Hemochromatosis is a fairly common and insidious metabolic genetic disorder, one that often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This genetic anomaly is associated with the consumption of high-protein animal foods such as beef and steak, which contain high concentrations of the most bioavailable form of iron, heme iron, by individuals who absorb too much iron intracellularly. The most prevalent type of hemochromatosis runs in families and is passed on to offspring by a single parent, i.e. heterozygous single nucleotide polymorphism, in scientific nomenclature. This is also known as hereditary or primary hemochromatosis. Men are more likely than women to have too much iron built up in their body because women tend to get rid of extra iron via blood loss during menstruation and pregnancy.
Symptoms of hemochromatosis often do not appear until a person is age 40 or older, by which point they may already have sustained significant organ damage, particularly to the liver. This is because extra iron builds up slowly throughout a person’s life and symptoms appear only after a dangerous amount of extra iron has built up.
The early symptoms are somewhat vague and subtle, so this disease is sometimes mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms may include:
- Pain in the joints.
- Weight loss.
- Urinating more often
If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms and suspect that you may be suffering from hemochromatosis, make sure to ask your doctor to check your iron levels in your next bloodwork, as well as ferritin and TIBC (Total Iron Binding Capacity). Just keep in mind that the majority of us are far more likely to be low on iron than vice versa, especially vegetarians and vegans. So enjoy your grass-fed beef, in moderation!