What causes a low platelet count?
Platelets are the blood cells that help your blood to clot. When your platelet count is low, you may notice symptoms, including fatigue, easy bruising, and bleeding gums. A low platelet count is also referred to as thrombocytopenia.
If a blood test shows that your platelet count is low, it’s important to work with your health care practitioner to figure out what’s causing it.
If you have mild thrombocytopenia, you may be able to raise your platelet count through diet and supplements. However, if you have a severely low platelet count, you’ll likely need medical treatment to avoid any complications.
Supplements and herbs aren’t monitored by the FDA and therefore aren’t regulated for quality or purity. Always talk to your health care practitioner before taking these to be sure you don’t have interactions with medications or treatment approaches.
Keep reading for tips on how to naturally raise your platelet count.
Foods that increase
Foods high in certain vitamins and minerals can help your body make and maintain platelets in your blood. While many of these nutrients are available in supplement form, it’s best to try to get them from foods when you can. Eating well is essential to regaining health.
- beef liver
While vitamin B-12 is also found in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, some studies indicate that cow’s milk can interfere with platelet production.
- black-eyed peas
- kidney beans
- orange juice
Iron is essential to your body’s ability to produce healthy blood cells. A 2012 study also found that it increased platelet counts in participants with iron-deficiency anemia. You can find high levels of iron in certain foods, including:
- pumpkin seeds
Vitamin C helps your platelets group together and function efficiently. It also helps you to absorb iron, which may also help to increase platelet counts. The book Vitamin C: Its Chemistry and Biochemistry reported a rise in platelet count in a small group of patients who received vitamin C supplementation.
Good sources of vitamin C include:
- green or red bell peppers
Foods that decrease
While some foods can raise your platelet count, others, including some beverages, can lower it. Things that can lower your platelet count include:
- quinine, which is found in tonic water
- cranberry juice
- cow’s milk
Supplements that increase platelet count
Papaya leaf extract
A 2013 study found that papaya leaf extract significantly increased platelet counts in animals. While more research is needed to test its effect on humans, it won’t cause any problems as long as you don’t take more than the recommended dose.
You can find papaya leaf extract in pill form in many health food stores. For patients with Dengue Fever another study reported that papaya leaf juice was associated with an accelerated rate of increase of platelet count.
Colostrum is the first substance that a baby cow receives from its mother. It’s also becoming a common dietary supplement.
While there isn’t much research about its benefits, an informal study done by the Platelet Disorder Support Association suggests that some people reported beneficial effects on their platelet count after taking it.
A 2017 study identified elements of colostrum that contained proteins involved in platelet activation as well as immune responses.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment that allows plants to absorb light from the sun. Some people with thrombocytopenia report that taking a chlorophyll supplement helps to relieve symptoms, such as fatigue. However, no clinical studies have evaluated its effectiveness.
Your body naturally produces melatonin, but you can also find it in liquid form, a tablet, or lotions in many health food stores.
While it’s often used to improve sleep, it’s also been found to increase platelet levels. However, the study that established this connection was very small, so more research is needed to fully understand its effect on platelet counts.
When to see a doctor
If not properly treated, thrombocytopenia can lead to serious complications. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice:
- excessive bleeding
- bleeding from the mouth or nose after brushing your teeth
- headaches from minor injuries
- easy bruising that gets worse over time
These symptoms indicate more severe thrombocytopenia that may only respond to medical treatment.
The bottom line
Eating certain foods and taking supplements may help to increase your platelet count. However, be sure to tell your health care provider about any ongoing thrombocytopenia symptoms. If you have a very low platelet count, you’ll likely need medical treatment to avoid serious complications.