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In Sickle Cell Disease, the combination of ongoing hemolysis (rupture of rbcs), blood vessel blockage, and frequent infections creates an internal environment which is, simply put, toxic, and perpetuates the cycle of pain.
Free radicals are substances produced either by the body (from normal metabolic processes) or by external factors (such as X rays or pesticides) that can cause damage to the body, if not neutralized and removed promptly.
This is also known as oxidative stress, and as the above quote indicates, oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of the crises seen in SCD. While the body produces antioxidants to counteract or neutralize the effects of free radicals, in SCD, the continual rupture and disintegration of red blood cells (rbcs), causes the release of higher amounts of harmful chemicals, including heme and iron (which are also free radicals), which ultimately overwhelms the body’s antioxidant capacity. In addition, blockage of blood vessels by “sickled” cells can result in the cells and tissues releasing “distress” chemicals which can actually worsen the situation.
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, such as that produced by free radicals, as described above. Unfortunately, for different reasons, this attempt by the body to heal and to repair itself often results in an even more complicated picture in SCD patients. In SCD, you find this continual cycle of elevated free radical damage and inflammation going on, making patients more prone to stress and thus to having crises.
The key then, is to work on reducing both, that is, increasing the body’s ability to combat free radical damage and properly regulate inflammation.
One way to combat free radical damage is to enhance (or strengthen) the body’s ability to rapidly produce large amounts of anti-oxidants, especially glutathione, the master antioxidant.
Omega 3 fatty acids (O3FAs) are not only some of the best nutrients for the brain and heart; they are also very potent anti-inflammatories as well.
We have found that O3FAs are a great tool for helping children and adults with SCD.