Sickle cell anemia develops when a person inherits defective sickle beta-globin genes from their parents, causing them to produce abnormal hemoglobin. The cells are abnormally shaped, which makes it difficult for them to travel through blood vessels. Sickle-shaped red blood cells are more fragile, causing them to break or become lodged, which can block blood flow or reduce the body’s oxygen supply. Sickle cell anemia symptoms include weakness, shortness of breath and chest pains. (1) While sickle cell anemia causes cannot be prevented, natural sickle cell anemia treatment can help manage symptoms.

Sickle Cell Anemia Causes and Risk Factors

  • Genetics
  • A child must inherit defective genes from both parents

Sickle Cell Anemia Symptoms

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Symptoms of a fever
  • Swelling and fluid retention
  • Shortness of breath and chest pains
  • Joint and bone pains
  • Abdominal pains
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea, vomiting and digestive problems
  • Poor circulation that causes sores
  • Symptoms of jaundice
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Higher risk for infections and illnesses
  • Higher risk for blood clots, liver damage, kidney damage, lung damage and gallstones
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Higher risk for stroke, seizures, enlargement of the heart and heart murmurs

sickle cell anemia fever

Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment

1. Diet

While diet cannot change sickle cell anemia causes, it can help patients manage painful symptoms. Patients with sickle cell anemia symptoms may have a harder time digesting protein and micronutrients, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. (2) As part of your sickle cell anemia treatment:

  • Be sure to eat enough calories to prevent unwanted weight loss
  • Eat a nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of fresh produce
  • Eat enough protein, foods high in iron and healthy fats including coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds
  • Consume foods high in folate to help with the production of red blood cells, including chickpeas, pinto beans, lentils, spinach, beets and broccoli
  • Drink enough water each day to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • Avoid processed and packaged foods

sickle cell anemia water

2. Supplements

Certain supplements can help in sickle cell anemia treatment to prevent deficiencies and protect bones. To help reduce sickle cell anemia symptoms, take:

  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Folate/Folic acid (3)
  • Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin B6 and B12
  • Multivitamins including copper, zinc and magnesium

3. Reduce Stress and Get Enough Sleep

Exercise is possible in most cases of sickle cell anemia, depending on a person’s symptoms. Exercise may need to be gentle or moderate and rest is important. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and participate in relaxing activities, such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage and breathing exercises.

sickle cell anemia sleep

4. Prevent Overexertion

Sickle cell anemia causes the amount of oxygen in the blood to drop to very low levels. Avoiding stressful situations can help prevent overexertion. Avoiding vigorous exercise and spending time at high altitudes, especially when recovering from an illness. (4)

5. Essential Oils To Reduce Pain

Symptoms of sickle cell anemia can include joint stiffness, muscle weakness, bone pain, chest pain and abdominal pain. To help manage the pain, use a warm compress on painful areas for about 15 minute 2-3 times a day. Taking warm baths, stretching and massage therapy can also help reduce symptoms. Essential oils that can be used to help manage symptoms include peppermint oil to reduce sore muscles, frankincense oil to reduce inflammation, lavender oil to help manage stress and citrus oils like bergamot, orange or lemon to help decrease fatigue. (5)