Wellness: Manage your polycythemia with these simple shifts in your diet
March 1, 2021, which is celebrated as Rare Disease Day aims to raise awareness about rare diseases and ways to improve our health or manage it well. Today we are going to discuss a similar rare disease that wasn’t common earlier — known as Polycythemia. It is a rare blood disorder that causes your body to overproduce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This disease mostly occurs in men after 40, so it might be a rare case to get it in your early 30s.
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, white blood cells fight infection and platelets are involved in clotting the blood to stop or slow down the bleeding which indirectly helps in the healing of wounds. When too many RBC, WBC platelets circulate in our bodies, blood starts thickening and may not flow properly through the blood vessels. This increases the risk of blood clots in major arteries and veins of our body, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. If clots occur and circulate in the entire body, then they can affect other vital organs as well. Smaller blood vessels also can be blocked by clots which may lead to symptoms such as headaches, vision changes, light-headedness, numbness, burning, redness and swelling of the hands.
While no special diet exists to aid the treatment of polycythemia, it is recommended that you eat a well-balanced meal and limit your intake of sodium. Increased blood volume also increases your risk of high blood pressure. Limiting your sodium intake can help you better manage your blood pressure and you can completely avoid processed foods such as bacon, meat, sausage, frozen meals, salty chips and soup to control the same. Instead, include more fresh, whole foods prepared at home with pink salt (that too in moderation). As I said there’s no special diet, but there are few tips that you can follow to be healthy:
• Eat antioxidant-rich foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables to add fibre to your body which ultimately will help in controlling blood pressure.
• Avoid refined foods, such as white processed sugar, bread and junk food to control inflammation as they may contain high-fat content and can increase chances of blood thickening.
• Avoid red meat completely and choose lean meats like chicken, cold-water fish (in moderation), pulses and beans, nuts and seeds for protein. Protein is important for the repair of cells in our bodies.
• Use healthy oils, such as cold-pressed coconut oil, sesame, mustard or groundnut oil or A2 ghee for cooking food over any refined oils. This helps in controlling inflammation.
• Try to eliminate trans-fatty acids from your routine, these are mostly found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, doughnuts, processed foods and margarine. They can make your blood flow sluggish and can increase the chances of blood clots.
• Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco as they can keep the inflammation levels high and will not help the body to heal.
• Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day to make sure the body gets detoxified and it doesn’t allow the thickening of blood.
• Exercise or movement throughout the day is important to enhance blood circulation and to control clot formation in the body.
These are practices that can be followed daily to keep a check on your blood.
The writer is the Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. She is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.
Photo courtesy: Julia Zolotova on Unsplash