Porphyria is the medical term for a group of disorders caused by an abnormal accumulation of chemicals in the blood, known as porphyrins, that help hemoglobin carry oxygen to the organs and tissues. Both inherited and acquired, porphyria symptoms typically affect the nervous system, the digestive system and the skin. (1) Conventional porphyria treatment may include glucose injections to help offset the overproduction or porphyrins. Natural treatment focuses on eating a healthy diet, protecting sensitive skin and improving liver function to help manage symptoms.
Porphyria Causes and Risk Factors
- Inheriting an abnormal/mutated gene that interferes with normal hemoglobin functions
- Taking certain drugs and medications, including some antibiotics, birth control pills psychoactive drugs and drugs for depression and anxiety
- Toxicity and chemical exposure
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Frequently dieting or fasting
- Smoking cigarettes and drinking high amounts of alcohol
- High levels of stress
- Recurring infections or other illnesses
- History of liver disease
- Hormonal imbalance and hormone replacement drugs
- High amounts of unprotected sun exposure
- Excess iron
- Swelling and fluid retention in the stomach (2)
- Digestive problems and abdominal pains, sometimes severe
- Chest pains
- Muscle pains, weakness and tenderness in the legs and back
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Anxiety or paranoia
- Trouble concentrating, memory loss and confusion
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Trouble breathing
1. Protect and Treat Sensitive Skin
Excess sun exposure can cause painful porphyria symptoms such as severe burning and blisters. Wear a natural sunscreen outdoors along with a hat and sunglasses to protect your skin from burning. If you do experience any blistering or burning, use aloe vera gel or an oatmeal bath to soothe sensitive skin.
2. Follow a Porphyria Treatment Diet
Nutrient deficiencies are among porphyria causes and risk factors. It’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet full of nutritious whole foods to help manage symptoms. (3) A porphyria treatment diet should include:
- Unprocessed carbohydrates: Complex, unprocessed carbohydrates include ancient grains, beans or legumes, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats help manage blood sugar levels and control appetite to help you maintain a healthy weight. Try coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
- High-antioxidant foods: Antioxidants help lower inflammation and protect the body from free radical damage. Add yellow and orange fruits and veggies to your diet.
3. Avoid Toxin Exposure
Alcohol, drugs and cigarettes can increase your risk of developing porphyria and worsen symptoms. Chemicals found in low-quality foods such as processed meats can also worsen symptoms related to porphyria, such as anxiety, mental impairment, sleep trouble and high blood pressure. (4)
4. Reduce Medication Use
Certain medications can cause liver damage and put you at risk of developing porphyria. If you are taking medications for depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or hormone replacement drugs talk to your doctor about the role the medication might play in worsening symptoms.
5. Improve Liver Function
Maintaining a healthy liver is an important part of porphyria treatment. The liver plays a key role in helping the body detox, processing excess hormones and managing porphyria levels. (6) Avoid the following risk factors to help maintain liver health:
- Low potassium and high sodium intake
- Heavy alcohol use
- Unprotected sex
- Long-term use of medications and hormone replacement drugs
- A diet high in saturated fats and processed foods
- Leaving viral infections, autoimmune diseases and viruses untreated
6. Manage Your Stress Levels
Physical stress and emotional stress can trigger symptoms of porphyria. Managing your stress levels plays a key role in porphyria treatment. Avoid crash diets, overexercising and skimping on sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and participate in enjoyable stress-relieving activities to help reduce anxiety.