Monday, May 9, 2011


So now that I have hemochromatosis, my relationship with food is completely different. I've always loved food. LOVED. Now -- it scares me. Food is where I get the iron. The iron that won't go away. The iron that makes me sick...
Iron in food comes in two forms, heme and nonheme. Heme is the iron from meat, and that's the kind easily absorbed by the body. The only known substance that can alter heme absorption is calcium.
Nonheme iron is everything else we eat. Fruits, veggies, grains, supplements, fortifications, cookware...and this type of iron has to be changed in the body before it is absorbed. There are substances that can hinder absorption, and substances that help the body absorb more nonheme iron.
My job now is to figure out which foods are good for me to eat so I don't keep raising my iron level while trying to reduce it with phlebotomies. For example, cereal that has been fortified with iron = not for me. Vitamin C helps increase iron absorption, so no orange juice with breakfast. Yet I need Vitamin C, so I can drink orange juice between meals (and there's no iron to absorb).
Tea and coffee have tannins that inhibit iron absorption so those two drinks (tea especially) are my new friends.
No more cast iron skillets. At least until my iron levels are "normal" -- and iron is measured in what's called ferritin. My level when I started treatment was 1725. It should be under 100. I have a ways to go.
Raw oysters are out forever. One of the side effects of this disease is that Vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria found in oysters and some other shellfish, can be fatal to me. Even walking on the beach barefoot is risky until my iron level is normal.
It's going to be a learning curve. I can't wait until I love food again!


Mindy said...

Reading this is such an education for me. Especially as I have always suffered from iron-deficient anemia. So bad, in fact, throughout my pregnancy with Jojo, I had to give myself injections. I have never once considered that you would have "too much".

I'm wishing you tons of education, information and support as you undertake this journey to health!