It is possible for some people to have too much iron in their bodies due to excessive supplementation or the consumption of iron-rich foods. Hemochromatosis, however, is a hereditary genetic condition that causes excess iron to be stored in the body.

Hemochromatosis is a disorder that causes iron to build up in the liver, heart, pancreas, skin, joints, and pituitary gland. This is a toxic condition and harmful because it causes damage to the organs and tissues and can lead to the following conditions:

  • Joint pain
  • Liver damage
  • Liver cancer
  • Heart conditions
  • Diabetes

Other symptoms that people with hemochromatosis may experience include:

  • Bronzing of their skin
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Blood tests can easily confirm whether a person has high levels of iron, but genetic testing can verify whether the condition is hereditary or not. Variants in the HFE gene can indicate a higher risk for developing hemochromatosis. If close family members have been diagnosed with the disorder it is best for all other family members to get tested too. 

People with hemochromatosis should avoid supplement with iron and should not consume too many iron-rich foods.  They would also need to go for regular venesections or iron chelation therapy to remove some of their blood to maintain optimal iron levels.

It would also be important to do the following: 

  • Check your iron levels with a blood test annually
  • Avoid supplements that aid the absorption of iron such as vitamin C
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Have a liver biopsy to check for cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver due to long-term liver damage
  • Support your liver by eating a healthy diet
  • Support your immune system to prevent infections

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 29 June 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am