I recently received this customer question: What is a good vitamin supplement or food to increase blood platelets?
Here's my response I wanted to share in case you're wondering the same thing as well.
Blood platelets are not actually cells but are tiny fragments of cells essential for normal blood clotting. They’re literally shaped like small plates in their non-active form. A blood vessel will send out a signal when it becomes damaged. When platelets receive that signal, they respond by traveling to the area and transforming into their “active” formation. To make contact with the broken blood vessel, platelets actually grow long tentacles to resemble a spider or an octopus
How Long Do Platelets Survive?
Platelets survive in the circulation about 8 to 10 days, and the bone marrow must continually produce new platelets to replace those that degrade, are used up, and/or are lost through bleeding. Determining the number of platelets in blood with a platelet count blood test can help diagnose a range of disorders having to do with too few or too many platelets.
A platelet count is used to detect the number of platelets in the blood. The test is included in a complete blood count (CBC), and may be used to screen for or diagnose various disease and conditions that can cause problems with clot formation. It may be used as a part of the workup for a bleeding disorder, bone marrow disease, or excessive clotting disorder, to name a few.
Normal Platelet Count
A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood.
Low Platelet Count
A low platelet count, also called thrombocytopenia, is when there are less than 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood. This may be caused by a number of conditions and factors, but the cause typically falls into one of two general categories:
- Disorders in which the bone marrow cannot produce enough platelets.
- Conditions in which platelets are used up (consumed) or destroyed faster than normal.
High Platelet Count
A high platelet count, also called thrombocytosis, is when there are more than 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. Having too many platelets increases your risk of clotting and it’s usually the result of an existing condition – also called secondary or reactive thrombocytosis – such as:
- Inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or rheumatoid arthritis
- Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis
- If an individual has had their spleen removed surgically
- Use of birth control pills
Ways to Support Healthy Platelet Levels Through Nutrition and Supplements
Vitamin B12 and Folate (not folic acid) and Platelet Count
A deficiency can lead to mild to moderately low platelet counts. If you supplement with folate, choose a bioavailable form, such as tetrahydrofolate (THF) or methyltetrahydrofolate. Avoid supplements with folic acid. For Vitamin B12, choose the form of methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin
- This is a great product with both B12 and THF.
- Here’s a good liquid version with B12, B6 and folate.
Vitamin D and Platelet Count
Vitamin D plays a role in the function of hematopoietic stem cells in bone marrow that produce platelets. Get it from sunlight or a vitamin D3 supplement. I use Seeking Health Optimal Vitamin D3 for myself and my kiddos. One drop is 2000IU, and the liquid form makes it easy to take.
Vitamin D3 and K2 make a powerful combo.
Vitamin K and Platelet Count
Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting. Foods particularly high in vitamin K include green leafy vegetables like kale, natto (fermented soy), scallions, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, basil.
Avoid Alcohol and Artificial Sweeteners
The body sees alcohol and artificial sweeteners as foreign to the body and this may suppress blood cell production.
Eat Iron-Rich Foods
Foods high in iron include: oysters, beef, chicken, lentils, beans and tofu. To increase iron absorption, pair these foods with vitamin C-containing foods: citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi, brussels sprouts. Stick with food when it comes to iron—do not take iron supplements unless you’ve talked with your doctor.
Autoimmune Disease and Platelet Count
If low platelet levels are caused by an autoimmune disorder, address the autoimmune part. The cause of autoimmunity is 75% environment and 25% genetics. The 75% is in our control. Check out these five functional medicine strategies you can implement to start to heal autoimmune disease.
Some preliminary research on animals shows the following supplements can support platelet counts; however, always do your own research and check with your health care provider.
- Papaya leaf extract
Focus on eating an unprocessed, balanced diet to raise immunity against viruses or infections and help your organs detoxify chemicals you encounter. Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially important for this, including leafy greens, berries, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), and fresh herbs and spices (ie: cilantro, parsley).
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
1. Platelet Count. Lab Tests Online.
2. Williams M, MD. What are platelets and why are they important? Johns Hopkins Medicine, Heart & Vascular Institute.