What diet should those suffering from sickle cell anaemia take?
Q: I am a 23 years old girl suffering from sickle cell anaemia (beta-thalassemia). What should I eat to improve my red cell count? Should I avoid eating iron-rich food?
A:Sickle-beta thalassemia is a compound heterozygous condition in which an individual inherits a haemoglobin S (Hb S) gene from one parent and the b-thal gene from the other parent resulting in the genotype S/b instead of the normal A/A. The clinical severity of the condition depends on the amount of normal haemoglobin produced by the b-thal gene, being severe if no normal Hb is produced(S/b0) compared to when some beta globin is produced (S/b+). The haemoglobin tends to range from around 6-10 g/dl. Patients with sickle/b-thal have the same nutritional needs as anyone else. A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and grains along with folic acid supplements is best. Serum ferritin levels must be checked to know the storage iron levels as the need to chelate iron depends on this. Dietary restriction of iron-rich foods depends on the Hb & serum ferritin levels and the frequency of blood transfusion. Your doctor will be best placed to guide you on this.