Sickle cell disease primarily affects people of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian Indian ancestry. There is also a growing segment in the Latino-American population particularly those of Caribbean, Central American, and South American ancestry.
In the United States one out of every 400 births has this disease. The most common type of sickle cell disease is sickle cell anemia. In my companion article “African Americans and Sickle Cell Anemia” I covered a lot of material about the cause and symptoms of this disease. The following is a very brief overview.
Sickle cell disease is caused by a genetic change in the hemoglobin portion of the red blood cell. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein inside the red blood cell. Normal red blood cells are oval and flexible. Red blood cells in sickle cell disease have a tendency to reshape themselves into rod-like structures that resemble the curved blade of a sickle; thus, the term sickle cell.
Sickle cells have a much shorter life span than normal red blood cells. This results in chronic anemia and reduced oxygen to the tissues of the body. In addition, sickle cells are less flexible than normal red blood cells. This presents a problem. They become trapped in the small blood vessels preventing blood flow to the body’s tissues and organs. This compromises the delivery of oxygen and usually results in pain and potential damage to the associated tissues and organs.
Recent Research – The Importance of Nitric Oxide!
Researchers at Duke University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute recently discovered one of the keys to the cause of pain in sickle cell disease. Their findings were reported in the January 31, 2005 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their research showed that when normal red blood cells move through the arteries they release a signaling molecule that tells the arterial walls to expand. The signaling molecule is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes the smooth muscle in the wall of the blood vessel to relax. This helps to open up the blood vessel allowing the red blood cells to pass through it.
The researchers at Duke University discovered that when red blood cells distort to their sickle shape, the walls of the arteries don’t expand. This distorted shape of the sickle cells, combined with the fact that they tend to clump together, ends up blocking blood flow through these small arteries and capillaries. The Duke researchers also noted that as the blood pulses, the walls of the arteries didn’t expand like they do when normal red blood cells are present.
Their research also noted that the degree of nitric oxide deficiency directly correlated with symptom severity for those with sickle cell disease. This means that the less nitric oxide produced the greater the pain. The Duke/HHMI study found that when nitric oxide was administered to people with sickle cell anemia their symptoms were relieved. One of the conclusions from this study was that abnormal nitric oxide processing may be the real cause of sickle cell circulatory restrictions. In addition to the Duke/HHMI study, several other studies have demonstrated that when nitric oxide is administrated to people with sickle cell anemia their symptoms are greatly reduced.
1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine!
In 1998 the Nobel Prize in Medicine was award to the researchers in nitric oxide. Part of what came out of their research was that the primary pathway for creating nitric oxide in the body came from an essential amino acid called L-arginine. L-arginine is called an essential amino acid because your body cannot produce it. It must be brought into your body through your diet. L-arginine is found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and other proteins. In fact, L-arginine is considered one of the most important molecules ever discovered. It is referred to by scientists as the Miracle Molecule. Columbia University refers to L-arginine as the “MAGIC BULLET” for the cardiovascular system.
Unfortunately, there is a genetic polymorphism common to the African-American community. Many African-Americans produce too much of an enzyme called arginase. In the bloodstream, arginase destroys L-arginine so that it is no longer available for the production of nitric oxide. This compounds the problem of not have a sufficient supply of nitric oxide available to help relax the small arterial walls. This is especially important when the red blood cells change into their sickle form.
Fortunately, there is a product designed to help provide the body with a pharmaceutical grade supply of L-arginine. This helps in the proper production of nitric oxide. The product is called ProArgi-9 Plus. Please see Step 5 for more details.
14 Steps to Help Those with Sickle Cell Disease!
Understanding the past and most current research will help to chart a plan of action to help those who suffer from sickle cell disease. The following 14 steps will help in this process:
However, please remember that these steps are for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding this or any medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, always call your doctor or 911 immediately.
Now, before you go out and start buying L-arginine supplements you need to be aware of the dark side of this amino acid. L-arginine ingested in its pure form tastes terrible and will simply go into the stomach, move into the intestinal tract and then into the gut, negating most of its benefits. By itself, L-arginine can have some serious side effects like: increasing free-radical brain damage, activation of the herpes simplex virus and reduced sperm motility. This is why L-arginine is also called the “double-edged sword.”
There are many L-arginine supplements in the marketplace. Because L-arginine can have negative side effects it must be properly formulated if it is to have a positive impact on helping the body create nitric oxide. It is critical that the company and the person who formulates an L-arginine product have both experience and clinical documentation to its effectiveness.
From my experience, the best L-arginine supplement comes from Synergy WorldWide. Their product, ProArgi-9 Plus, was developed by Dr. Joe Prendergast who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine as well as Endocrinology and Metabolism. Dr. Prendergast is an expert in integrative L-arginine therapy and has been using it in his practice since 1991. As a precaution, you should discuss this with both your physician and pharmacist especially if you are on any type of medication.
Because of the genetic nature of sickle cell disease there is no pill to cure it. This can leave individuals and family members feeling helpless in their battle against the symptoms of this disease. That’s why it’s important to discuss these 14 steps with a qualified physician. Together you can develop a plan of action; one that will empower you to have better control over the symptoms of sickle cell disease.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
P.S. For more information on sickle cell disease please click on the link below:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.