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Liver & Pancreas Disorders Message Board

Liver & Pancreas Disorders Board Index

Hi Trevor, & sorry you're having this health scare going on.

I used to drink heavy when I was young and older drinkers would frequently tell me "enjoy it while you can because you can't drink like that when you get older". I never really knew what they were talking about as they were still drinking themselves, but I do now!

Got in trouble with an inflamed fatty liver myself in my mid 50s. Cleaned up my act and figured I might drink moderately again, but found every time I tried this I wound up back to my old tricks (drinking too much) with astonishing swiftness.

In researching how I got into trouble after many years (decades!) of drinking without any health problems, I came across the role of iron in alcoholic liver disease. Males tend to accumulate excess iron as they age and alcohol accelerates this process as it increases iron absorption from food. The liver is the primary storage site for excess iron and this iron increases inflammation that occurs during alcohol metabolism. An internet search for: Alcoholic Liver Disease with IRON included in the search should produce a number of results that explain this well.

Your high transferrin number is a clue this may be what is causing your problems. Don't know if your "other iron studies" included ferritin, but this is the best measure of stored iron. The upper limits for the "normal" range for ferritin are set remarkably high by most labs at 300 or so for men, but "optimal" levels for ferritin are actually much lower; ideally well under 100. If you haven't had a ferritin test, I would ask for this and get a copy of the result yourself. I may well be in the normal range, but ferritin into triple digits would indicate iron stores are elevated.

Unfortunately, accumulated iron is difficult to remove, and blood donation or "therapeutic phlebotomy" is the only way to lower accumulated iron swiftly. There are a couple of supplements: IP6 (Inositol Hexaphosphate) and Curcumin that may slowly chelate iron and you may ask your doc if it would be safe for you to try these.

Lower iron (when it is elevated) and alcohol metabolism from moderate drinking will not inflame your liver like what occurs when iron is elevated. Follow-up labs with your doc and his continued advice should always by your primary guide to what (if any) level of alcohol might be safe.

Elevated iron has also been implicated in fatty liver disease and NASH (non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis) in particular, and iron reduction through phlebotomy or blood donation has been shown to help resolve this. Another interesting aspect to the iron/liver issue.

Stay Healthy!

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