Sickle cell trait originated in the malarial regions of Africa, where it offered evolutionary protection against malaria (it’s been estimated that 40 per cent of the population carry the trait). in the USA around 8 to 10% of African Americans are effected by the trait.
This genetic blood disorder affects around 240,000 people in Britain alone. Carriers of the”trait” (as it’s known), complain of stomach pain, aching joints and even crises (anaemia and severe pain).
Reports of serious illness and fatalities due to the condition have been documented both here and abroad. Despite this, medical practitioners in England continue to state that those who have the trait ‘don’t have the symptoms of sickle cell disorders’-leaving sufferers confused and frustrated.
Sickle cell trait is inherited in a number of combinations where the gene is present in parents.
Every baby has two copies of the haemoglobin gene inside the red blood cell, one from each parent. If both parents have normal haemoglobin (HbAA) then their children’s blood cells will be round or doughnut-shaped. This shape allows oxygenated cells to flow freely through the small blood vessels.
If one parent has HbSS and the other HbAA, all their children will have sickle cell trait (HbAS). Where one parent has HbAS and the other has the normal HbAA gene there is a 50 per cent chance their child will carry the sickle cell trait gene. With parents who both have the trait (HbSS), there is also a 50 per cent probability their child will have the trait.
Parents with sickle cell anaemia (HbSS) have haemoglobin that is sickle- or boomerang-shaped. When the oxygen flow is compromised, the haemoglobin sticks together inside the cells making them hard. The cells then find it difficult to squeeze through the small blood vessels. These in turn become blocked, causing severe pain and damage to other organs.
Sickle cell trait sufferers complain that their concerns and suffering are dismissed as symptoms of ‘other’ conditions and are not addressed in relation to the disorder. Carriers are repeatedly told that their complaints are not linked to the trait. However, there are situations which transform the trait into a syndrome that closely mirrors sickle cell disease.
A study by John Kark MD, at Howard University in the USA, found that one of the potential complications with this condition is unexpected exercise-related death (ERD).
During one summer four recruits doing basic training in the US armed forces died. All were carriers of the sickle cell gene (HbAS). Another trainee experienced exercise-related hyperaemia and acute renal failure, surviving only because he was given dialysis. No recruits with the normal genes were reported to have died.
The risk of ERD with those suffering from sickle cell trait came as somewhat of a surprise to those undertaking the study. Especially since the increase in deaths amongst recruits between the ages of 17-18 and 28-29 was not reflected in those without the trait.
People with sickle cell trait face greater risks with intense new styles of work-out or continuous level of exercise, for which they are unprepared. Exercising to exhaustion at sea level has been shown to cause reversible sickling of the blood.
Exposure to high altitudes, dehydration and reduced oxygen in activities like scuba diving can cause severe reactions in carriers of the trait.
In 1999 a patient with the trait was admitted to hospital in England suffering from acute abdominal pain and vomiting. The patient died of acute respiratory distress with sickle cell crisis as a contributing factor.
This was an unusual case but the assumption that trait carriers only crisis where evidence of predisposing factors are in evidence is misleading. It also shows clearly that insufficient research is being done in this area.
For medics to assume that ‘those who carry the trait do not suffer adversely from the condition’, is frustrating and illogical. How can anyone be in receipt of 50 per cent of the genes required for sickle cell disease, yet not endure adverse side effects? While some may have been lucky in the minimal degree that they have suffered, very few go unscathed.
The startling information regarding of the lack of Sickle Cell disease in our African cousins, was brought to my attention by Amos N Wilson in his best selling book
Amos N. Wilson
In the chapter titled, ”The Prenatal Period” a report by Gonzalez states:
“….blacks in Africa, our true cousins with the same blood we have, simply do not suffer from sickle cell anaemia
As long ago as 1950, a prominent epidemiologist by the name of Dr A.B. Raper, noted that only 100 cases of sickle cell anaemia had been reported in all of Africa between 1925 and 1950. Doctors recently working in Africa have recently demonstrated that our African cousins are indeed immune to the deadly anaemia which claims the lives of so many African Americans”.
So what does this mean as a potential cure or respite from this disease which is so prevalent in those living in Europe and America? Well the one unifying factor which seems to protect our cousins in Africa is diet!
In his outstanding report, Gonzalez stated that the main food that offered this protection were, Yams and Cassava. These two foods make up an enormous part of traditional diet in Africa. Yams and Cassava are also the richest source of a substance call “Thiocyanate”. It is this ingredient which is believed to hold the key as the most effective diet to neutralize the effects of sickle cell anaemia!
Would it surprise you to learn that Africans consume at least 40 times the amount of “Cyanate” in their diets? This is as compared to that of Africans Americans or those of African descent living in Europe. This is also furthered by evidence used by the Rockefeller researches, in their therapeutic treatment of sickle cell anaemia So it is therefore evident, that by changing our diets when we emigrated, we also lost the main key to effectively neutralize this disease.
When we live in a country, we tend to adapt to the general food stuffs available to us. This is also fuelled by the media, cost, and location. The indigenous diet in the West is well known for it’s high fat low vitamin and nutrient content. Added to that, fast foods and lack of time compounds an already volatile situation.
Allowing our children to eat school meals which are not culturally prepared, robs them of this nutrient which can help to alleviate the chronic symptoms and effect of this painful disease.
In order to counteract the effects of sickle cell anaemia or sickle cell trait, we must endeavour to research and cultivate a diet suitable for our cultural physique and heritage. This means adopting a diet rich in Yams and Cassava.
Try to include this in your family’s meals at least once a day. It would be ideal to incorporate these foods as standard, instead of potatoes, white rice, spaghetti or noodles.
It is also important that the correct vitamin supplements are used, especially during the winter months. Garlic, Coder-liver oil and vitamin C, are great for relieving stiff painful joints and cold symptoms. if you or your child suffers from pain, then a gentle massage with olive oil will help.
If your finding the cost of vitamin supplements challenging, why not form a vitamin club? Please contact us for details of buying in bulk and splitting the costs with family, friends or groups.