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Nutrition for a Child with Sickle Cell Disease

Children, nutrition and sickle cell disease

Nutrition is fundamental to everyone’s health, but when it comes to people with sickle cell disease (SCD), also referred to as sickle cell anemia, it’s even more important.  SCD is a genetic red blood cell disorder that changes the shape of blood cells to a sickle or crescent appearance.

Everyone can be born with sickle cell anemia though it’s most common among people of African descent and Latinos. Sickle cell anemia patients often have episodes of pain, fatigue and regular infections. SCD is linked to vitamin D deficiency and poor appetite and that can cause delayed growth and development in children. This makes taking a higher amount of certain nutrients such as calories and protein necessary.

Your child needs to build strong bones while growing up and vitamin D helps to enhance the build. Feed your child with vitamin D-fortified milk and make sure he/she gets enough active play time outdoors. Note that children with darker skin are likely to have vitamin D deficiency. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about vitamin D and know if there’s need for any supplement.

Calcium and vitamin D are essential for the growth and development of your child alongside other nutrients as well. This means you should aim for overall nutrition. Never ignore these tips because nutrition equals good health for your child. Ensure that good nutrition becomes a family affair to create a balanced diet culture in your child instead of otherwise.

What types of nutritious foods should you give a child with SCD?

·       Feed your him/her with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Mix them with each of these grains, and proteins, for example, eggs, fish, meats, chicken, beans or tofu and seeds or nuts.

·       Give your child a lot of calcium-rich foods and beverages that include milk, yogurt, and cheese. Children can also get calcium from sources like leafy green vegetables as well as calcium-fortified products. Good examples include, soymilk and tofu and certain types of breakfast cereals and fruit juices.

·       Provide your child with nutrient-rich, high energy foods such as smoothies, dried fruit, nuts and nut butters in case the child doesn’t have enough appetite. Consider adding sauces, gravies and sources of fat to meals. Include snacks for additional calories.

·       Make sure they are fond of fluids, especially water as it helps to prevent constipation and dehydration.

·       Help your child to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and embrace milk or calcium-fortified 100% orange juice. It provides essential nutrients responsible for enhancing growth and development in children.

·       Have a chat with your child’s doctor about vitamin D testing and supplementation. In spite of getting vitamin D from sun exposure, fortified milk, eggs and yogurt, getting vitamin D from food alone is often difficult.

Remember that following a good nutrition-based menu 100% practically especially for a child may be challenging. One of the major reasons is that busy families may find spending enough time at home cooking difficult. Besides, it’s very important to enjoy a meal together as a family especially if your child lives with a chronic illness.

Consider involving a registered dietitian/nutritionist so that your child can get exactly the unique nutritional needs necessary for his/her condition and good for your entire family. Are you living with a child with SCD? If yes, share your experience in the comment section about the healthy diet you give the child.


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