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How Does Iron in My Diet Affect My Polycythemia Vera?

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Published on March 28, 2017

From our MPN Ask the Expert series, Patient Power viewer, Carol, asks a question about how diet affects iron in the blood for people diagnosed with polycythemia vera. Dr. Prithviraj Bose from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center responds by explaining how diet affects iron intake, including the role of a balanced diet and his perspective on supplementation.

The Ask the Expert series is sponsored through an educational grant to the Patient Empowerment Network from Incyte Corporation.

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Transcript | How Does Iron in My Diet Affect My Polycythemia Vera?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

We received a question from Carol and Carol writes, “I am living with polycythemia vera, and I’m curious about diet. I eat very healthy, including foods that are rich in iron such as spinach and kale.”  Carol’s question is how does she best achieve proper iron balance? What are the guidelines for patients living with PV?

Dr. Bose:

That’s a great question, very interesting. So it is correct that the principle underlying phlebotomy is to deplete the body of iron, because that way you’ll get what is called iron-restricted erythropoiesis, which means that you limit the production of red blood cells, because you are depleting iron. So it’s definitely important to not overdo iron and certainly to not take iron supplements, although there can be rare situations in PV patients where a little iron is indicated.

But to get back to your question, I would just have a balanced diet and not particularly worry about the iron content, unless your diet is unusually high in iron for some reason. But normally we don’t recommend any specific diet for patients with PV. I’m assuming you are either on phlebotomy or on some cytoreductive medication like hydroxyurea (Hydrea); that should certainly keep your hematocrit under control. So as long as you don’t overdo iron or take supplements, I think you’re fine.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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