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Hemophilia Diet: 3 Foods To Eat and 2 To Avoid

Posted on October 18, 2023

Your body loses essential nutrients, particularly iron, every time you bleed. While there’s no specific diet to treat hemophilia, a balanced diet can help replenish your nutrient stores and support your overall health.

In addition, studies show that people with hemophilia A or hemophilia B may struggle to get enough exercise. Adopting a healthy diet can help ward off excess weight gain and other chronic diseases later in life.

If you’re unsure about what to eat, here are some ideas to get you started.

Foods To Eat More of With Hemophilia

You can’t eat your way to zero bleeds, but certain foods are packed with nutrients many people with hemophilia especially need. Consider adding these to your menu.

1. Oysters

If you thought oysters were just for seaside vacations, think again. Oysters are an excellent source of iron, providing 44 percent (8 milligrams) of the daily recommended value for adults in one 3-ounce serving. The type of iron found in oysters and other seafood is called heme iron. Heme iron is more bioavailable, meaning your body can absorb it more easily during digestion.

While many people consider raw oysters a delicacy, they’re not the safest choice. Vibrio bacteria are naturally found in waters where oysters live. It’s impossible to tell if an oyster is infected with vibrio by how it looks, tastes, or smells. For most people, food poisoning from undercooked oysters leads to mild symptoms like diarrhea — but in some cases, it can be deadly.

Fortunately, you can enjoy all the health benefits of oysters — without food poisoning — by cooking them. To cook with the shells on, boil oysters until the shells open and then continue boiling for another three to five minutes. Or add shelled oysters to a steamer when the water is steaming, and cook them for 4 to 9 minutes.

Shucked oysters can be boiled in water or fried in oil for 3 minutes, broiled on high heat for three minutes, or baked in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. You can also cook oysters in stews and hearty dishes like a jambalaya.

Canned and smoked oysters are recommended to be cooked as well because they potentially pose a risk of containing bacteria.

White beans are another great source of iron — 1 cup has 8 milligrams of the nutrient. Additionally, some breakfast cereals come fortified with 100 percent of a person’s daily recommended value of iron.

2. Bell Peppers

Vitamin C is another essential nutrient, especially for people with hemophilia. Foods rich in vitamin C increase your body’s ability to absorb iron from plant sources like lentils and spinach. Vitamin C also plays a role in collagen production and wound healing, keeping your skin strong and helping you recover from injuries.

Bell peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C. A half-cup of raw red, orange, or yellow bell peppers contains more than 100 percent of the daily required vitamin C for adults, around 95 milligrams. Green bell peppers aren’t too far behind, with 67 percent of your daily vitamin C in a half-cup serving, around 60 milligrams. You can eat bell peppers with dip or hummus, on sandwiches, and in salads.

To get the most vitamin C in your fruits and veggies, eat them raw and fresh. Cooking and storing for long periods can destroy some of the vitamin C content of food.

Other great sources of iron include oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries.

3. Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables have a lot to offer, including vitamin K. This vitamin promotes blood clotting, and it contains folic acid, which supports healthy red blood cell production.

People with bleeding disorders like hemophilia may need to be especially mindful about their vitamin K intake. Collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, and kale are some of the richest natural sources of this fat-soluble vitamin. Greens also provide plenty of fiber and other beneficial nutrients, like iron.

You can enjoy fresh greens in a salad or wrap sandwich. Saute greens with spices as a side dish, or add cooked greens to omelets. If you’re not a fan of the bitter taste of darker greens, romaine and iceberg lettuce are also healthy choices. Instead of savory green dishes, change it up with a green smoothie. Blending frozen spinach with sweet fruits, like ripe bananas and pineapple, will boost your intake while satisfying your sweet tooth.

Foods To Avoid With Hemophilia

Some foods can make it harder to reach and maintain your health goals or raise your risk for bleeds or complications. Even if you don’t want to avoid these items completely, limiting them may support better health overall.

1. High-Fat Fast Food

Kids with hemophilia are twice as likely to be overweight as their peers. This extra body weight becomes a particular concern when it adds strain on the joints and increases the risk for bleeds and other health problems.

Unfortunately, many popular fast foods can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight because they provide calories without much additional nutrient content. These empty calories give your body plenty of energy to store as fat, but they don’t always fill you up. As a result, high-fat fast foods can promote obesity and displace healthier foods that your body needs to function at its best.

Although some fast-food chains have tried to include healthier menu options, it’s best to limit how frequently you visit fast-food restaurants. Overall, many of the menu items are high in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar while lacking in dietary fiber. When visiting a fast-food restaurant, focus on selecting foods with more vegetables to increase nutrient intake and choosing smaller portions of higher-fat foods.

Also, opting for other convenience foods from home — such as fresh fruit, low-fat cheese, or even a quick peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread — can go a long way toward improving the quality of your diet.

Read more about ways to protect your joints with severe hemophilia.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol can present significant risks for people with bleeding disorders. Even in small amounts, alcohol thins the blood and impacts blood clotting and excessive bleeding. If you’re living with severe hemophilia and struggle to manage your bleeding, drinking may make matters worse. It can also potentially interact with your medication, and it adds extra calories to your diet without nutritional benefits.

Accidents are more common after drinking, so having too much to drink can raise your chances of getting injured and risk of bleeding. If you’re having trouble stopping or reducing your drinking, talk to your health care provider for guidance and support.

Diet Is Part of a Healthy Lifestyle With Hemophilia

Strictly following a specific diet won’t cure hemophilia. Hemophilia is a complex condition that requires vigilance with your prophylactic clotting factor replacement and readiness to respond to emergencies. It may also involve keeping an open dialogue with your hematologist about recent advances such as gene therapy for hemophilia and whether any new treatments might be good options for you.

Nonetheless, eating a nutritious diet can only benefit your health and well-being. It’s important to discuss your medications with your doctor or pharmacist to learn about any potential food interactions. While there may not be any “off-limit” foods, staying consistent with factors like how many servings of leafy green vegetables you eat daily can help your doctor predict how your body will respond to certain treatments. Always discuss dietary supplements with your health care team, and be wary of those that have blood-thinning effects, such as garlic and fish oil.

Life with hemophilia isn’t always easy, but with a positive outlook, finding new ways to enjoy healthy eating can be a fun part of your journey.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyHemophiliaTeam is the social network for people with hemophilia and their loved ones. On MyHemophiliaTeam, more than 6,100 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their tips with others who understand life with hemophilia.

Do you make an effort to eat healthy with hemophilia? What foods do you try to eat more of, and which do you avoid? Share in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on October 18, 2023
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Kathryn Shohara, MS, RDN, LDN, CNSC is a clinical dietitian for adults at Baylor Scott & White Hospitals. Learn more about her here.
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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