First things first – you need a working definition:
Is a genetic disorder wherein the body of the person affected holds onto iron consumed resulting in iron overload. Iron accumulates in the joints and organs and will most certainly cause death if allowed to do so. Treatment is frequent (usually weekly) therapeutic phlebotomy (blood draining) until iron levels (ferritin) are normal, and then an ongoing maintenance and monitoring schedule for life. In some ways it is a blessing in disguise because hemochromatosis patients in maintenance can become regular blood donors keeping themselves healthy while saving the lives of others. A silverlining to be certain.
However, I can assure you from experience that the initial regime is NOT pleasant. I have scar tissue on my arm from the frequent phlebotomies that makes me look like somewhat of a junkie. Appearance aside, there are other unpleasant side effects to having such frequent blood drains, the least of which is the inconvenience. Unless you enjoy needles in your arm – and this is a big needle (my sister calls it a pipe), you can agree that frequent phlebotomies are something to avoid if you can.
My doctor told me there was no other way. The only way to lower the iron stores in your blood is to remove the blood. It is truly not possible to eat a low iron diet although most of us do try to limit our intake of iron and we usually drink tea or coffee with our meals to interfere with iron absorption.
A Little Background Info
A dear friend of mine from a small town in Michigan sent me a sample of Diatamaceous Earth, known simply as DE, to treat a bug infestation of a houseplant. When I failed to use it and the plant died, she encouraged me to eat it myself claiming it has numerous health benefits. I was certainly skeptical of eating the product that was sent to me to kill bugs, but after I did some research on it, I decided to give it a try… it is worth noting that this stuff sat in my cupboard for 2 years before I finally took a spoonful!
During my trial period, I can’t say that I actually noticed any improvement in my overall health. I’m not saying that I didn’t experience better health, just that I didn’t feel it. My ferritin had been below 50, and I had become a regular blood donor. Either just prior to just after donating blood I get a blood test to measure my level.
On February 14, before I started taking DE, and after a blood donation, my ferritin was 44. Acceptable. I was scheduled for another donation 56 days later on March 28, but I wasn’t able to make it to my appointment. I was worried that my ferritin would be soaring and that I may require a therapeutic phlebotomy in addition to a blood donation. I went for a blood test to measure my ferritin in mid April. I had now been consuming DE daily for about 3 weeks. This is where things got interesting…
3 Weeks on DE and No Blood Donation…
I was shocked (and a little frightened) when I learned that my ferritin had dropped 6 points to 38 – without having shed any blood!
Where Did The Iron in My Blood Go?
My doctor had no explanation. An ultrasound and other tests did not reveal any internal bleeding – which was my (and my doctor’s) fear. I went online and started searching for an explanation. What I found was that some people are using DE for chelation purposes – to remove heavy metals, such as mercury, from the body. If it can remove mercury why not iron? DE was the only thing that I had added to my routine. I decided to stay off the DE for a month and retest. If my ferritin went up, that should be an indication that it was likely the DE that brought it down.
And the Result is in…
On May 23, I had my ferritin tested and it had gone back up to 48. Once again, my body is holding onto iron. Now, if I was bleeding internally, or otherwise, there is no way that my ferritin would go up by such a large amount in one month.
I am now back on DE – day 2. In 3 weeks I will retest and see if my iron drops again and will report the results here.
If you or someone you know has hemochromatosis, try it or share this post with them!
Diatamaceous Earth has many other health benefits
It addresses issues by removing toxins from the body. Here is a partial list of issues addressed by eating DE:
Viruses (including poliovirus)
Pesticide and drug residues
Heavy metals (including methyl mercury)
Proteinaceous toxins produced by some intestinal infections
While dealing with the above toxins, DE will NOT harm the beneficial bacteria (flora) in the gut. I am no chemist, but the reason that it leaves the healthy stuff alone has to do with negative and positive charge.
It is also reported to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. My blood pressure was quite high. It is now in the normal range, but I cannot say for 100% that it is due to taking DE. I am also taking Ubiquinol – which I believe is having a positive impact on my BP… more on that in another post!