Risks & 7 Natural Treatments
Do you tend to bruise easily and have trouble stopping cuts or wounds from bleeding? Or perhaps frequently get nosebleeds or bloody gums? If so, there’s a chance you have a low platelet count.
Having a low platelet count — a condition called “thrombocytopenia” — is a problem with normal blood clotting and bruising that results from having low levels of thrombocytes, colorless blood cells produced by the bone marrow. Thrombocytes are responsible for helping form blood clots in the arteries/veins and stopping bleeding. A low platelet count puts someone at a higher risk for internal bleeding or other blood clotting and blood vessel-related problems — and unfortunately can sometimes really take a toll on quality of life.
Idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP) is a low platelet count caused by autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, leukemia, and lymphoma. Factors like medication use and toxin exposure can also lower blood platelet counts. Not every patient with low platelet counts has a serious autoimmune disorder. Thrombocytopenia varies in terms of the symptoms it causes and how it’s managed, depending on how severely someone’s platelet counts have fallen.
As you’ll learn, there are many different causes of low platelet counts, which can make treating the condition somewhat confusing. But fortunately the majority of people with mild to moderately low platelets are able to correct their counts pretty easily and live a normal, healthy life — all by making some diet and lifestyle changes.
If you notice more bruises and prolonged bleeding after minor cuts, consult your doctor to check your platelet counts. A low platelet count can be diagnosed using tests like a complete blood count, blood smear, bone marrow tests, and blood clotting tests. These tests check for proper platelet production and function. You might also need an ultrasound to check your spleen to see if it’s enlarged and possibly tapping platelets inside.
Sometimes thrombocytopenia is only mild and doesn’t even need to be treated, since blood can still clot normally enough. Severe low platelet counts may require medication to stabilize blood clotting or to prevent side effects. Treatments include platelet transfusions, splenectomy, corticosteroids, and immunoglobulins to block immune system effects.
Once a diagnosis has been made, you can use the recommendations below to help raise your blood platelet counts, manage symptoms and prevent complications from developing:
1. Improve Your Diet
Vitamin B12 or folate (vitamin B9) deficiency can both cause mild to moderate low platelet counts. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a global issue, with low folate levels causing complications, pregnancy, heart problems, and fatigue. Supplements may help, but a better option is to ensure adequate intake of these nutrients. Thus, you should consume foods with these vital nutrients:
- Some of the best sources of vitamin B12 include beef, chicken liver, salmon, tuna, yogurt, and turkey.
- The top folate foods include beans. lentils, spinach, asparagus, avocado, and beets.
Aside from making sure to get enough B12 and folate, focus on generally eating an unprocessed, balanced diet to raise immunity against viruses or infections and help your organs detoxify your body of chemicals you encounter. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially important for meeting your nutrient needs, including leafy greens, berries, cruciferous vegetables, fresh herbs, and spices.
Dr. Peter J.’s macrobiotic diet improved bleeding symptoms and platelet counts in 40% of low-platelet individuals. D’Adamo. These recommendations include eating more fresh foods as described above, avoiding packaged/processed foods, and limiting or eliminating dairy, low-quality meat, and added sugars.
2. Decrease or Eliminate Alcohol and Sugary Drinks
Heavy drinkers are at a higher risk of having low platelet counts since alcohol slows the production of platelets. Heavy alcohol consumption can suppress blood cell production, leading to abnormal precursors that don’t clot blood. Alcoholics may have defective red blood cells, abnormal white blood cell levels, and higher risk of autoimmune reactions and infections. Thrombocytopenia affects up to 43 percent of alcoholics who eat normally and up to 80 percent who do not.
Examine your unique health and medical history to decide how much alcohol your body can tolerate without adverse consequences. Healthy individuals should consume one to two drinks daily, with low platelet individuals consuming less. Avoid processed, sugary drinks with chemicals like aspartame, artificial sweeteners, colors, and preservatives, which can interfere with platelet production.
3. Reduce Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
Chemicals, such as pesticides found in non-organic produce, mercury from certain seafood, arsenic, and benzene, can slow the production of platelets. Tips for helping you lower your exposure to these harmful chemicals include:
- buying mostly organic produce whenever possible
- using natural cleaning products and beauty products, such as those made with essential oils instead of synthetic ingredients
- painting your home with low-volatile paints
- growing some of your own food in a garden using organic fertilizers
- avoiding burning chemical sprays, fragrances, or candles
- using glass or ceramic containers to store leftovers instead of those made with plastic or BPA aluminum toxins, and never heating food up in plastic
- avoid eating large fish that are high in mercury (like big tuna, shark, or swordfish), getting mercury fillings or amalgam fillings in your teeth, or using mercury thermometers
4. Decrease or Stop Using Painkilling Drugs
Over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen can thin your blood and affect your platelet levels. While they do reduce pain, they can also raise your risk for bleeding disorders when used too frequently. How much is too much? It depends on the person, but if you rely on taking these almost every day you might experience any number of adverse side effects.
They might not work as quickly, but you can help manage pain naturally by improving your diet and lowering inflammation. Exercise and anti-inflammatory supplements also help, including omega-3 fish oil, turmeric, frankincense/Boswellia, and peppermint essential oil.
5. Take Helpful Supplements and Herbs
Aside from vitamin B12 and folate described above to help prevent deficiencies and anti-inflammatories for controlling pain, there’s evidence that people with low platelet counts can also benefit from taking or consuming more of the following:
- Vitamin D plays a valuable role in the function of hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow that produce platelets, plus can help manage autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is best acquired through sunlight and exposure to sunshine on your bare skin.
- Vitamin K is needed for proper blood clotting, has anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to help control bleeding disorders, so consume vitamin K-rich foods.
- Sea vegetables (chlorophyll/algae/seaweed) help bind to heavy metals, can raise immunity, and provide many nutrients people tend to be deficient in.
6. Protect Yourself from Injuries and Infections
For people who already have been diagnosed with low platelet counts, avoiding injuries and infections is important since both can worsen autoimmune reactions and spleen enlargement and trigger excessive bleeding. Be careful to avoid injuries related to sports, work, exercise, or operating machinery.
People with low platelet counts should avoid contact sports such as boxing, football, skiing, and karate since they may cause bleeding. Avoid unwell family members and keep youngsters with low platelet counts away from childcare facilities to avoid infections and viruses.
7. Help Treat Bruises Naturally
If you have low platelet counts that cause bruising or redness on your skin, try this homemade bruise cream made with natural, soothing ingredients like frankincense, shea butter, jojoba oil, and coconut oil.
Here is how platelet counts are normally defined:
- normal platelet count: between 150,000–450,000 platelets per microliter of circulating blood
- low platelet count: anything under 150,000 platelets per microliter of circulating blood is considered low (if the platelet count falls below 20,000 per microliter, spontaneous bleeding may occur and is considered life-threatening)
- high platelet count: above 450,000 platelets per microliter is high — at this point, your doctor will likely look for an underlying condition
Having abnormally high platelet counts is referred to as thrombocytosis. High platelet counts may be caused by blood or bone marrow issues, which may potentially be accompanied by an infection. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, chest pains, and weakness. Both high and low platelet counts are treated similarly and depend on what’s causing them in the first place. Changing someone’s medicines, food, and nutritional intake may usually help both illnesses or detect any underlying infection or autoimmune disorder.
The most common signs and symptoms of a low platelet count include:
Prolonged bleeding from cuts or wounds
- Easily becoming bruised or developing excessive bruising (called purpura, which shows up as purple, blue, or brown marks under the skin)
- Bleeding under the skin that appears as a rash of small spots (petechiae), most likely to develop on the legs
- Bleeding gums and gum disease (this can happen while you brush your teeth or at other times)
- Having nosebleeds
- Finding blood in urine or stool (stool can appear as red blood or as a dark black-grey color)
- Having heavy menstrual flows
- Feeling tired and fatigued often
- Having frequent headaches
- Developing an enlarged spleen, which can cause pain in the abdomen and tenderness
- Developing a yellow color of the skin (jaundice)
Low platelet count is a common symptom of bleeding that cannot be stopped with standard interventions. It may be discovered through annual physical exam results or due to a fall or injury, requiring assistance. Individuals with ITP may be unaware of their disease until bleeding raises suspicion, resulting in a doctor’s diagnosis.
The bone marrow constantly renews platelets in the blood, maintaining consistent levels through a process of ongoing creation and destruction. In healthy people, platelets wind up dying off after about 10 days, at which point they’re replaced by new ones. In contrast, patients with low platelet count either create fewer platelets or remove them more quickly, keeping levels abnormally low.
Thrombocytopenia can result from genetic or inherited factors or lifestyle changes, such as medications, diets, and medical histories. Genetic mutations cause platelet production or shortened lifespan due to alterations in transcription factors, cytokines, and signaling molecules.
Low platelet counts acquired without inheritance cause abnormal changes in bone marrow and spleen production, release, and destruction.
Low platelet counts occur when circulating platelets either:
- aren’t released by the spleen normally (the spleen can hold on to them or they can become trapped)
- aren’t produced in high enough amounts by the bone marrow, to begin with
- are produced normally by the bone marrow, but then there’s increased destruction of platelets
- some combination of these factors above occur
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Low Platelet Count Causes Thrombocytopenia
Wondering what causes the abnormalities described above? The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute lists some of the commonest root causes of deviations in normal blood platelet counts as:
- Medication such as diuretics, NSAIDs, antibiotics, and common pain relievers can all impact platelet production and cause negative effects.
- Autoimmune diseases: Diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis cause the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy platelets. This is called immune thrombocytopenia or ITP.
- Alcohol: Alcohol slows the production of platelets and is the biggest problem when it’s consumed excessively, especially if someone’s diet is also low in nutrients.
- Toxin exposure from the environment: Chemicals commonly found in the environment, including pesticides, arsenic, and benzene, can all slow the production of platelets.
- Pregnancy: Sometimes pregnant women temporarily experience slowed platelet production, but this is usually mild and goes away after the baby is born. Estimates show that around 5 percent of pregnant women develop mild thrombocytopenia at some point during their pregnancies.
- Genetics: Certain conditions that run in families and are inherited cause low platelet counts, including Wiskott-Aldrich and May-Hegglin syndromes.
- Cancer: Leukemia or lymphoma directly damage bone marrow and destroy blood stem cells, but also most common cancer treatments (radiation and chemotherapy) destroy stem cell even more.
- Aplastic anemia: When the bone marrow stops making enough new blood cells, called aplastic anemia, it causes a low platelet count.
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- Due to reduced amounts of thrombocytes, bone marrow-produced colorless cells, thrombocytopenia impacts blood clotting and bruising.
- Low platelet counts cause bleeding, bruising, menstruation, chronic lethargy, headaches, enlarged spleen, and jaundice.
- Low platelet counts result from spleen insufficient release, bone marrow production insufficient amounts, increased destruction, or a combination of factors.
- Low platelet count may be caused by spleen issues, medication reactions, autoimmune diseases, alcohol, and genetics.
Post-diagnosis, improve diet, reduce alcohol, sugar, chemicals, painkillers, supplements, and herbs for increased platelet counts, symptoms, and bruise treatment.