Excessive iron intake is usually linked to a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis, or iron storage disease. To avoid excess iron building up in body tissue, watch for symptoms of hemochromatosis. If diagnosed with it, avoid certain foods and dietary supplements.
- Watch for symptoms
Most people have little risk from overloads of dietary iron. However, those with hemochromatosis, over many years, build up too much iron in organs such as the heart and liver. If you have relatives who have had hemochromatosis or are of northern European ancestry, you are especially prone to this disorder. Symptoms usually begin to show in middle age. Watch for weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and stomach and joint pain.
- Get a diagnosis
If you suspect you might have hemochromatosis, inform your doctor and ask for a diagnosis. Two special blood tests that are not normally administered during routine medical exams are necessary. A fast is required before one of the tests.
- Avoid certain foods and supplements
If you are diagnosed with hemochromatosis, avoid iron pills or multivitamins with iron. Avoid vitamin C tablets of more than 500 milligrams. Avoid raw fish and shellfish, as they contain bacteria harmful to those with hemochromatosis. Abstain from or limit alcohol intake.
- Have therapeutic phlebotomies
When it is necessary to reduce iron levels, the usual treatment is blood removal. Your doctor can periodically takes blood from your arm to prevent organ damage. Women often get the disease later on in life because menstruation naturally removes blood from the body.