Until recently there has been no cure for sickle cell anemia, but some treatments help to alleviate the condition. Now, however, some hospitals are able to offer bone marrow transplants for patients who suffer severe symptoms of the disease. This involves replacing the patient’s own bone marrow, which produces the sickle-shaped cells, with new, healthy bone marrow that will go on to produce healthy red blood cells, curing the patient of the condition.
People with sickle cell anemia, particularly children, will probably need more calories and micronutrients in their diet to help their body to fight infection and generate new healthy blood cells to replace the damaged ones. During a sickle cell crisis, energy intake can be especially low, which leads to increased symptoms and increased fatigue. A diet containing up to 3 times the normal recommended nutrients can help to prevent nutrient deficiency and help to prevent severe and frequent crises.
Vitamins and Minerals
Blood vitamin levels in SCD patients tend to be lower than normal, with deficiencies in vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin B6, C, E, magnesium and zinc. These deficiencies can result in lower levels of antioxidants in the blood, which in turn leads to oxidative stress and can lead to vaso-occlusion-related acute chest syndrome. Some studies show that increased intake of antioxidants and vitamins C, E, zinc and magnesium, reduce the number of permanently sickled cells.
Adequate Fluid Intake
Research shows that sickling red blood cells is increased in SCD patients who have low hydration levels. Therefore it is important to drink plenty of fluids to minimize the volume of sickle cells within the blood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help with blood circulation by increasing the fluidity of the red blood cell. It is the lack of fluidity in the red blood cell membranes that cause a sickle cell crisis, as the red cells become stuck in the sickle shape and become very brittle. Some preliminary research shows that taking omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplementation reduced the number of painful episodes that lead to the need for hospitalization.
What to Eat
It can be hard to maintain a healthy weight and to avoid weight loss you should eat plenty of full-fat foods and food high in protein, such as meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, seeds and nuts. Healthy oils such as olive oil and fresh fruit and vegetables are also important to maintain high levels of nutrients in your body and help to compensate for the damaged red blood cells.
Try to avoid low fat or diet food and drink; these will fill you up without giving you the nutrients that you need. Instead snack on milkshakes, smoothies, full fat dairy products, hummus and peanut butter, all high in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals.
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There is no universal cure for sickle cell disease, however with a match bone marrow transplant can cure #sicklecell disease. There are also a variety of experimental curative and treatment options on the horizon such as gene therapy and an investigational drug called GBT 440.