Eating a balanced diet rich in zinc, folate, and fluids may help to prevent complications associated with sickle cell disease (SCD).
Usually, red blood cells are disc-shaped and flexible enough to transport oxygen through the blood vessels. In people with SCD, red blood cells have the shape of a crescent or sickle. These cells can block blood flow since they are fragile and cannot easily move or bend. Lack of blood flow through the body can cause a range of health issues.
This article explores SCD and diet. It also covers health disparities and when to speak with a doctor.
People with SCD
For example, 2020 research indicates that preschool children living with SCD from low socioeconomic backgrounds in areas where there is less access to healthy food are particularly vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition. Food insecurity is a key driver of overall cognitive development and performance in school-aged children.
A person with SCD
A high calorie, nutrient-dense, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium may also benefit people with SCD. The table below offers examples of foods a person may include in a diet for SCD based on the DGA:
|Fruits||avocados, pears, blueberries, apricots, bananas, prunes, apples, dates, cucumber, raisins, and melons, such as honeydew and watermelon|
|Vegetables||asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, celery, turnips, zucchini, spinach, squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, radishes, and beans|
|Whole grains||oats, rice, quinoa, barley, and brown rice|
|Healthy protein||eggs, nuts, fish, lean meat, and poultry|
|Dairy products or dairy alternatives||low fat milk, yogurt, soy milk, and cottage cheese|
People with SCD can speak with a healthcare professional for further advice on an individual basis.
Children with SCD have a
Healthcare professionals may recommend children with SCD take zinc supplements to enhance growth and reduce the risk of bacterial infections, lack of blood flow to certain areas of the body, and hospitalizations.
Similarly, incorporating zinc into a diet by eating foods rich in zinc may help meet the body’s demands. Some good sources of zinc
- pulses, such as beans and lentils
- dairy products
- whole grains
In people with SCD, red blood cells break down faster than in those without SCD. Folate may help replace red blood cells.
Additionally, some researchers hypothesize that people with SCD are at an
Some rich sources of folate include:
- leafy green vegetables, such as:
- certain fruits, such as papaya and strawberries
Foods fortified with folate may include:
People with SCD are at
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom notes that drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, may help reduce the risk of dehydration, which may increase the risk of a sickle cell pain crisis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people with SCD drink
Other fluids may include:
- flavored water
- fruit juice
People with SCD
People should speak with a doctor if symptoms worsen or they notice a change in their condition. A healthcare professional can evaluate a person’s symptoms and recommend the best treatment for them.
Individuals should also follow a doctor’s guidance on diet and supplements and consult them before using supplements or making any dietary changes.
SCD is a genetic blood disorder affecting hemoglobin in red blood cells.
The DGA recommends a healthy, balanced diet for everyone, including people with SCD. Medical experts also advise that people with SCD eat diets rich in zinc, folate, and plenty of fluids to improve symptoms, prevent dehydration, and replenish nutrients that the body uses.
A person living with SCD can speak with healthcare professional for further guidance about diet and supplements.