One of the first things that patients with sickle cell want to know is how they can increase their hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that binds and easily transfers oxygen all over the body. SC warriors have less red blood cells; which means we have less hemoglobin than other people. In addition, sickle cells carry less hemoglobin molecules than standard red blood cells. This impedes oxygen delivery to the tissues, which then leads to pain.
The one thing that the public thinks is good to increase your blood count is iron. However, due to the risk of iron overload, patients with sickle cell are NOT recommended to ingest daily iron pills to increase blood counts. This could lead to a fatal complication called IRONOVERLOAD .
Okay, enough about the hemoglobin lesson. So what can you do to increase your red blood cells and hemoglobin count?
Dark Green Vegetables: These greens are rich in folate, which stimulates production of red blood cells and helps with healthy cell development. Examples of dark green veggies are kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli, romaine lettuce and swiss chard. There are many recipes that incorporate these greens in the Nutrition section.
Liquid Chlorophyll: For those of you that don’t really like your veggies, you can try liquid chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is extracted from plants, and you are already getting it if you eat your veggies. The benefit is that it has a molecular structure similar to hemoglobin; except for the center atom. So it’s kinda almost like ingesting hemoglobin:) You could take this in addition, add it to your daily shake or take a teaspoon every day.
Almond Milk: Almonds help to raise hemoglobin, form new blood cells, and enables the liver, heart, brain and nerves to perform their respective functions normally. Instead of drinking cow milk (which is so not good for you anyway), switch your milk of choice to almond milk. If you must, add some dairy creamer to give you the kick that your taste buds miss.
Carao Fruit: This is a South American avocadan type fruit that helps to raise hemoglobin production. It works at the very beginning of cell development, on the DNA synthesis line. Another benefit is that carao is very low in iron. The vitamins from carao are more easily absorbed and converted than vegetable vitamins, and studies show that it raises hemoglobin in about 70% of users. Carao fruit is hard to get in the US, and is mostly available in syrup and juice form.
Vitamin B-12: Foods rich in B-12 are excellent for increasing hemoglobin. B-12 works with folate in cell production. It is normally only found in animal products, so if you’re vegetarian, you have to choose foods that have been fortified with B-12 or take a daily supplement.
The top 10 foods rich in B12 are shellfish, liver, caviar, octopus, fish, crab/lobster, beef, lamb, cheese and eggs. It is important to make sure that these choices are prepared in a healthy manner, and limit the fatty part of the meats to prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.
There are many other foods and supplements listed as good for those with anemia or good to raise your counts. Please cross-reference to make sure that these do not contain iron as the principle nutrient. Although some iron will give you an increase, the body does find it hard to excrete iron, and in addition to the blood transfusions we get (that also contain iron), it might be a recipe for a temporary fix and permanent damage.
If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments box.