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Healthy Eating For Thallasemia

Updated on April 29, 2014
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Cynthianne has cooked from scratch her entire life, including raising her 6 children on home grown goodness. Baking is a particular passion.

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Who Gets Thallasemia

People of Mediterranean heritage are prone to Thallasemia. The Mediterranean consists of:


Italy, Africa, Greece, Asia, to name a few. Here is a map of the Mediterranean region. Anyone who has heritage from this area can have Thallasemia.


Mediterranean Region

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What Types are There?

Thallasemia is a bit confusing with variances in genetic make-up but it has been classified in two major groups, Alpha, typically seen in people from Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and Africa.

Beta Thallasemia is typically seen in people from the Mediterranean region and sometimes in those from Africa and China.

According to an article at Medline Plus

There are three main types of Thallasemia:

Thallasemia Major: This type is the most dangerous form of the disorder. Most people are diagnosed as infants, during the first year of life. Often they will need blood transfusions because paleness and fatigue. They may be weak and slow growing. Have enlarged liver and spleen. Fortunately, this is not the most common type of Thallasemia.


Thallasemia Intermediate where there are more symptoms than Minor but not as intense as Major Thallasemia. People with Intermediate Thallasemia may suffer fatigue, flares of Hemolytic Anemia.


Thallasemia Minor is typically symptom free and these people are carriers as opposed to feeling the affects or needing periodic treatment.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Thallasemia depend on the type a person has. Liver failure and heart problems can be seen in Major, fatigue and pale skin as well. With Intermediate, there is fatigue and an all over sense of not feeling well when in a “flare”. Fatigue is caused by the red blood cells being small and not carrying oxygen to the cells as quickly as the body needs them. Exercise can make the fatigue worse, but exercise is important. It is important to contact a knowledgeable physician for proper exercise and nutrition.

Hemolytic Anemia is the type of anemia more commonly seen in a person with Thallasemia. Hemolytic anemia is when the red blood cells die off faster than they are replaced by the body. This can cause fatigue and shortness of breath, depending on the type of Thallasemia and even the level of Hemolytic anemia.

Treatment

Major is treated with various medicines and blood transfusions where Intermediate is treated with rest and maybe the occasional transfusion. Monitoring iron and vitamin K intake are important. Gene therapy treatment is looked into.


Healthy Diet

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Diagnosis

Diagnosis is done through a blood test and molecular test, which can be done as early as before birth. Jaundice may be a sign that the doctor would test a baby but in an adult, a regular blood test will reveal the smaller red blood cell size which can alert the doctor to do further blood tests.


Diet

The Mediterranean diet has been found to benefit just about anyone who follows it but especially people with Thallasemia. The whole grains, fruits and vegetables help the body with continued energy source and vitamins. Grains and cereal are high on the food pyramid (insert pyramid here and cite). It is important to remember that these are whole grains, not processed white bread. Fruits and vegetables in season, such as olives, greens and other vegetables. Olive oil is important for heart health and used in place of butter as the Western diet contains. A person with Thallasemia needs to monitor their iron intake as excess amounts of iron can cause illness. It is also important to not over indulge in vegetables that contain Vitamin K.


Greek Food Pyramid

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As you can see on this pyramid, red meat is far up on the pyramid. Red meat contains iron which can cause problems for someone with Thallasemia. Cereals and grains are listed as one of the foods to eat the most of, but it is very important to eat avoid cereals that are iron fortified. Foods that are naturally high in iron should be eaten rarely, such as red meat is listed to have one meal a week. Spinach and brussel sprouts are high in iron and should be eaten in smaller amounts. As a person with Thallasemia, I know it is hard to balance the meals sometimes. Not eating spinach salad and steak together is important to prevent ill feeling. Juices fortified with iron should also be avoided. Prune juice is concentrated prunes so check the iron levels and do not exceed the daily intake.

Confusing

Thallasemia can be very confusing because there are so many variables and factors involved such as if one or both parents have the genes and what type of Thallasemia is acquired. The prognosis is best for those who have the lesser severity of Thallasemia but those with Major Thallasemia can see a full life too. Medicines and treatments, early diagnosis are all key in getting proper treatment. Following a healthy diet is very important but the diet is not complicated so easier to stick to than a complicated diet would be.

Mediterranean Anemia/Thallasemia

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© 2014 Cynthianne Neighbors

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