The iron reduction project

I collected my blood results and sure enough, two of the readings considered significant for iron overload are outside the 'normal' range (transferrin and iron saturation).  Today I rang the medical centre to request an appointment with a doctor with some experience with haemochromatosis.  If I'm going to have regular phlebotomy, I would like to be under the care of someone able to interpret the blood results and with a clear picture of what needs to happen and how frequently.  Even in the days of bloodletting with leeches, I'm guessing people preferred to have some guiding expertise and supervision for the process. 

It wasn't possible for the nurse to be sure of who had the requisite knowledge and experience, but I now have an appointment in five weeks' time with the doctor with the best reputation at the practice.  The blood bank doesn't visit Wetville in winter as the risks of having a full van of blood and not being able to get it back over the hill to the blood bank are too high.

In the meantime, I have launched my own project to see what I can do all by myself.  Google has been my constant companion in this quest, turning up quite a lot of repetition, some implausible stuff from wacky sites and some very interesting articles.  This is a potted and incomprehensive summary of the things I found.

Green tea.  Quite a few articles recommending green tea for iron chelating benefits.  As a useful bonus, green tea is also beneficial against rheumatoid arthritis.  Some scientific research to support it.  As I get more familiar with the terms, my confidence at deciphering the gist of scholarly scientific articles is growing.  This afternoon I had a look at green tea capsules at the health shop.  Ouch.  $60 for a bottle of 30 capsules (though it is available online for $44, I later discovered).  On the back, it claims that two tablets contain the equivalent catechins to three cups of green tea.  The bottle recommended two capsules per time.  That is very expensive compared to just drinking the tea.  The capsules stayed on the shop shelf and I've been drinking green tea (which we already owned) this evening.

I first picked up a link between turmeric and iron chelation on Off the Food Grid.  I've had turmeric enthusiasms before, when I was focused on reducing inflammation and getting the rid of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.   I never ended up eating as much as I'd planned as the children quickly (and vocally) tired of all meals being yellow.  This scholarly article has given me the concrete information I wanted.  This afternoon, swayed by that very human desire to just get a product to help, I bought some turmeric capsules.  They weren't as expensive as the green tea capsules, but I am nevertheless thinking of moving back to food-based turmeric consumption. It is best consumed with fat, and somewhere in my google travels tonight I saw a recommendation of making a yoghurt dressing with turmeric.  That would allow me to add it to meals without subjecting everyone to yellow everything.

No booze
Not my favourite discovery, but it is in research findings all over the place.  I can't and won't promise never to drink, but I am at least aiming to reduce it.  I guess I'll be busy drinking green tea instead.

No discussion of this so far specifically for iron chelation, but plenty of information on its role in sweeping toxins from the body.  I already have some, leftover from the last phase of detoxing in pursuit of reduced inflammation in my joints.  So I've started taking that again.

The benefits of this are focused on heavier metals, and again I tried making coriander pesto in my last intensive anti-inflammation effort.  I really like the taste of coriander, but haven't had a lot of success growing a regular supply, and buying the small packets of herbs in the supermarket is expensive.  I expect I'll try this a bit but cost will stop me from making multiple acres of yummy pesto.

IP 6
Again, I first learnt about this substance from Off the Food Grid. It is a supplement of phytic acid.  It blocks the absorption of minerals like magnesium as well as iron, so I'm not keen at this stage.  I would want to understand more widely how it works before buying and swallowing it.

Milk Thistle
Some research indicates this is good for liver support, but I'm holding back on this following a scientific article on milk thistle exacerbating liver problems for a person with haemochromatosis.  I'm also holding back on a gut instinct.  Gut instincts may not be very scientific, but they have a useful place in my world, given how often later events prove me right in exercising caution based on gut instinct.

Red meat
The medical model perspective on diet and haemochromatosis is that it makes no difference.  I am totally unconvinced of this.  I've been speculating about the evidence for poorer health outcomes overall for red meats eaters compared to non-red meat eaters and wondering if the contribution to iron overload through red meat consumption is a key factor in the cancer rates for red meat eaters.  Like alcohol, it is unlikely I will give up red meat completely, but as Favourite Handyman isn't wild about red meat anyway, and the children don't pay the food bills, red meat consumption is declining already and will likely decline further.

Favourite Handyman is once more proving his handiness, this time in interpreting the periodic table for me, as I think about metals in the body and what 'heavy metals' mean compared to other metals. 


Deborah said…
I find it quite odd to think that bloodletting really does serve a genuine need. As do leeches, apparently! It turns out that they can be quite good for relieving swelling around a wound.

Hope you can get a treatment plan sorted out soon.
Sandra said…
Thanks Deborah.
Richard said…
I your health is "normal" red meat is probably the best source of most food the body needs. I reduced red meat and found not long after that I had a B12 deficiency. A woman doctor tested me when I complained of having a lot of nightmares!) (This is not necessarily caused by diet it is partly due to absorption). It has been consumed by humans for thousands of years and has no bad effects. Alcohol does. Iron overload will not be due to what you eat as such. But alcohol has a negative effect on many many things - it is a major cause of cancer.

In your case you need to get expert advice. You wont be able to master advanced biochemistry by yourself (well, you may be a genius for all I know!). But the internet and Wiki are brilliant in providing information and it is good you are studying it.

Mitochondria have fascinated me since I was teenager. They, as you probably know, are he "engine" rooms of the cells!

The problem is that the body is so hugely complex.

For you, with Fe2 etc overload, probably less red meat (fish instead and chicken is we have say steak twice a week* and fish on other days), and less alcohol will help. Tannin comes probably via tea but unless you have 100 cups a day it is probably all alright. If your BMI is good and you reduce or stop drinking your health will at least have a chance.

If you are unwell in any way drinking alcohol is like putting water into petrol. Alcohol is a strong poison.

*So red meat might not be good for those with "too much iron" but it is great for anyone who is "normal"...but of course one needs to balance it with some vegetables and fibre etc. I have natural bran every morning on wheatbix and some fruit tinned or fresh and coffee...and so on.

But get good medical advice and best of luck!

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