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Foods To Avoid With Hemophilia

Hemophilia is a rare inherited blood disorder that disrupts the body’s ability to clot blood properly. It mainly affects males and is present in about 1 in 5,000 births. 

When combined with unhealthy eating habits, hemophilia can become difficult to live with. While there isn’t an official diet to follow for people with hemophilia, there are some general healthy habits that may help. In conjunction with World Hemophilia Day on April 17, this blog details food groups to stay away from and food groups to embrace if you’re living with hemophilia.


What is hemophilia?

Typically, blood clotting (also called coagulation) is a routine process that helps transform blood from a liquid to a solid to prevent blood loss. When a blood vessel is damaged, your body sends platelets to the injured site to form a plug. Important proteins in your blood (called clotting factors) also create fibrin to help support the platelet plug.

However, people with hemophilia either have fewer clotting factors or none at all and are unable to make a fibrin clot strong enough to control the bleeding. Therefore, prolonged bleeding is more common in people with hemophilia. 


How foods play a role

Because hemophilia is a genetic disorder, there is no way to prevent or cure it. In terms of treatment, clotting factor injections are the most effective way to manage this blood disorder. Plasma from human blood or recombinant factor concentrates derived from genetic engineering are the two main options for hemophilia patients.

Beyond that, there is one simple way to help control hemophilia – the food choices you make. 

Males with hemophilia are at a higher risk of becoming obese, especially children and young adults. Twenty percent of males with hemophilia between the ages of 2 and 19 years old were considered obese, compared to 18.5 percent of the national population, according to data collected from 2014-2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same report also found 34 percent of men with hemophilia over the age of 20 were obese compared to 19 of the national population.

Due to this increased risk of obesity, people with hemophilia should follow a low-fat diet and watch their caloric intake. Carrying added weight can cause additional stress on joints and muscles, increasing your risk of bleeds in those areas.


What to avoid

Here are some general guidelines to follow when making food choices.

Sugary foods

Consuming added sugars is one of the fastest ways to rack up empty calories. Your body needs sugars – mainly naturally occurring sugars – for energy. Any excess sugars, such as those in soft drinks, processed foods and sweets, are stored for future use in the liver. Over time, high amounts of sugar build and build, resulting in unwanted weight gain.

Certain supplements

Vitamin E supplements have been known to increase the risk of bleeding, which is why doctors ask surgery patients to stop taking them several weeks before a procedure. These same risks apply to people with hemophilia, as high amounts of vitamin E can delay the time platelets take to clump together to form a clot. In addition, fish oil supplements can also increase your risk of bleeding. This type of oil is a natural anticoagulant, meaning it inhibits the body’s natural ability to clot blood.

High-fat foods

Any healthy diet should include some sort of fat, but a lifestyle full of high fats can have negative consequences on your weight since the body stores fat easier than carbohydrates. In turn, this can make your hemophilia symptoms worse. People who struggle with their weight often eat too many foods with saturated fat, such as butter, milk, cheese, fatty proteins and processed foods.


Diet plan for hemophilia patients

In general, your body needs vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy blood supply. Examples include vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, copper and iron.

Eat foods rich in iron

Iron is a building block for hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide, and myoglobin, a protein found in muscle cells that stores and releases oxygen for your body to use. In fact, red blood cells account for about 70 percent of iron in your entire body. This important mineral is lost when you bleed, so it’s important to replenish iron through the foods you eat.

Animal protein and certain vegetables (mainly leafy greens) are common sources of iron, although red meat and poultry remain the preferred options to meet the daily recommended value of 18 milligrams per day.  Animal protein contains a dietary iron called heme iron, which the body absorbs easier than iron found in plants.

That said, it’s still possible to source your daily iron intake from a vegetarian diet, but you will need to eat more vegetables. Other than leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, corn, beets and cabbage are all good sources of iron. There is also some research that suggests vitamin C helps iron absorption, meaning it may be helpful to eat oranges, citrus fruits and other sources of vitamin C with your iron-based foods.

Eat foods rich in calcium

Over time, people with hemophilia may experience issues with their bone health due to joint bleeds. Eating foods rich in calcium on a daily basis can help build strong bones that can withstand any future joint complications. Calcium is also an important nutrient for your teeth. People with a calcium deficiency may be more prone to gum disease and mouth bleeds.

To add calcium to your diet, look for low-fat dairy options such as skim milk or reduced-fat cheese. Yogurt is a good source of calcium – just be sure to read the labels to avoid any added sugars. Many nuts and vegetables also boast calcium, such as almonds and leafy greens.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water is an essential part of life, and staying hydrated helps your body run efficiently. After all, cells, tissues and organs consist mostly of water. Water also helps regulate body temperature and help organs function. If you find water boring, you can also try coconut water or carbonated water – again, just ensure there are no added sugars.

Focus on whole grains

Enriched white bread may taste superior to whole wheat bread, but the processing strips away many of the vital nutrients your body needs. The same goes for rice and pasta. Stray away from these processed foods and focus on whole grains, such as oats and whole wheat foods. Your body metabolizes whole grains at a slower rate, which helps manage your blood glucose levels.

Cook with healthy fats

Animal fat is loaded with saturated fat and should be avoided. Instead, choose plant-based oils when cooking. Olive oil is one of the best options to choose for both its versatility and flavor. Nowadays, there are many alternative oils on the market such as avocado oil.



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