When we do a genetic and blood analysis we often see indicators that hemochromatosis may be an issue. Hemochromatosis is a fancy way of saying that the body tends to hold on to iron too efficiently. As with any genetic test, you will have to correlate the genetic tendency with the actual clinical presentation. If a person shows this particular genetic tendency, it is relatively easy to see what is happening with a routine blood test. Just make sure the blood test includes both a serum iron and ferritin. Many tests that cross our desks only show serum iron therefore missing a key indicator.
Iron overload or hemochromatosis is a serious problem and can contribute to many common symptoms and some important diseases. Even mild cases of excess iron increases the risk for early-onset Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis and can accelerate Alzheimer’s, Some other examples of reported problems with increased iron levels are as follows:
- chronic fatigue
- joint pain
- abdominal pain
- liver disease (cirrhosis, liver cancer)
- diabetes mellitus
- irregular heart rhythm
- heart attack or heart failure
- skin color changes (bronze, ashen-gray green)
- loss of period
- loss of interest in sex
- hair loss
- enlarged liver or spleen
- adrenal function problems
- early onset neurodegenerative disease
- elevated blood sugar
- elevated liver enzymes
- metabolic syndrome
Some of the key genes that help control iron balance have been identified so it is getting easier to see who might be a risk and should have their iron and ferritin levels monitored more closely.
To clarify a few terms associated with iron:
Serum iron- lab test for iron found in the blood bound to transferrin
Transferrin- a blood glycoprotein that binds iron for transport- less than .1% of the body’s iron is bound to transferrin but its role is critical as you might guess
Ferritin- a protein found in almost all living organisms and binds to iron inside the cell as opposed to transferrin that is in the serum
So you have had a blood test and found an increase in your serum iron or ferritin. What should you do? Which approach or approaches you use to manage iron overload will depend on how high your levels are. Some may need medical intervention. The basic advice here is to do what you have to do to get your iron levels back into a healthy range as quickly as possible. Let’s explore a few options for lowering iron levels:
If you donate blood, that can lower your serum iron by about 30 points and you will feel better right away. This great iron lowering effect might only last a few weeks as your body goes to work to restore those high iron levels as fast as possible.
Some doctors use IV treatments with EDTA which can be very effective and can also help clear your arteries of plaques. Be ready to spend time and money but if your case is bad enough it can be worth it. Some other drugs have been approved for iron management but I won’t discuss them here.
One approach that seems to be working well is using a simple iron chelator called IP6. IP6 is inositol hexaphosphate. Inositols are found in many foods but we are particularly interested in this particular form that effectively binds to metals like uranium and iron. Yes, you probably have some uranium in your body as it is a naturally occurring element. Excess uranium can also be toxic as you would expect but that is topic for some other day.
I can give you some basic IP6 guidelines here but you have to promise that you will use blood tests to ensure that you are on the right track. That is the only way to tell.
If you have a modest iron or ferritin increase like maybe 30 points high you can try two IP6 before breakfast, that is on an empty stomach with about 8 oz of water two times per week, for example Mondays and Fridays for about 6 weeks and then retest.
If your serum iron is 50 points high or your ferritin is double what it should be, you might be looking at two or three capsules three times per week.
Why not use it every day? IP6 will also be pulling some of the minerals out that may not be that high like calcium or copper. With that in mind, it would be a good idea for anyone on an IP6 regimen to take a good multi mineral that doesn’t provide iron.
We recommend Pure Encapsulations IP6 for regulating or lowering iron levels. This provides 500 mg of nothing but IP6 so is the right dose for the suggestions listed above. A good multi-mineral is DaVinci Multi-Mineral Complex. I would take one or two capsules at night time on the same days you take the IP6. If you get some leg or foot cramps, you can add some Progressive Labs Calcium Lactate according to your needs.