A special diet isn’t required for people with hemophilia A, but eating well and maintaining a healthy weight is important. If you have hemophilia A, your body has low levels of a blood-clotting substance called factor VIII. As a result, you may bleed for a longer period of time after an injury than most people. You may also bleed into your joints and muscles.
If you have trouble managing your weight, the extra pounds not only put more strain on your joints, but also increase the amount of factor VIII replacement therapy you need to treat or prevent a bleed.
Eating a healthy diet can strengthen your bones and joints, help you maintain an ideal weight, and decrease your risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.
If your child has hemophilia A, you’ll want them to eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, as it’s crucial for their growth.
Healthy eating tips
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) body-weight calculator can help you determine how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis to maintain or reduce your weight.
Sometimes it’s difficult to estimate the number of calories you’re eating, or how many calories your child is eating. But it’s good to be aware of what amount you or your child should be striving for each day as a general guideline. Packing your child’s lunch, as opposed to your child buying something in their school cafeteria, and being aware of serving sizes are ways to better manage how much and what kinds of foods they’re eating.
The USDA developed MyPlate to help you visualize what a healthy meal looks like. The Harvard School of Public Health along with Harvard Medical School created a modified version of MyPlate based on the best and most current nutrition science available. The plate illustrates how to build a healthy meal using a colorful variety of foods:
- Fill one-half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, but mostly vegetables, such as broccoli or sweet potatoes.
- Choose a lean protein source, such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, nuts, or tofu. Eat seafood at least twice a week.
- Include whole grains by choosing brown grains over highly refined white and processed grains.
- Complete the meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk, or water, with the goal being to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks at meals.
When deciding on which foods to eat, consider these tips:
- Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. Dark leafy greens are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Baked, broiled, or grilled lean meats are healthier than fried.
- Whole grains, like oats and brown rice, and whole grain breads can help curb your appetite and stabilize your blood sugar. This may help reduce cravings for sweets and increase your energy levels.
- Aim for foods low in saturated fat, but pay close attention to the sugar content. Some foods advertised as low fat or fat free may contain a large amount of sugar instead. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women, and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar.
- Unsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. These are found in fish, avocados, olives, walnuts, and soybeans, for example.
- Oils such as corn, safflower, canola, olive, and sunflower are also unsaturated fats. These may help improve your cholesterol when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats like butter, lard, or shortening.
Calcium- and iron-rich foods
Calcium and iron are particularly important for children and adolescents. During this time, bones are growing rapidly. Calcium is required to build strong bones and to maintain healthy teeth. It’s important that people with hemophilia A have healthy teeth, because gum disease and dental work can lead to bleeds. Calcium-rich foods include:
- low-fat or fat-free milk
- low-fat cheese
- Greek yogurt and 2 percent milkfat cottage cheese
- calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice
- calcium-fortified cereals
- dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli
Your body uses iron to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your muscles. When you bleed, iron is lost. If you have a bleeding episode, iron-rich foods may help you recover more quickly. Iron-rich foods include the following:
- lean red meat
- leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy)
- fortified cereals
- dried fruit like raisins and apricots
Iron is better absorbed when you eat a source of vitamin C along with an iron-rich food, such as:
- oranges and other citrus fruits
- red and green bell peppers
If you’re a female with a heavy menstrual period, you’re at a higher risk of iron deficiency. You should pay particular attention to how much iron you’re getting in your diet.
Food and supplements to avoid
In general, you’ll want to avoid foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Fried foods, snacks, candy, and soda are not part of a healthy diet. It’s OK to indulge once in a while on a piece of birthday cake or a chocolate bar, but this shouldn’t be an everyday routine. In addition, limit your intake of the following:
- large glasses of juice
- soft drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened tea
- heavy gravies and sauces
- butter, shortening, or lard
- full-fat dairy products
- foods containing trans fats, including fried foods and baked goods (pastries, pizza, pie, cookies, and crackers)
Moderating your child’s sweet tooth can be tricky. But if you start treating dessert as a special treat, not a daily habit, you can start building a healthy relationship with desserts and other sugary foods at home.
Consider choosing naturally sweetened fruits like raisins, grapes, cherries, apples, peaches, and pears as a healthy alternative to artificially sweetened foods.
Don’t take supplements of vitamin E or fish oil if you have hemophilia A. They may prevent your platelets from clumping. Certain herbal supplements can make bleeding worse, so you shouldn’t take a supplement without consulting your doctor first. In particular, avoid taking supplements of the following herbs:
- Asian ginseng
- ginkgo biloba
- garlic (in large quantities)
- willow bark
Water is a large part of a healthy diet. Your cells, organs, and joints need water to function properly. Additionally, when you’re well hydrated, it’s easier to find a vein to give yourself an infusion. Aim for 8 to 12 cups of water (64 to 96 ounces) every day — more if you’re very active.
Reading food labels
Food labels contain a lot of information. When deciding between products, pay attention to the following:
- how many serving sizes are in each package
- the number of calories in one serving
- saturated fat and trans fats
- vitamins and minerals
You’ll want to limit your intake of saturated and trans fats as much as possible. Try not to consume more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day if you’re female, and 9 teaspoons per day if you’re male. Sodium intake should be ideally no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults.
There are no special dietary recommendations for people with hemophilia A. However, getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals from nutritious, healthful foods and maintaining a healthy body weight is key to preventing complications.