If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and hemochromatosis, it’s important to know that excess iron is very inflammatory. Consistently high iron levels can be due to a genetic condition called hemochromatosis, in which the body absorbs too much iron.
Hemochromatosis is relatively common, affecting about a million people in the U.S. Symptoms may include joint pain, fatigue, heart flutters, and abdominal pain. If untreated, hemochromatosis raises the risk of diabetes, arthritis, liver inflammation (cirrhosis), sexual dysfunction. It will also make it difficult to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Hemochromatosis is also linked with psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, nervous tics, and OCD. Iron accumulation in the basal ganglia of the brain has been shown to impact neurological functioning and can lead to movement disorders and dementia.
Hemochromatosis typically goes undiagnosed because symptoms are so indistinct. You can screen for it with a series of three blood tests known as the Iron Panel. It may be useful to rule out hemochromatosis if you are having difficulty managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid and your comprehensive blood panel indicated elevated iron levels.
If you have hemochromatosis you can address it through phlebotomy, or periodically having your blood drawn. This helps normalize iron levels, which will reduce inflammation and help you better manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
You can also reduce the effects of hemochromatosis on Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism by avoiding certain foods and supplements, while opting for others.
What to avoid when you have hemochromatosis
Supplements or multivitamins that contain iron. Everyone should be cautious of supplements with iron. It’s best to test your iron levels before taking them.
Vitamin C supplements and orange juice. Vitamin C increases iron absorption. However, it is generally ok to eat foods that contain vitamin C.
Alcohol. Alcohol compromises liver function, the organ most vulnerable to too much iron.
Shellfish and raw fish. They may contain infectious bacteria that can be fatal to people with hemochromatosis.
Red meat. Red meat contains a form of iron that the body absorbs most easily.
Sugar. Sugar increases iron absorption.
Following this steps may help you create a more successful protocol to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
What to increase when you have hemochromatosis
There are two types of foods those with hemochromatosis should eat plenty of: Foods that inhibit iron absorption and foods that have iron in a form difficult to absorb.
Foods that inhibit iron absorption:
- Green or black tea
- Raw kale
- Foods rich in calcium, magnesium, polyphenols, tannins, phytates and/or oxalates.
(Note: If you have Hashimoto’s, you may be sensitive to some of these foods and should avoid them.)
Foods that contain iron in a form difficult to absorb:
- Nearly all vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans are in this category. Many of them contain oxalates as well, which reduce iron absorption.
If you are going to occasionally consume some foods that have easily absorbed iron, such as meat or sweets, combine them with foods that block iron absorption.
A hemochromatosis diet doesn’t have to be extremely strict. Your lab tests will help you keep tabs on how strict you need to be.
Ask my office for more information on Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.