Management, Diet & Lifestyle

Management of Haemochromatosis

Treatment Involves Two Stages:

  1. Iron Unloading Stage: Involves weekly  venesections until your stored iron levels are in the normal range.
  2. Long Maintenance Phase: You need to maintain your Ferritin Level at 50 – 100ug/L to avoid levels increasing over time and to maintain your health . Your Iron levels will need to be checked 3 monthly and may require 3 – 4 venesections per year

Advice prior to venesection:

  1. Have a nutritious meal
  2. Drink plenty of water as it helps better flow of blood during the procedure and reduces the risk of fainting
  3. The procedure may be uncomfortable, but it is a safe simple procedure which is essential for your health.
  4. Procedure takes about 10 – 15 minutes and you will need to rest for 15 mins after treatment.
  5. Drink plenty of water after procedure and avoid heavy physical activity for 24 hours


Inform nurse if you are aware of any of the following:

  • If you are taking any anti – coagulants
  • If you are taking any medication for blood pressure
  • If you have previously fainted or felt unwell after a blood test or venesection
  • If you are frightened by needles
  • If you have a serious heart condition
  • If any of the above apply to you your medical team may need to take precautions to ensure that the venesections are carried out safely

Types of Iron

Everyone with HH absorbs more Iron that they need and have no way of getting rid of the excess iron. We consume two types of iron from the diet:

The amount of iron absorbed depends on whether it  is:‘Non – Haem,’  which is found in plants and vegetables (not easily absorbed)

Haem iron is found in meat, fish and poultry.  It is relatively well absorbed compared with non-haem iron.

Diet & Lifestyle

  • You should eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
  • Avoid vitamin supplements or tonics containing iron
  • Avoid breakfast cereals and bread fortified with iron
  • Limit your intake of red meat and offal ( organs such as liver, heart, kidneys etc) high iron level
  • Avoid Vitamin C (in pill form) around meal times, increases the absorption of Non – Haem Iron. Vitamin C from fruit and vegetables is fine.
  • ‘Haem’ is found in red meat, fish and poultry, (easily absorbed)
  • Avoid raw shellfish as people with HH are susceptible to infections. Raw shellfish may occasionally be contaminated with bacteria which could cause a bacterial food poisoning. Cooking at a high heat destroys the bacteria.
  • Some foods and drinks can inhibit iron absorption, eg calcium containing foods, tea and coffee ( contain tannin). Also wholegrain cereals, beans & pulses.
  • Avoid sugary foods as they enhance iron absorption
  • Any alcohol consumed can increase liver problems and increase iron absorption
  • Patients with elevated liver enzymes, liver damage and cirrhosis  should avoid alcohol
  • When having weekly venesections extra Vitamin B12 and folate, either in your diet or as a supplement, can be very helpful.