Platelets are blood cells that help with clotting, and it is essential to maintain their levels. However, some people have thrombocytopenia, or a low platelet count, which means they have to find ways to increase their levels.
Eating certain foods may help increase a person's platelet count naturally.
Foods to eat to increase platelet count include:
- folate-rich foods
- foods rich in vitamins B-12, C, D, and K
- iron-rich foods
Supplements of these nutrients are available and may help raise a person's platelet count.
Avoiding specific products, such as alcohol and the artificial sweetener aspartame, can also help to increase platelet count.
Several vitamins and minerals can encourage a higher platelet count, including:
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adults require at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily, and pregnant women need 600 mcg.
Foods containing folate or folic acid include:
- dark, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and Brussels sprouts
- beef liver
- black-eyed peas
- fortified breakfast cereals and dairy alternatives
People should be careful not to consume excessive amounts of folic acid from supplements or fortified foods because high levels can interfere with vitamin B-12 function.
Eating lots of folate-rich foods does not cause problems.
Vitamin B-12-rich foods
Vitamin B-12 is necessary for the formation of red blood cells.
Low levels of B-12 in the body may also contribute to low platelet counts.
According to the NIH, people aged 14 and over require 2.4 mcg of vitamin B-12 daily. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require up to 2.8 mcg.
Vitamin B-12 is present in animal-based products, including:
- beef and beef liver
- fish, including clams, trout, salmon, and tuna
Dairy products also contain vitamin B-12, but some research suggests that cow's milk can affect the production of platelets.
Vegetarians and vegans can get vitamin B-12 from:
- fortified cereals
- fortified dairy alternatives, such as almond milk or soy milk
Vitamin C-rich foods
Vitamin C plays a vital role in the immune function. Vitamin C also helps the platelets work correctly and enhances the body's ability to absorb iron, which is another essential nutrient for platelets.
Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, including:
- Brussels sprouts
- citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits
- red and green bell peppers
Note that heat destroys vitamin C, so it may be best to eat vitamin C-rich foods raw when possible.
Vitamin D-rich foods
Vitamin D contributes to the proper functioning of the bones, muscles, nerves, and immune system.
The body can produce vitamin D from sun exposure, but not everybody receives enough sunlight each day, especially if they live in colder climates or northern regions. Adults aged 19 to 70 require 15 mcg of vitamin D daily.
Food sources of vitamin D include:
- egg yolk
- fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- fish liver oils
- fortified milk and yogurt
Strict vegetarians and vegans can get vitamin D from:
- fortified breakfast cereals
- fortified orange juice
- fortified dairy alternatives, such as soy milk and soy yogurt
- UV-exposed mushrooms
Vitamin K-rich foods
Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health.
According to an informal PDSA survey, 26.98 percent of people who took vitamin K reported an improvement in their platelet counts and bleeding symptoms.
Adequate intake of vitamin K for adults, aged 19 and over is 120 mcg for males and 90 mcg for females.
Foods rich in vitamin K include:
- natto, a fermented soybean dish
- leafy greens, such as collards, turnip greens, spinach, and kale
- soybeans and soybean oil
Iron is essential for healthy levels of red blood cells and platelets.
According to the NIH, males over 18 and females over 50 require 8 milligrams (mg) of iron daily, while females aged 19 to 50 need 18 mg. Women need 27 mg per day during pregnancy.
Iron-rich foods include:
- beef liver
- fortified breakfast cereals
- white beans and kidney beans
- dark chocolate
Eat vegetarian sources of iron, such as beans, lentils, and tofu, with a source of vitamin C to increase absorption rates. Avoid eating calcium-rich foods and taking calcium supplements at the same time as sources of iron.
Certain foods and drinks can reduce platelet counts including:
- aspartame, an artificial sweetener
- cranberry juice
- quinine, a substance in tonic water and bitter lemon
Some research reports that certain supplements can increase platelet counts:
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants. Taking chlorophyll may alleviate some of the symptoms of a low platelet count, although research on its effectiveness is limited.
Algae-based supplements, such as chlorella, are rich in chlorophyll. The PDSA mentions chlorella as a potential supplement for those with low platelet count.
19 percent of people in their survey reported increased platelet counts, and 33 percent reported improvements in their bleeding symptoms after taking chlorella.
Papaya leaf extract
Papaya leaf extract is available in health stores in pill form.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that helps regulate the body's internal clock.
Some animal research reports a link between melatonin and increased platelet levels. However, more research is necessary to determine how useful it is for people with low platelet counts.
Melatonin is available in liquid, tablet, or topical form in health stores.
The symptoms of a low platelet count only occur when levels are particularly low. Mildly low levels often do not produce any symptoms.
When symptoms occur they include:
- dark, red spots on the skin (petechiae)
- headaches after minor injuries
- easy bruising
- spontaneous or excessive bleeding
- bleeding from the mouth or nose after brushing teeth
People who experience symptoms should contact their doctor immediately. Low platelet count can cause severe complications without treatment.
People with a low platelet count may be able to improve their condition by eating specific foods and taking supplements. It can also be helpful to avoid alcohol, aspartame, and other foods that decrease platelet levels.
However, always seek medical advice first as diet alone may not be enough to restore normal platelet counts.