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Diet for Hemochromatosis

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD ; Updated July 27, 2017

Not getting enough iron in the diet is more common than getting too much. But if you have hemochromatosis, you need to be careful about the amount of iron in your diet. Consult your doctor to discuss your diet for hemochromatosis.

Too Much Iron and Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis is a condition in which there is too much iron in your blood. Your body needs iron to help carry oxygen to all the cells in your body. But if you have primary hemochromatosis, your body absorbs too much iron from the food you eat, causing elevated levels. While too many blood transfusions can also lead to hemochromatosis, primary hemochromatosis is the most common cause of iron overload. No matter what the cause, high levels of iron in the blood can damage organs in your body, including your liver and heart.

Eat Fewer Iron-Rich Foods

People with primary hemochromatosis absorb four times more iron from food than the average person, according to the Iron Disorders Institute. To help prevent excessive iron in the blood, you need to limit your intake of foods high in iron. Primarily, that means red meat such as beef, pork, venison and lamb and organ meats such as liver. These types of foods contain heme iron, which is an easily absorbed form of iron.

The National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Kidney Diseases suggests a moderate intake of these meats, which is no more than 3 ounces a day.

Foods to Eat More Of

Fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. While some of the foods found in these food groups contain iron, the iron is nonheme iron, which your body does not absorb as well as heme iron . Additionally, the fiber in whole grains, beans and nuts inhibits your absorption of the nonheme iron.

Foods to Limit Iron Absorption

In addition to fiber, there are other substances in food that help limit your body's ability to absorb iron. Including these types of foods in your diet may also be helpful when trying to reduce iron in your blood. Oxalate is a substance found in high amounts in a variety of foods including spinach, sweet potatoes, beets, dried figs and lentils that inhibits iron absorption. The tannins in tea and coffee also prevent iron absorption.

Additional Tips

If you have hemochromatosis, you need to be careful about dietary supplements. Do not take any supplements that contain iron or vitamin C, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption. Consult your doctor before adding any vitamin or herbal supplement to your health regimen.

Sugar also increases your body's iron absorption, and it's recommended that you limit your intake of foods high in sugar, including sugary drinks such as soda.

If your blood iron levels are high, you should not eat raw shellfish, says the Iron Disorders Institute. Raw shellfish may contain a bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus that can be deadly to someone with elevated iron levels.

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