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Iron: Friend and Foe

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An essential for most of us, iron is no friend if you suffer from hemochromatosis from overload disease.</SPAN></P> Iron is an essential nutrient found in many foods.

An essential for most of us, iron is no friend if you suffer from hemochromatosis from overload disease.

Iron is an essential nutrient found in many foods. The largest amounts are found greatest amount is found in red meat, spinach, molasses, tofu and iron-fortified bread, and cereal. In the body, iron becomes part of hemoglobin, a molecule in the blood that transports oxygen from the lungs to all body tissues.

Healthy people usually absorb about 10 percent of the iron contained in the food they eat to meet the body's needs. Iron deficiency anemia, which causes fatigue, dizziness, and increased heart rate, affects about 20 percent of all premenopausal women.

Iron supplements are Taking Iron is so popular and available in our culture that many take it for fatigue, feeling run down, depression, or simplyjust as a "tonic,", even though they are unaware of their iron levels. This is a potentially dangerous habit, especially if you are one of the many that suffer from hemochromatosis: iron overload disease.

Genetic Disorder

Hemochromatosis is an inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. A person who inherits the defective gene from both parents may develop hemochromatosis. A person who inherits the defective gene from only one parent is a carrier for the disease but usually does not develop it.

Hemochromatosis most often affects Caucasians of Northern European descent. About 1 one in 250 - to 300 Canadians is at risk of developing the full-blown disease and aboutbetween I think one in eight 1 in 8 is fine!1 in 7 and 1 in 9 individuals is a carrier.

Joint pain is the most common complaint of people with hemochromatosis. Other common symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of sex drive, and heart problems. Symptoms tend to occur in men between the ages of 30 and 50 and in women over age 50.

However, many people have no symptoms when they are diagnosed. If the disease is not detected early and treated, iron may accumulate in body tissues and may eventually lead to more serious problems such as arthritis, liver disease, cancer, diabetes, heart abnormalities, impotence, hair loss, bronze skin pigmentation, headaches, and thyroid deficiency. Blood tests can determine whether the amount of iron stored in the body is too high.

Hemochromatosis is often undiagnosed and untreated. Blood tests can determine whether the amount of iron stored in the body is too high.

Treatment

Treatment is simple. The first step is to rid the body of excess iron. Thise process is called phlebotomy, which means removing blood. Depending on how severe the iron overload is, a pint of blood will be taken once or twice a week for several months to a year. Once iron levels return to normal, maintenance blood removal is usually required.

People with hemochromatosis should not take iron supplements. Those who have liver damage should not drink alcoholic beverages because they may further damage the liver. Calcium supplements, tea, and phytic acid, as like found in IP6, are all inhibitors of iron absorption and can be used in conjunction with phlebotomy. Patients should also keep Vitamin C intake low becauseas this nutrient enhances iron absorption.

Although treatment cannot cure the conditions associated with established hemochromatosis, it will relieve help most of them.

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