Have you ever wondered if there were natural ways to help when you have hemochromatosis?
Are there vitamins, herbs, or supplements that may help lower iron in the body?
The answer is YES!
While not a replacement for conventional treatments like phlebotomy, there are many remedies from the natural world that may help you feel better and improve your overall health with hemochromatosis.
In this article, I will describe the different types of nutritional supplements and natural remedies for hemochromatosis, including a list of some of the top vitamins and herbs to use if you have iron overload.
We’re also going to break down the three main ways supplements may help with iron overload so you can know which options are best for you.
Keep reading to learn more!
In This Article:
Hemochromatosis Supplements: Natural Remedies for Too Much Iron in the Blood
Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies for hemochromatosis are promising complementary tools that may help lower iron levels and improve an individual’s health with iron overload.
Integrating these natural remedies with holistic dietary strategies, in coordination with your doctor’s care plan, could be an excellent way to improve your symptoms and health.
Fortunately, we have many nutritional tools that may help in hemochromatosis!
Evidence-Based Natural Remedies and Supplements for Hemochromatosis
As a naturopathic doctor practicing natural health and healing for many years, I have prioritized researching, studying, and understanding the use of nutritional supplements for the unique needs of people suffering from iron overload.
I’ve poured through the medical research these past few years, and I’ve been quite excited at what I’ve found.
An abundance of clinical evidence demonstrates how several specific nutrients and herbal supplements help eliminate excess iron in the body naturally.
The Three “Big Picture” Problems with Too Much Iron in Hemochromatosis
When thinking about using supplements to lower iron, it is helpful to think of the three big picture problems we are trying to address when we have hemochromatosis.
First, we want to reduce the amount of iron that is already in the body. This is the iron that’s been building up over the weeks, months, and years. Think of this iron as “Past Iron.”
Second, we want to prevent the future buildup of iron in the body. This is the iron that you haven’t acquired yet, but that you might add when you eat dinner tonight, breakfast tomorrow, or lunch next week. Think of this iron as “Future Iron.”
Third, there’s the damage caused by the iron, such as oxidative damage and iron deposits in the brain, heart, and liver. We can call this “Iron Damage.”
For Past Iron, the iron that’s already in your body, we want to think about ways to get that iron out.
For Future Iron, the iron you haven’t yet encountered, we want to think about how to prevent it from getting inside your body in the first place.
For Iron Damage, we want to support our health against the detrimental effects of having too much iron.
Top Three Ways Supplements Help Iron Overload in Hemochromatosis
Beneficial natural remedies for iron overload tend to work typically through one or more of the following three actions:
- Chelate iron from the body: Chelate literally means “to claw,” and chelators are substances that work to remove the iron already stored in the body.
- Block iron absorption: When consumed with an iron-rich meal, these substances prevent your body from absorbing as much iron as it would without them.
- Protect from free radical damage: Antioxidants have properties that help protect from the free radical damage that excess iron causes in the body.
Nutritional supplementation and dietary strategies can be beneficial in each of these steps.
Let me describe in more detail those three benefits found in natural remedies for iron overload with some specific examples of helpful herbs and supplements and how they help in iron overload.
Natural Ways to Chelate Iron from the Body
Key supplements that may chelate iron from the body include:
- Green Tea
- Milk Thistle (potentially)*
*Research clearly shows that milk thistle lowers ferritin levels; however, scientists are not sure if this ferritin-lowering effect is due to chelation or a different mechanism of action.
According to the research, turmeric is the best natural remedy to reduce excess iron in the body reliably.
Turmeric has the ability to bind iron from the cells and then help the body to excrete it.
The following graph and photo show the powerful effect of turmeric (aka curcumin) in reducing stored iron from the cells.
As you can see, iron levels decrease in response to turmeric!
Quercetin and Resveratrol
Quercetin and resveratrol are synergistic nutrients with excellent research suggesting that they also have the ability to chelate iron.
These polyphenol-rich antioxidant nutrients have been shown to reduce elevated levels of iron, in particular, from the heart and liver.
One of the most exciting discoveries I’ve made in my research is finding these studies showing these supplements may help reduce the build-up of too much “Past Iron.”
Using Natural Remedies to Block Iron Absorption
The second way nutritional supplements may be useful in iron overload is to block the absorption of “Future Iron.”
Our hemochromatosis genes will potentially cause us to absorb more iron from food for the rest of our lives. As a result, we should also focus on inhibiting, reducing, or blocking the future iron that we will absorb over time from the diet.
Iron blockers are nutrients that stop the iron from being as easily absorbed, resulting in less iron getting into your body in the first place.
Foods that block iron are a key strategy in a hemochromatosis diet and are discussed at length in our books.
When you eat a meal, if you strategically combine iron-rich foods and nutrients that keep the iron from being fully absorbed, your net iron increase is less. Over time, this reduction in “Future Iron” really adds up!
Timing and combining are important here.
Namely, you want to time your meals with the right combination of nutrients.
Many nutrients block the absorption of iron, but they only work if you take them at the same time and in combination with the meal with iron.
And this is why strategic usage of a nutritional supplement may really help you out!
For example, when you’re at a restaurant or eating a meal prepared by someone else, and you haven’t had time to incorporate iron blockers directly into your recipe, the next best thing may be to take a supplement to help limit iron absorption.
Three primary iron blockers found in nature that work to prevent iron absorption include:
Present in dairy and many other foods, calcium is the only known natural substance that blocks heme (or animal-based) iron from the diet.
In addition, calcium also blocks the absorption of non-heme iron. Although common in the diet, calcium is also a very popular supplement used strategically by many with hemochromatosis to reduce iron absorption at mealtimes.
Polyphenols are health-promoting antioxidant nutrients that also prevent iron from being absorbed.
Popular supplements in this category include the supplements milk thistle, green tea, turmeric, quercetin, and resveratrol.
Many people find taking these substances as a supplement is the most effective way to get the amounts needed to see real benefits.
Primarily found in grains and legumes, these natural parts of plant foods can bind to iron and prevent iron from being absorbed from a meal. The most popular supplemental form of a phytate is called IP-6.
A good strategy is to use one or more of these nutrients at the same time as you consume an iron-rich meal to minimize the iron absorption from that meal as much as you can.
Supplementally, consider combining these with your meals because specific nutrients physically block iron so it doesn’t get into your body in the full amount.
In summary, from a combination of research, patient experience, personal experience, and my holistic understanding of health, the following health-enhancing and life-saving nutrients are some of my favorite nutritional supplements to inhibit excess “Future Iron” absorption.
Read more about each of these nutrients here:
Using Supplements to Protect from Free Radical Damage in Iron Overload
Enter the power of the antioxidant supplements!
Oxidation is a fundamental problem of iron overload and is a major reason why individuals with hemochromatosis develop worsening health concerns over time due to iron damage.
As a person stores more and more iron in their body, one progressive consequence of iron overload is a chronic state known as “oxidative stress.” In this state, excess iron creates oxidation that can stress both the structure and function of our bodies’ cells.
An antioxidant is a nutrient that donates an electron to stabilize a free radical that might otherwise damage our bodies. Since excess iron overloads our system with oxidative damage, we can see the importance of supporting our health by maximizing our antioxidant nutrients.
Antioxidants can reduce or even prevent this damage if the level of iron is not too excessive. This is why people with hemochromatosis may want to support their antioxidant function with healthy nutrients through diet and supplementation.
Clinical research has also demonstrated the value and health benefits of specific antioxidants for hemochromatosis.
Key antioxidant nutrients that are beneficial for neutralizing free radicals in iron overload include:
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Green Tea
- Milk Thistle
- N-Acetyl Cysteine
- Vitamin E
Using Natural Remedies for the Symptoms of Hemochromatosis
In addition to the primary therapeutic goals of reducing the build-up of too much iron and blocking iron absorption, many people may also choose to supplement or use natural remedies for dealing with the common side effects and symptoms of hemochromatosis.
For example, you may wish to incorporate nutritional supplements to help with joint pains and muscle aches, fatigue, insomnia, liver disease, heart conditions, and other concerns associated with iron overload.
Supplements to Avoid When You Have Hemochromatosis
Until now, I’ve talked about supplements that might be helpful in iron overload.
But you’ll need to be aware that there are some supplements that might worsen iron overload!
Be careful as there are a few supplements to watch out for that may make hemochromatosis worse:
Multivitamins or other supplements containing iron
This may seem obvious, but iron can sometimes be present in supplements that you may not realize.
This includes many multivitamins, especially ones made “for women,” and also most prenatal vitamins.
Be sure to read labels for all of your vitamins and supplements.
Protein powders, energy drinks and bars, and workout supplements
Many supplemental foods and workout-specific nutrients contain added iron.
Read those packages carefully!
Supplements containing Iron Enhancers
Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other nutrients known to enhance iron absorption are often present in supplements.
These supplements are less of a concern if they are taken away from food and if they themselves don’t contain iron. Be sure to be aware of the other non-iron impactful nutrients is key when evaluating supplements when you have hemochromatosis.
A Note About Safe Use of Nutritional Supplements in Hemochromatosis
Research and clinical evidence show that there are many great tools (diet, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies) that may help improve an individual’s health with hemochromatosis.
As we’ve seen, supplements may help to chelate past iron, block future iron absorption, and reduce iron damage.
Please make sure the supplements you use meet the following standards, such as manufactured in a pharmaceutical-grade laboratory with verified 3rd-party testing.
You should always check with your doctor before starting any supplement, diet, or exercise routine. They know your specific circumstances best. One size does not fit all.
Follow your doctor’s care plan, and do not be afraid to ask questions. Whether using medications directly for hemochromatosis or other health concerns, please ensure there are no interactions between your medications and supplements.
Nutritional Supplements Designed for the Unique Needs of the Hemochromatosis Patient
The safe and effective use of nutritional supplementation to support health and promote wellbeing is a key part of what we as naturopathic doctors are trained to do.
Our research into hemochromatosis has uncovered many herbs and nutrients that may help those suffering from iron overload!
Over the years, many of you have reached out to us asking our opinion of supplements you’ve been taking, asking for advice about which supplements are best for those with iron overload.
Because of the complexity of balancing out what supplemental ingredients are best for hemochromatosis, we’ve found that the conventional options available weren’t ideal for the hemochromatosis population’s unique needs.
For example, a formula designed for the general population may contain an ingredient that might make iron absorption worse. Other products may not optimize the absorption or assimilation of the ingredients.
Because of our personal frustrations, we decided to curate our own line of supplements. These products meet our high safety standards and provide remedies that fit into all three of the categories listed above in this article.
Hemochromatosis Help is proud to offer these safe, effective, and unique supplements for individuals with hemochromatosis and iron overload.
We’ve done the homework, so you don’t have to!
Want to Read More About Nutritional Supplements in Hemochromatosis?
If you want to explore the topics from this article in greater detail (including actionable steps of how to use supplements), you may want to read my book, Holistic Help for Hemochromatosis: A Guide to the Use of Diet and Supplements in Healing From Iron Overload.
This book discusses the supplements in this article, plus many more that aren’t included here.
Find the answers you need to help you use natural remedies effectively when wanting to live a healthy and balanced life with iron overload!