Every once in awhile someone sends us a remedy that is so unusual that it stops us cold. Such was the case when Ken D. contacted us about his dietary solution to a very serious condition called hemochromatosis. In this genetic disorder, iron accumulates in the body and can cause serious damage to the liver, heart, pancreas and joints. People can develop cirrhosis, diabetes, heart enlargement and arthritis. The usual treatment for this condition is regular removal of blood. The reference to a barber’s pole below refers to the historical function of barbers as professionals who did surgery and bloodletting.

“Hemochromatosis runs in my family. We all find it incredibly amusing that the single best known treatment “modern” medicine has to offer is bloodletting.
“When headed to the lab for a phlebotomy session, I would always get a chuckle when the mental image of a barber’s pole popped into my head. I mentioned my condition to a chemist friend of mine, and he told me I should eat cabbage. Huh?
“His explanation was simple: it would help to chelate the iron in my tissues. The long and short of it is that my ferritin levels dropped so significantly once I took his advice that my primary care physician ordered a second test to confirm the results, thinking it must have been a lab error. By the time those numbers came back, they had dropped even more.
“I can’t say it will do the same for anyone else, but if you are willing to swap cole slaw for fries at lunch for a few months (which was all I did) they can find out for themselves.
“Wild, right?”
Ken D.

We checked the medical literature to see whether this connection between cabbage and iron levels in the blood had been documented. We could find no research. We welcome others to try this experiment and let us know how it works.
Joe & Terry
The People’s Pharmacy

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  1. Sara

    For anyone who doesn’t have health insurance or can’t afford to see a doctor… one way to check for hemochromatosis and avoid the cost of a doctor visit/lab tests is to go to the local blood bank and donate blood. Just tell them you’re there to donate blood and you’d also like to know if your iron is too high. They have to check iron for everyone before the blood donation (can’t take blood from someone who is low on iron) so there is no extra work for them and they love/need blood so they’ll be grateful for your donation. They will check your iron, and you’ll donate blood (takes less than an hour for most people). Before you donate they’ll usually prick your finger or draw some blood from a vein and do a quick test which will show high/low iron and then you can act accordingly – if iron is low they won’t allow you to donate, if iron is high you’ll donate and then either go see a doctor or continue to donate and change your diet. This isn’t as good as a full work up by a physician but if you don’t have the money this is better than nothing.

    Also, if you do have high iron or suspect you might, but can’t afford treatment….treatment is blood donation at frequent intervals *but* you have to pay for the blood donation and the blood bank has to throw away the blood…no one wins *but* if your iron is dangerously high you need to pay for the donations and get it down quickly. However, if you have high iron that isn’t crazy high just go donate blood every 60 days and reduce dietary iron intake (decrease meat and increase eggs and green tea). Again, not as good a full medical work up but this is the “poor mans treatment” and it’ll be better than doing nothing…but if you can afford medical treatment you should not put your health at risk. Iron overload can do a lot of damage even before it kills.

    Hope this helps someone.

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