If you have immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), your hematologist will likely recommend some lifestyle changes to help promote your overall well-being.

You may be wondering how diet plays a role in your care, too. While no diet will directly affect your platelet count, eating well can help you manage your symptoms and feel your best. Read on to learn more about the role food plays in your ITP care.

Generally speaking, the best foods for ITP are those that are considered “whole” and “clean.” In other words, you should choose foods that aren’t packaged or processed. Whole, unprocessed foods provide your body with more energy and reduce instances of fatigue Your diet should consist of:

  • whole fruits
  • vegetables (especially leafy greens)
  • skinless poultry, such as chicken breast and ground turkey
  • fatty fish, such as salmon
  • healthy fat, including avocado and olive oil
  • flaxseed
  • nuts and nut butter (in small quantities)
  • whole grains
  • whole-wheat bread and pasta
  • eggs
  • low-fat dairy products (in moderation)

Also, you may want to consider opting for organic products when they’re available. Organic foods can be pricey, but they contain lower levels of pesticide residue than non-organic options.

If you can’t budget the money to buy organic, try to at least avoid fruits and vegetables with higher amounts of pesticide residue. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), these include strawberries, apples, pears, and spinach, among other foods.

On the flipside, it’s important to know which foods can aggravate your ITP symptoms (if any) so that you can stay away from them.

If you’re not sure what these are, consider keeping a food journal. Use the journal to track everything you’re eating as it relates to change in the frequency or severity of your symptoms.

And make sure you’re accounting for any other health conditions or allergies you may have. Talk to your doctor and hematologist about foods to avoid based on your ITP and any other underlying health conditions. Some foods to avoid are:

  • red meat
  • saturated fats found in whole dairy products
  • non-plant-based oils, such as butter and margarine
  • fruits that have natural blood-thinning effects, such as tomatoes and berries (eat in limited quantities)
  • fast food
  • convenience food found in boxed and frozen food aisles
  • canned food
  • garlic and onion (these also have blood-thinning effects)

The beverages you drink can also affect the course of your ITP. Water is always the best way to hydrate, but you might wonder about the occasional cup of coffee or glass of wine.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding coffee’s effects on ITP, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the caffeine content. One 2008 study found that coffee’s phenolic acids create anti-platelet effects.

While phenolic acid doesn’t necessarily affect the number of platelets you have, it can significantly reduce their function. So if you’re fighting low platelet counts, such studies suggest that drinking coffee can make matters worse.

Alcohol is another point of controversy if you have ITP. This is because alcohol is a natural blood thinner. And, it can aggravate other symptoms of ITP, including insomnia, fatigue, and depression. While an occasional glass of wine might not significantly affect your condition, you should ask your doctor whether it’s safe to drink at all.

Given the risks of alcohol consumption, it may be safer to skip drinking entirely.

A clean, well-balanced diet can help support you as you go through your daily journey with ITP. While there is no specialized diet for this condition, eating whole foods will help you feel better and less fatigued overall. Talk to your doctor if you have any specific dietary restrictions or concerns about your eating habits.