The treatment options for haemochromatosis vary depending on the iron levels in your body. Haemochromatosis is primarily a genetic disorder where the gene is present at birth and symptoms occur later. Haemochromatosis can also be caused through different conditions or after excessive blood transfusions. Having haemochromatosis means the body absorbs too much iron and then stores this, particularly in the liver. Management of haemochromatosis is aimed at ensuring iron levels are controlled at a safe level to prevent organ (e.g. liver) damage. The two options of haemochromatosis management are Phlebotomy and dietary management and people will often need to do both. Firstly, Phlebotomy is a procedure where approximately 500mL of blood is removed from the body to remove excess iron. This is similar to donating blood and depedant on how high your levels of iron are will determine how often you require this procedure to occur. Secondary, dietary management can control your oral intake or iron and decrease iron absorption. Do not take iron supplements or vitamin supplements containing iron. Your diet should be low in iron rich foods particularly those containing haem iron (from animal sources): offal meats, red meats, oysters, shellfish and egg yolks. Do not consume Vitamin C with meals as this increases iron absorption. Your diet should be high in calcium (dairy foods), phytates (wholemeal cereals, flours, oats, bran) and oxalates (rhubarb) as these substances help to block iron absorption. Management is very individual and you should seek medical advice from your doctor for regular blood tests and consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian for dietary recommendations. Kimberley Davis www.goodnutritionforlife.com.au
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