Ana Theresa Williams BSN RN
Do you know that excess iron can poison your vital organs such as liver, heart and pancreas? The excess iron can poison these organs lea-ding to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart arrhythmias and cirrhosis.
Many people inherit the faulty genes that cause hemochromatosis. But thank God it’s not the most common genetic disease among Asians, but Cau-casians.
Hereditary hemochro-matosis is caused by a mutation in a gene that controls the amount of iron your body absorbs from the food you eat. The mutations that cause hereditary hemochromatosis are passed from parents to children.
Studies show, however, only a minority of those with the genes develop serious problems. Hemochro-matosis is more likely to be serious in men, it said.
Signs and symptoms of hereditary hemochroma-tosis usually appear in midlife. Iron can be dropped to safe levels by regularly removing blood from your body.
Some people with hereditary hemochro-matosis never have symp-toms. Early signs and symp-toms often are nonspecific, mimicking those of other common conditions. Com-mon symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, and weakness.
Among the first signs and symptoms of the disease in men are often from organ damage. They include joint pain, diabetes mellitus, loss of sex drive or libido, impotence, and heart failure.
Although hereditary hemochromatosis is present at birth, most people don’t experience signs and symptoms until later in life — usually between the ages of 50 and 60 in men and after age 60 in women. Women are more likely to develop symptoms after menopause, when they no longer lose iron with menstruation and pregnancy.
Normally, iron plays an essential role in several body functions, including helping in the formation of blood. A peptide hormone called hepcidin, secreted by the liver, plays a key role in the body’s use of iron. It controls how much iron is absorbed by the intestines, how iron is used in various body processes and how it’s stored in various organs.
But in hemochromatosis, the normal role of hepcidin is disrupted and your body absorbs more iron that it needs. This excess iron is stored in the tissues of major organs, especially your liver.
And too much iron is toxic to your body. Over a period of years, the stored iron can severely damage many organs, lea-ding to organ failure and chronic di-seases such as cirrhosis, diabetes mel-litus and heart failure.
Though many people have faulty genes that cause hemo-chromatosis, only about 10 percent of them have iron overload to the degree that causes tissue and organ damage.
Then you may reduce your risk of complications from hemochromatosis if you:
> Avoid iron supple-ments and multivitamins containing iron. These can increase your iron levels even more.
> Avoid vitamin C supplements, especially with food. Vitamin C increases absorption of iron. Try to drink vitamin C-rich juices, such as orange juice, between meals.
> Avoid alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk of liver damage. If you have liver disease and hereditary hemochromatosis, avoid alcohol completely.
> Avoid eating raw shellfish. People with hereditary hemochromatosis are susceptible to infections, especially those caused by certain bacteria in raw shellfish.
HEALTHWATCHING: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9