Natural Therapy for
Hemochromatosis (or haemochromatosis) is a potentially fatal iron storage disease with excessive iron deposits, especially in the liver. It is one of the multitudes of medically incurable diseases. The only useful treatment is frequent bloodletting to reduce the excess of iron. However, frequently patients die anyway, mainly due to liver degeneration.
I like to present the following case history to show that proper natural therapy can be effective when there is no hope with conventional medical procedures. While medical treatment generally tries to find and neutralise a specific disease-causing agent, natural therapy in addition to specific treatments tries to improve the overall health of the patient and so can be successful with a much wider range of diseases.
Hemochromatosis is generally thought to be a genetic defect. It usually occurs in males and starts between the ages of 30 and 50. Iron is deposited in the 3-valence form as ferritin or hemosiderin. Serum ferritin levels reflect tissue levels and are greatly increased. The diagnosis is confirmed by a liver biopsy.
My patient was a 51-year-old male. He had collapsed at work 3 years earlier. His main symptoms were dizziness, tachycardia, profuse sweating, difficulty breathing and extreme weakness. He was discharged from an Intensive Care Unit without diagnosis and his weight loss and weakness continued. The diagnosis of hemochromatosis was made 15 months later by liver biopsy and a serum ferritin level of 1585 ng/ml, normal for males is 30-400ng/ ml.
One litre of blood was taken initially fortnightly and later monthly by venesection and that brought the ferritin level down to a low point of 440 ng/ml. During all this time the patient was very weak, and as an additional complication a specialist diagnosed Meniere's disease. Finally, his doctor told him that the therapy did not work, and he had about five weeks to live. At this time, in December of 1990, three years after his collapse, and 20 months after his diagnoses of hemochromatosis, he stopped having venesections and started natural therapy.
I was not aware of any successful treatment reports in the literature. Therefore, I started the patient on a vegetarian raw food diet with the main emphasis on sprouted seeds, especially sprouted mung beans, self-made soy milk yoghurt using acidophilus and bifido cultures, as well as freshly pressed juices of vegetables, wheat-grass and rye-grass (a grass seed, not the cereal rye seed). All the common food allergens, especially wheat, yeast and cows' milk products, initially also eggs and the other gluten grains (barley, oats and rye) were strictly avoided.
I recommend intestinal sanitation, that is re-establishing a normal, healthy intestinal flora, for everyone but it seemed to be of special importance in this case as pathologically increased iron absorption may be due to a damaged intestinal wall. This is also a main cause of food allergy. According to my understanding, medical antibiotic therapy is the main cause of an unhealthy intestinal flora and, with this, of damage to the intestinal wall.
Chemicals, be they in the form of drugs or food contaminants, as well as gluten are also known to cause or aggravate intestinal damage. Therefore, my patient used only unsprayed or organically grown food.
The initial supplements were B complex, sublingual vitamin B12, Kyolic garlic, 1 tsp. of lecithin granules per meal, the trace minerals zinc, copper and manganese, and high levels of antioxidants: 20 g of vitamin C, 1000 iu of natural vitamin E and 10,000 iu of vitamin A, all in divided doses. In order to minimize any increased iron absorption due to ascorbate, this was initially taken with water or fruit well before meals.
Ascorbic acid caused gastric problem, therefore sodium ascorbate was used instead. One tablespoonful of cod liver oil emulsified with lecithin and juice was taken orally in addition to skin rubs with cod liver oil to overcome fat malabsorption problems (now I would recommend krill oil and astaxanthin instead). Multivitamins were avoided due to their iron content. It is now known that green tea and 300 mg of calcium with meals reduce iron absorption.
Of special interest in this case is vitamin C. The medical literature states that vitamin C supplementation should be avoided with iron overload diseases. Tissue damage due to peroxidation of membrane lipids has been detected after low-dose vitamin C supplementation.
However, ferric iron is known to destroy vitamin C and iron overload patients are clearly severely deficient in vitamin C and other antioxidants. This may well be the main reason for their susceptibility to liver cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I suspected that the cell membrane damage was not due to too much but too little Vitamin C.
A small amount of vitamin C supplementation would liberate some iron from its stores but it would be combined with oxidised vitamin C and present as ferric dehydroascorbate, which then causes the peroxidative membrane damage. With sufficiently high antioxidant, levels, on the other hand, iron would be liberated as beneficial ferro-ascorbate.
It is well known that iron can only be liberated from ferritin stores if it is temporarily reduced to the 2-valence state. With a severe antioxidant deficiency this reduction may not be possible. Most affected is the liver. Every day about 25 mg of iron arrive here from the breakdown of old red blood cells in the spleen. Because, of its very high ferritin stores, the diseased liver is likely to be more antioxidant deficient than other organs. Therefore, the body would pick up its iron needs to form new blood cells mainly from the intestines which then leads to further overload.
With the start of natural therapy the patient began to feel well for the first time in three years with rapidly increasing strength and disappearance of all signs of Meniere's disease. The symptoms of Meniere's disease are progressive deafness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, headache and nausea.
The formerly below normal red blood cell count became normal, haemoglobin improved to the middle of the normal range, and after twenty days the ferritin level was 393ng/ml, within the normal range for the first time since diagnosis.
After this, the diet was relaxed to include also cooked and flesh foods. Vitamin C intake was reduced to 5 g per day and vitamin E to 500 mg. Blood tests initially every six months and later yearly showed normal ferritin levels. All the other individuals with hemochromatosis diagnosed at the same time as my patient and treated in the conventional way have died in the meantime of various liver diseases.
One recent episode confirms the crucial importance of vitamin C. After 6 months on the Zone Therapy with a high intake of animal protein, he gradually deteriorated and experienced weakness and abdominal problems. A blood test revealed an elevated ferritin reading of 429 ng/ml. Returning to a diet low in animal protein, and doubling the daily amount of sodium ascorbate from 5 g to 10 g, reduced the ferritin level to 300 ng/l in about 6 weeks, again within the normal range.
There were two other times when the ferritin level temporarily went above 400 ng/l, these were associated with, and most likely triggered by periods of emotional stress. Any kind of stress requires increased amounts of vitamin C, and less is available to protect the liver from oxidative stress due to ferritin. Therefore, I now recommend for high-risk individuals to routinely take 10 g of sodium ascorbate in divided doses before meals, and to double this amount in times of stress, with another dose of ascorbate at bedtime.
By the way, DNA tests confirmed that the hemochromatosis of my patient was genetic. This confirms once again what natural therapists know all along, namely that the expression of such disease-related genes is a function of environmental factors in general and the internal body condition in particular. This kind of genes do not cause diseases, they only make us more susceptible. Another natural therapist had a similar good result with a hemochromatosis patient.
UPDATE December 2012
The hemochromatosis patient mentioned in this article did not have any further hemochromatosis problems for more than 20 years, I did not maintain contact with others who seem to have been helped. According to my present understanding the number one issue is to use lots of all kinds of antioxidants (including turmeric) with as much spaced out sodium ascorbate as possible without getting bowel tolerance problems. It does not matter if taken with meals or at other times, e.g. 2 to 3 grams 5 or 6x daily.
Natural food is always good but does not make much direct difference for hemochromatosis. More important are intestinal sanitation, anti-inflammatory remedies and antimicrobial therapy as in The Ultimate Cleanse, and especially antifungal therapy as in OVERCOMING CANDIDA. The most important general remedy is probably DMSO, see MSM and DMSO, also helpful is COPPER SALICYLATE. An additional possibility is the use of natural chelating agents. I am now a health writer and have not worked with patients for many years. Please do not try to contact me in this matter as I do not have any additional information. Also see Antioxidants for Haemochromatosis.