Sickle cell and seven essential supplements.

Our bodies need a certain amount of nutrients to carry out the smallest functions.

A healthy diet will include most of the nutrients our body needs, but the foods we eat don’t always give us enough. Supplements are good when one has increased needs, for example living with sickle cell. It’s difficult to eat healthily when you are ill.

We all need diverse nutrients because our bodies function differently. Here are seven nutrients that are important for anyone living with sickle cell.

  1. Calcium as the bone builder: This mineral is found in high amounts in milk and other dairy products, as well as fortified foods such as orange juice, yoghurt, cheese, leafy greens, and nuts. Do you know that all the calcium in our body is found in our bones and teeth? Calcium also plays a role in regulating muscle contractions, blood clotting and normal cell function. We know that it is best to get calcium from food rather than supplements, but if you know that you’re not getting enough calcium from your food, particularly if you’re going into your 50s and older, you may benefit from calcium supplements. You have to be careful because taking too much calcium can cause kidney problems. If you had kidney disorders in the past, then it is best to speak to your doctor before taking a calcium supplement.
  2. Vitamin D is the bone, mood, and immune system enabler: vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies can make on their own when exposed to sunlight. One can also find vitamin D in fortified foods such as milk. Vitamin D is important because it helps our bodies to absorb calcium. Vitamin D also enables the immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria. Anyone who does not regularly drink milk or eat dairy foods should consider taking vitamin D. If you don’t get enough direct exposure to sunlight, then you do need to take your vitamin D. Oily fish, the likes of salmon, mackerel, red meat, liver, oranges and sardines, are rich in vitamin D. If you have darker skin and more melanin in your skin, you may need more vitamin D since melanin affects the body’s ability to produce.
  3. Folate as the cell generator: Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that is naturally found in some foods but can equally be taken as a supplement. Leafy greens are a huge source of folate, especially spinach. So are beef liver, beans, fresh fruits, white rice and many more. Our cells need folate to make DNA and without DNA, cells can’t function properly. It is better to try to get this vitamin from food, but if you know you’re not eating enough of it, then it’s better to take a supplement.
  4. Iron as the blood builder: Anyone living with sickle cell has a deficiency of iron. Iron is a mineral that enables the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. Everybody uses iron to make two blood proteins. One is called haemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and the other is called myoglobin, which carries oxygen to muscles. Iron is equally important for cell growth and hormones. Foods rich in iron are peas, red meat, beans, beef liver, dried fruits, kidneys, chicken, fish, eggs and more. If you are worried about your iron levels, visit your doctor to have them checked.
  5. Magnesium as the body regulator: Magnesium is a mineral that is abundant in food and yet a lot of us are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is a powerful mineral that is involved in regulating biochemical reactions in the body. This is everything from protein to muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. Every organ in the body requires magnesium to function. The body can’t properly metabolise vitamin D without magnesium and magnesium is similarly important for calcium absorption. We all need magnesium. Food sources rich in magnesium are leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, nuts, legumes, low-fat milk, yoghurt and many more.
  6. Lutein as the eye protector: Lutein is part of a fat-soluble class of nutrients called carotenoids. These nutrients are pigments that give dark green vegetables, orange, yellow fruits, and egg yolks their vibrant hues. Lutein is an antioxidant in the eyes that helps to protect them against free radicals, molecules that can damage the DNA, and proteins and cause age-related macular degeneration and cause blindness in older adults. It can be found in green leafy vegetables, peas, egg yolks, lettuce and much more.
  7. Fish oil as the heart protector: Fish also shells mackerel, trout, herring, sardines, salmons, and some types of tuna rich in Omega-3. These facts provide a starting point for hormones that regulate blood clotting, contractions, relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation, blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. Omega-3s are essential for heart and blood vessel health. Trees also support healthy joints by reducing inflammation and may improve brain function, including thinking and memory. Anyone who doesn’t eat enough fish several times a week need to take Omega-3 supplements, as well as anyone who has joint problems. Don’t forget that fish can contain lead or mercury and so when choosing a fish oil supplement, look for the ones that are very low in heavy metals. If you’re pregnant or you have a history of bleeding disorders, then do speak to your doctor before you start taking any supplements. If you are equally allergic to fish, then avoid taking fish oil supplements too.

Credit || Tola Dehinde