Thalassemia is caused by missing or damaged genes that make hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood.
Around the world, on May 8 of each year, World Thalassemia Day is observed to draw attention to the widely prevalent genetic blood disorder, thalassemia. It is caused by the absence or damage of the genes that produce hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. There are multiple types of thalassemia conditions that can severely affect the normal functioning of a person identified with it. The condition is commonly known as alpha-thalassemia and beta-thalassemia. The first occurs when there is an alteration in the genes related to the alpha globin protein, while the second is related to similar genes that affect the production of the beta globin protein. The categorization further branches into numerous subtypes and their treatments depend on those subtypes. As a result, the body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells, which leads to a variety of complications. For example, in the silent carrier of alpha thalassemia minor, with a missing gene in the red blood cells, patients mostly experience anemia and fatigue, while in the other type of alpha thalassemia called hemoglobin H disease, the absence of four genes shortens the lifespan of the patient. patient and requires blood transfusion.
Although there is no permanent cure to eliminate the thalassemia condition from the body, managing the condition with the added support of proper supplements and incorporating the correct diet and lifestyle can significantly contribute to improving the quality of life of thalassemia patients. This can start with eating a nutrient-dense diet, in consultation with an expert, which can support healthy blood cell production and reduce the severity of thalassemia symptoms. Additionally, supplements that contain vitamin and mineral supporting ingredients such as vitamin C, iron, and folic acid, among others, may stimulate the mechanism of red blood cell production and ultimately help patients with thalassemia improve your immune system and hemoglobin levels. Let’s dig deeper into understanding what types of foods and supplements can help people with thalassemia.
Foods with essential nutrients for patients with Thalassemia
- Consume green leafy vegetables as a salad: It is not a hidden fact that green leafy vegetables like spinach exude enormous amount of iron which benefits everyone especially thalassemia patients. As iron is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in the production of healthy blood cells, it becomes imperative that thalassemia patients include iron-rich foods in their regular diet. But it is always better to consume these green leafy vegetables in the form of a salad as cooking them can remove the crucial nutrients present in them. In addition, the amount of iron intake should also be controlled, as iron overload can cause damage to vital organs such as the heart and liver.
- Citrus fruits for vitamin C: People with thalassemia are at increased risk of infections because of their weakened immune systems. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron and make healthy red blood cells. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit contain high amounts of vitamin C. Therefore, it is crucial to include vitamin C in your diet, either in the form of
foodor as a supplement as tablets among other available forms.
- High protein diet: For people with thalassemia, maintaining a diet rich in protein can be crucial in promoting healthy living. Milk protein is an excellent source of protein, but other sources like beans and lentils can also provide a combination of nutrients like iron, zinc, and protein, which help build and repair tissue, as well as produce healthy red blood cells. .
- folic acid and
Omega-3 fatty acids: In addition, thalassemia patients should also consider taking supplements of folic acid, which is a B vitamin vital for making healthy red blood cells, and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish or fish oil supplements, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and relieve some symptoms. By incorporating these nutrients into their diet, thalassemia patients can help reduce the severity of their symptoms and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The ingredients present in food can have a massive impact on managing the condition. The power of nutrition is immense; therefore, it should be wisely incorporated under medical supervision so that people with thalassemia can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. In addition to a healthy diet, regular physical activity and stress management can also help people with thalassemia maintain their health and well-being. Engaging in yoga, meditation, or walking activities can reduce stress, increase energy levels, and improve sleep quality. It is also important for patients suffering from this condition to avoid eating processed foods and to stay hydrated with plenty of fluid intake. In addition to this, it is equally important to raise awareness about the disease so that timely medical interventions can be carried out effectively.
(The article is written by Dr. Amit Deshpande, Ayurvedic physician, founder and director of Activist)