Thalassemia Diet: A Basic Guide to Nutrition for Thalassemia Patients

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Thalassemia Diet: A Basic Guide to Nutrition for Thalassemia Patients

Swetha Prasanna 25 Aug 2021

Thalassemia affects approximately 4.4 of every 10000 live births throughout the world. Caretakers of thalassemia patients need to follow special considerations in terms of the thalassemia diet.

The nutritional needs of  Thalassemia Patients vary based on their transfusion needs.

For transfused patients on chelation therapy, a low-iron diet may not be necessary.

Diet for non-transfused thalassemia patients should be low in iron. Otherwise, excess iron levels may burden the liver and heart.

Nutrition for non-transfused thalassemia patients:

Avoid iron-rich and iron-fortified products in the thalassemia diet.

While choosing protein-rich foods, take care that they are not rich in iron.

Thalassemia patients need healthy amounts of calcium and vitamin D to prevent bone infection. Check with your doctor for calcium supplement recommendations based on the individual’s needs.

Folic acid deficiency is common in these individuals. Doctors advise folate supplementation (1 mg daily) in thalassemia diet for non-transfused thalassemia patients.

Foods to avoid for non-transfused thalassemia patients include:

  • Red meat
  • Iron-fortified cereals and bread
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Liver
  • Dark poultry
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Watermelons
  • Dates
  • Beans
  • Raisins
  • Peanut butter
  • Oysters
  • Prunes
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Fava beans

Foods to consume for non-transfused thalassemia patients include: 

  • Black tea and coffee after meals, as they reduce the iron absorption from food.
  • Protein foods with moderate iron: Eggs, yogurt, beans, peanut butter, nuts, cheese, soy
  • Calcium-rich foods: milk, yogurt, cheese, white beans.
  • Vitamin D rich foods: Vit-D Fortified Milk, Cod Liver Oil, Soy Milk.
  • Folic acid-rich foods: lentils, egg yolk, dried beans, sweet potato, wholegrain bread, soya products, split peas, nuts, Brussel sprouts, bananas, and peaches.
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter.
  • Honey: Mix honey with milk to boost the stamina of the patient.

Other foods to include in thalassemia diet:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Turnips
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Green chilies
  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Cranberries
  • Pomegranates
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapples
  • Lemons, and
  • Acai berries.

Notes about thalassemia diet:

  • Soy products may be allergic to some individuals and interfere with iron absorption. Check with your doctor before incorporating soy products in the thalassemia diet.
  • Do not use cast-iron vessels for cooking food for thalassemia patient. The iron from the utensils may seep into the food.
  • Ensure the patient stays hydrated and does regular exercise in moderation.
  • Check snacks and ready-to-eat food for iron levels per serving.
  • For children, doctors may prescribe multivitamin supplements that are low in iron.
  • Before using infant cereals and mixes for children with thalassemia, consult your doctor. Such foods are generally fortified with iron and may not suit the nutrition needs of thalassemia patients.
  • Avoid junk food, processed food, carbonated beverages, and canned foods in thalassemia diet.
  • Encourage children to perform basic yoga poses to build their bone strength. Consult your doctor about the clarity of yoga practice for thalassemia-affected kids.
  • Add ginger to the thalassemia diet moderately as it helps to improve appetite and digestion.
  • Based on the individual needs, doctors may prescribe zinc supplements for thalassemia patients.
  • In addition, encourage personal hygiene and moderate exercise daily to build their overall health and immunity.

Disclaimer: The information mentioned in this article is purely educational. It is not a replacement for expert medical suggestions. Diet for thalassemia patients varies based on the medication and health condition. Please consult your doctor for personalized thalassemia diet recommendations and to know about foods to avoid and foods to include for a thalassemia patient.

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