Improving Platelet Count and Function Through Your Diet

Platelets are cells that circulate in the blood. They bind together when damage to blood vessels occurs, like when you get a cut. The platelets come together and make a blood clot, keeping the cut from bleeding further. However, some people have low platelet counts, known as thrombocytopenia, which may be due to a variety of conditions and lifestyle factors. Platelet counts can also be inherited.

There is no hard evidence showing that foods can improve platelet count. However, diet may play a role in helping to alleviate symptoms of low platelet count. 

This article will address some general guidelines on what foods may reduce symptoms and side effects from thrombocytopenia.

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What Decreases Platelet Count?

Many conditions, treatments for conditions, and lifestyle factors can contribute to a low platelet count. These include:

  • Bone marrow diseases: These include leukemia, anemia, lymphomas, and myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • Autoimmune diseases: These include lupus, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Treatments for cancer: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can both lower platelet counts.
  • Enlarged spleen: This can prevent platelets from circulating throughout the bloodstream.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption: Regular alcohol intake has been associated with bone marrow suppression and poor platelet structure and function.
  • Medications: Drugs such as antibiotics and blood thinners have been known to lower platelet count.
  • Viruses: These include hepatitis C, HIV, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus.
  • Toxic chemicals: Prolonged exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, arsenic, and benzene can decrease platelet count.

Dietary Benefits

The following have been associated with high platelet levels:

  • Folate: Folate is a B vitamin associated with the repair and growth of blood cells. Deficiency can lead to low platelet count and increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Vitamin B12: B12 is needed to form red blood cells. Low levels (B12 deficiency) may reduce platelet counts.
  • Iron: Iron is needed to increase platelet levels. Low platelets are associated with an iron deficiency.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps absorb iron. This may increase platelet counts.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps make bone marrow, which is needed for platelet production.
  • Vitamin K: Vitamin K is a nutrient needed for blood clotting. Not getting enough of this vitamin may cause excessive bleeding.
  • Water: Water is an essential nutrient that is needed for blood health.
  • Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives green color to plants, algae, and some bacteria. It improved platelet levels in athletes. When combined with iron, it increased red blood cells (RBCs) in hemodialysis patients. This may also increase platelet counts.
  • Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that controls the sleep/wake cycle. It can help produce bone marrow needed to make platelets.
  • Serotonin: Serotonin is a hormone stored in platelets and helps with blood clotting. When bleeding occurs, platelets will bind to the blood and release serotonin.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are associated with higher platelet levels and increased serotonin production.

Incorporation of World Health Organization (WHO) and Macrobiotic Diet Recommendations

Incorporating elements of the macrobiotic diet and nutritional guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) may increase platelet count. The macrobiotic diet (MBD) and World Health Organization guidelines have been used to prevent and treat disease.

Nutrient recommendations include an adequate intake of calories and fresh “whole foods.” This includes plant-based proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Fewer animal products are consumed, while sugar, sodium, and saturated and trans fats are avoided.

Chemical pesticides, herbicides, additives, and preservatives may lower platelet counts. These diet recommendations incorporate foods without these compounds.

How It Works

Certain nutrients may improve platelet levels and fatigue.

Duration

There is no specific timeline to follow. However, these nutrition recommendations may improve platelet levels and should be continued to prevent symptoms from coming back.

What to Eat

Recommendations on what to eat when you have a low platelet count include adequate calories, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables, along with foods rich in folate, B12, iron, serotonin, melatonin, chlorophyll, probiotics, and vitamins C, D, and K.

  • Fruits and vegetables: Getting five servings of both fruits and vegetables will increase your nutrient intake.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains should be eaten every day. These foods may reduce fatigue. These include brown rice, barley, millet, oats, wheat, corn, rye, and buckwheat.
  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats provide calories and essential nutrients. They also help absorb nutrients needed for platelet health. These include nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil.
  • Folate: Spinach, black-eyed pea, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, avocado, broccoli, mustard greens, green peas, kidney beans, wheat germ
  • B12: Clams, bluefin tuna, bluefin, fortified nutritional yeast, Atlantic salmon, lean ground meat, egg, turkey, tempeh
  • Iron: Breakfast cereals fortified with iron, oysters, white beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, kidney beans, sardines, chickpeas, baked potato, cashew nuts
  • Vitamin C: Colorful fruits and vegetables, red peppers, oranges, green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potato, spinach, green peas, mangoes
  • Vitamin D: Rainbow trout, sockeye salmon, UV-light-exposed mushrooms, fortified nondairy milk, fortified ready-to-eat cereal, sardines, egg, light tuna fish, portabella mushrooms, chicken breast
  • Vitamin K: Fermented tofu or natto, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, soybeans, carrot juice, edamame, pumpkin, pomegranate juice, okra, pine nuts, iceberg lettuce, chicken breast, cashews, carrots, olive oil, dried figs, chicken liver, hard-boiled egg
  • Chlorophyll: Kiwi, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, alfalfa, parsley, broccoli, green cabbage, asparagus, sea vegetables (seaweed, chlorella, spirulina, and algae)
  • Serotonin: Turkey, chicken, salmon, eggs, spinach, seeds, tofu, tempeh, nuts
  • Melatonin: Tart cherries, eggs, fish, nuts, and mushrooms are foods high in melatonin.
  • Probiotics: Yogurt, fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, supplements

Cooking Tips

Use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Make sure they have no additives or sugar.

Instead of heavy creams and sauces, flavor foods with olive oil, fresh herbs, and spices. 

When preparing eggs and meats, try to avoid pan-frying them. Poaching, hard-boiling, and/or baking them is a healthier option. If you need that fried taste, try cooking them in an air fryer. 

Steaming or microwaving foods may be the best way to preserve the vitamin C content.

Considerations

  • Go slowly: It may be best to start adding new foods one at a time. This can help prevent feeling overwhelmed by too many diet changes.
  • Support and community: The Platelet Disorder Support Association (PDSA) is a patient-founded association educating those with immune thrombocytopenia and other platelet disorders.
  • Cost: Eating organic can be pricey. Boiling, blanching, canning, air frying, juicing, peeling, and washing can help to reduce pesticide content in conventional produce.
  • Side effects: Some foods may lower platelet levels. Medications may also interact with foods. Ask your healthcare professional about any potential food and drug interactions.

Food/Drug Interactions

Below is a list of medications and the foods and drinks known to interact with them:

  • Corticosteroids: Licorice, grapefruit, citrus-flavored foods, foods with sodium
  • Cyclosporine: Grapefruit juice, citrus-flavored drinks, teas, juices
  • Lorenzo’s oil: Erucic acid in this medication lowers platelets.
  • Rapeseed and mustard oil: Lowers platelet levels

What Not to Eat

There are some foods and drinks that can negatively affect platelet counts. These include:

  • Alcohol: Wine, liquor, and regular or nonalcoholic beer can lower platelet counts. Drinking too much also damages bone marrow. This may decrease the number of platelets. 
  • Refined grains, sugar, and foods or drinks with added sugar: These may cause fatigue and reduce platelet count.
  • Some fruits, vegetables, and spices: Quercetin and rutin are antioxidants found in some fruits, vegetables, and spices that can reduce blood clotting. These include blueberries, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, grapes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, turmeric, and ginger.
  • Certain beverages: Beverages that may lower platelet counts include energy drinks, coffee, green tea, and drinks with quinone (tonic water, bitter lemon, bitter melon).
  • Certain fats: Fats in red meat, dairy, fried foods, and processed foods, as well as other hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, saturated, and trans fats, may increase inflammation. The cow's milk in some dairy products also may prevent platelet production. Hemp seed and fish oil can affect platelet clotting.
  • Foods high in sodium: Fast foods, snack foods, processed foods, and cured meats (beef, bacon, ham, pepperoni) may worsen existing inflammation from autoimmune conditions.
  • Herbs and supplements: A multitude of herbs and supplements may reduce platelet counts and affect blood clotting. Always talk to your healthcare professional before adding regular consumption of an herb or supplement to your diet.
  • Artificial sweeteners: In one study, platelet levels were reduced in patients who ate products containing aspartame. Removing foods containing aspartame from their diet increased platelet counts.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet that has been shown to maintain platelet counts. It may also increase platelet levels over time. 

The diet is high in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes. It calls for a high intake of healthy fats like fish, olive oil, and avocado. Saturated fat, sodium, and sugar are limited. 

If you are looking for a more structured diet, you can follow the Mediterranean diet but eliminate the alcohol that it allows.

Summary

Keep in mind that more research is needed to show the effect of diet on platelet count.

A combination of the World Health Organization's nutritional guidelines and elements of the macrobiotic diet may improve fatigue and platelet counts. Recommendations include getting enough calories, water, and foods rich in folate, iron, B12, serotonin, chlorophyll, and vitamins C, D, and K.

This diet is high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and plant proteins. Lean animal proteins are also allowed in smaller amounts. Alcohol and foods high in sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat are avoided.

For those who feel this diet does not offer enough structure, the Mediterranean diet without alcohol is another good option. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider before starting any new diets.

A Word From Verywell

Making changes to your diet can be difficult and time-consuming, especially if you're learning how to cook with new foods. To avoid getting overwhelmed, make slow changes by adding just a few foods at a time to see how they affect your platelet count. Continue to eat foods that may help platelets and limit or avoid foods that interfere with platelet function. Do what you can to manage your diet, and follow the instruction of your healthcare professional.

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