Your breath becomes short, an intense headache ensues and then suddenly your entire body is in pain and there is nothing you can do about it. What I’m describing are symptoms of a sickle cell anemia crisis — A disease affecting one out of every 500 African-Americans. An individual born with the inherited blood disorder of sickle cell anemia does not develop normal red blood cells.
Instead, their sickled red cells cause blockages that deprive organs and tissues from carrying oxygen to the blood. This process, or lack thereof, causes pain, damaged tissues and can potentially lead to other serious medical issues. While there is no cure for sickle cell, patients can practice preventive measures to manage pain and problems associated with this disease with a healthy diet.
If you or a loved one is living with sickle cell anemia, in what ways have you changed your lifestyle in order to cope with this disease? Changing your diet and focusing on a healthy living routine may assist you in managing symptoms and preventing attacks.
The National Lung and Blood Institute advises that a healthy diet for people living with sickle cell anemia includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.
Because individuals with sickle cell can also experience bouts with dehydration, getting plenty of fluids and water is also vital in avoiding dehydration which could increase the sickling of red blood cells. Naturally rich in electrolytes, coconut water is also identical to human blood plasma and is often recommended for hydration in sickle cell patients. Coconut water is a favorite of the Sickle Cell Diva, a blogger documenting her life living with the sickle cell disease. When she begins to feel a slight sickle cell pain attack she drinks a few cups of coconut water which usually stops her crisis.
Doctors may also recommend that you supplement your diet with omega-3 fatty acid supplements and folic acid to assist in helping your body make new red blood cells and decrease flare-ups.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle takes a few changes each day to combat the stress of living with sickle cell but it’s completely possible to make eating healthy a normal habit with the right tools. To assist with meal planning there are several cookbooks that specifically address the nutritional needs of people living with the sickle cell disease. If you’re a little overwhelmed with how to properly change and address your diet, check out our recommended books for recipes to keep you strong throughout your sickle cell journey: