Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

The Iron Battle

July 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder causing a large overload of iron in the blood, is not commonly tested for by doctors when a patient’s health is failing. This excess of iron in the blood can lead to damage of the joints, organ failure, neurodegenerative disease, and eventually death.


Most adults have an excess of iron in their systems. However, hemochromatosis prohibits your body from properly processing the iron, which brings it to excessive and dangerously high levels.

Iron overload, however, is easy to treat. If diagnosed with hemochromatosis, regular blood donations in addition to the avoidance of iron supplements and foods that are high in iron will help to maintain the disease.

This is a genetic disease, so people who have hemochromatosis in their families should be on the lookout for signs of the disease.

How Much Iron is Too Much?

A blood test, called the serum ferritin test, determines the level of iron in blood. This test should be done yearly, as having high levels of iron is dangerous and leads to further health complication.

The ideal level of serum ferritin is in the range of 20 to 80 ng/ml, with anything higher being considered dangerous. It is best to have levels between 40 and 60 ng/ml. However, very few adults, excluding menstruating women, fall within this range.

Since hemochromatosis prevents the body from ridding itself of iron, it is important to do this manually by giving blood is your iron levels are too high. Otherwise, they will continue to increase on their own. If ferritin levels go over 200 ng/ml, an aggressive phlebotomy schedule will be needed for treatment.

Causes of Iron Buildup

Aside from the genetic factor, there are chemical reactions that happen within the body that can create an excess of iron. In some cases, the iron in people’s blood turns into free radicals, rather than water, when it is processed. These are destructive to the body and deteriorate cell membranes and mitochondrial DNA.

Due to the production of free radicals, iron overload speeds up every major disease. This is how health issues may be misdiagnosed, such as liver and heart disease, without looking at the core of the problem, which may be iron overload.

It is vital to monitor iron levels so they do not come to a dangerous level. It is important to note that you do not need to be diagnosed with hemochromatosis to be negatively affected by iron.


A diet consisting of too many carbohydrates can also lead to high iron levels. Lower your intake of carbohydrates and increase your healthy fat and omega-3 consumption. These help reduce the production of free radicals.

Get regular blood tests to screen for iron levels, especially if you are an adult male or adult non-menstruating woman.

Combining foods that are rich in vitamin C with foods containing iron increases the absorption of iron. These food combinations should be avoided, while alternatively, calcium binds to iron and limits absorption.

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Frank Salvatore