Sickle cell anemia is a potentially fatal hereditary blood disorder in which the blood cells are misshapen, leading to problems in many different organ systems and areas of the body. It impacts people around the world, but I can count the number of good dietary supplement studies that have been completed for it on one hand.
It is known that low levels of L-arginine are associated in some cases with worse outcomes, so why not test L-arginine or L-citrulline supplements to improve bloodflow or vasodilation in more studies? NAC (N-acetylcysteine) at 1,200 to 2,400 milligrams per day needs a large trial to look at its ability to reduce painful crisis (these are essentially serious flare-ups requiring immediate treatment that are caused by blood cells getting stuck in vessels around the body) based on its history of increasing cell antioxidant levels (glutathione).
On the other hand, high doses of vitamin C (1,400 milligrams) and vitamin E (800 IU) may have made the condition worse in a preliminary 180-day trial in Brazil, but there isn’t enough research on negative effects of supplements either. Vitamin A or D supplementation could help based on very preliminary research, but there hasn’t been any follow-up. More research here is needed now!
What is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is one of a group of disorders known as sickle cell disease. Sickle cell anemia is an inherited red blood cell disorder in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
Normally, the flexible, round red blood cells move easily through blood vessels. In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These rigid, sticky cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.
There’s no cure for most people with sickle cell anemia. But treatments can relieve pain and help prevent complications associated with the disease.
What are the Best Supplements For Treating Sickle Cell Anemia?
Omega-3 fatty acids
Children with sickle cell disease in the Sudan received omega-3 fatty acids (278 milligrams of DHA and 39 milligrams of EPA) versus a placebo for a year. The researchers found that the omega-3 group had a reduced rate of vaso-occlusive events (painful episodes where the red blood cells get stuck), blood transfusion, and white blood cell count and were less likely to miss school because of illness.
Folic acid and other B vitamins
Many sickle cell anemia patients are put on 1 milligram of folic acid daily by their doctors to improve red blood cell production, which makes sense. However, also talk to your doctor about being tested for vitamin B12 deficiency because it is not uncommon with this disease.