedies for iron overload.

Hemochromatosis Help Cookbook

A complete guidebook to cooking for hemochromatosis with over 100 delicious and family-friendly recipes.

Hemochromatosis Help Supplements

Safe, effective & unique supplements for individuals with hemochromatosis, handpicked by a Naturopathic Doctor.

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About Dr. Eric Lewis

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.

He is the author of Holistic Help for Hemochromatosis and he has developed a line of supplements specific to the needs of people with hemochromatosis, available at MyHemochromatosisHelp.com.

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