Ferritin and Milk Thistle

Ferritin and Milk Thistle

About 18 months ago, Peggy urged me to send the extra $100 to my DNA lab to find out if I was positive for genetic hemochromatosis (GH), as she was. Our sister Connie discovered she was also positive for heterogeneous GH and briefly got on the liver transplant list. Too late — she passed away on August 15, 2020. Peggy and I got serious about mitigating the effects of this hereditary mutation. Neither of us had a diagnosis of GH and we learned that the only treatment was phlebotomy.

Peggy and I promptly signed up to donate blood and did so together, racing each other to see who could fill the pint bag first. I always won, and the phlobotomists at the blood center told me it was because I was better hydrated, but I have been recently told by a doctor that my blood is “runny” and that I bleed more than expected for simple needle-prick procedures. It may be because of the 18 months of Milk Thistle I have consumed in an effort to lower my Ferritin, a measure of the amount of iron stored in the liver.

In early March 2020, shortly after Peggy and I donated blood for the first time in many years, I got my first Ferritin test. My result was 150, the highest one could get without it being flagged. I had just squeaked by. If I had received a diagnosis of GH I would have to PAY to donate blood! I continued to donate blood as often as they would let me and added Milk Thistle to my daily supplements. I also employed the following techniques to lower Ferritin:

  • aerobic exercise
  • more beans and whole grains like brown rice cooked with turmeric
  • cut out supplemental vitamin C, shellfish, uncooked fish
  • limit alcohol, red meat, and cooking in iron pots

A few days after the first Ferritin test, we were locked down for Covid-19. I spent the next year feeling pretty crummy and took the test again in July 2021. My reading PLUNGED from 150 to 26!

That was too big of a drop. I think it would be smarter to be in the green zone above. I have cut out Milk Thistle and restored vitamin C and meat. I think the Milk Thistle may be a powerful, ayurvedic-type herb that interferes with iron uptake in the liver, lowers blood sugar and can interfere with estrogen levels. I did NOT experience it as a feel-good overall tonic. I am using my cast-iron pans again. I hope to feel more energetic and creative soon.

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