Hemochromatosis is a condition where there is excessive iron accumulation in the organs and body resulting in organ toxicity. It is most commonly caused by an autosomal recessive hereditary condition. The hereditary cause of hemochromatosis is also the commonest cause of severe iron overload. Approximately 75 percent of those with hereditary hemochromatosis are asymptomatic. Based on the clinical symptoms, the diagnosis of hemochromatosis can be achieved. Since most patients have mild to no symptoms, most are incidentally diagnosed when their serum iron levels are noticeably elevated during routine screening.
To confirm the diagnosis of hemochromatosis, some of the tests that should be included are genetic testing for HFE mutations, hepatic iron concentration, transferrin saturation levels, and serum ferritin studies. Echocardiography and chest radiography may also be performed as part of imaging studies in the evaluation of cardiac diseases among those with hemochromatosis. Early diagnosis is important among those with hemochromatosis. The main treatment goal is the removal of iron before it results in irreversible parenchymal damage. Once confirmed, hemochromatosis can be treated through phlebotomy to rid the excess iron and maintain normal iron stores.
Chelation agents such as deferiprone and deferoxamine can also be used. In severe arthropathy or end stage liver disease, surgery may be required. In the United States, approximately 1 in 200 to 500 individuals suffer from hereditary hemochromatosis. Most patients with hemochromatosis are of northern European origin. The highest prevalence of hemochromatosis is seen among those of Celtic origin. Prevalence is approximately similar in western countries, Europe, and Australia. Patients with hemochromatosis can also make dietary changes that may be beneficial for them. While normal individuals absorb about 1 milligram of iron every day, those with hemochromatosis can absorb about four times the amount. Diet modifications can help to reduce the level of body iron. From our diet, there are two types of iron known as iron in heme and nonheme iron.
Hemochromatosis Diet Food #1: Vegetables
Vegetables are always an important source of iron. However, in hemochromatosis, the intake of vegetables should not be restricted as they provide many other important nutrients and minerals. Vegetables can also be beneficial for hemochromatosis patients as they may contain substances that can help inhibit the iron uptake.
Patients are always advised to consume a variety of vegetables with a minimum of 200 grams a day. However, patients should try to limit the intake of vegetables that are rich in iron. These include vegetables that are dark green and leafy such as spinach, chard, fennel, and green beans. Vegetables rich in iron should not be eaten with meat.