Platelets are blood cells that promote blood clotting to help prevent bleeding. A person may be able to increase their platelet count naturally by consuming foods that are high in certain vitamins.

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It is essential to maintain adequate platelet levels to ensure that the blood clots correctly. Doctors diagnose people with thrombocytopenia if they have a low platelet count. They can offer advice on ways to increase platelet levels through nutrition, including both the diet itself and supplements.

This article describes what thrombocytopenia is, including its symptoms. It also lists foods and supplements that may help increase platelet counts and those that may decrease them. Finally, it provides tips that could help a person determine whether their platelet count is low.

Thrombocytopenia is the medical term for a low blood platelet count. Platelets are colorless blood cells that play a vital role in blood clotting. If a person sustains an injury, these cells will clump together to form a seal over the injured blood vessel, thereby helping prevent bleeding.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the platelet count in adults is somewhere in the range of 150,000—450,000 platelets per microliter (μl) of blood. Thrombocytopenia is when a person’s platelet count falls below 150,000 platelets per μl of blood.

Platelets are essential to blood clotting, so a person with thrombocytopenia will be more prone to bleeding. According to the NHLBI, most symptoms of thrombocytopenia related to bleeding.

Mild thrombocytopenia often does not cause any symptoms. In these cases, a person may only learn that they have the condition following a routine blood test.

The symptoms of thrombocytopenia usually only occur when a person’s platelet levels are particularly low. They may include:

People who experience symptoms should contact a doctor immediately. Without treatment, thrombocytopenia can cause severe complications.

Several vitamins and minerals can promote a higher platelet count.

Folate-rich foods

Folate, or vitamin B9, is an essential B vitamin for healthy blood cells. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adults require at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily, with pregnant people needing 600 mcg.

Foods containing folate or folic acid include:

People should be careful not to consume excessive amounts of folic acid from supplements or fortified foods because high levels can interfere with vitamin B12 function.

Vitamin B12-rich foods

Vitamin B12 is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Low levels of vitamin B12 in the body may also contribute to low platelet counts.

According to the NIH, people aged 14 years and over require 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 daily. People who are pregnant or nursing require up to 2.8 mcg.

Vitamin B12 is primarily present in animal-based products, including:

People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet can get vitamin B12 from the following:

  • fortified cereals
  • fortified dairy alternatives, such as almond milk or soy milk
  • supplements

Vitamin C-rich foods

Vitamin C plays a vital role in immune function. It also helps the platelets function correctly and enhances the body’s ability to absorb iron, which is another nutrient that is essential for a healthy platelet count.

Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, including:

Vitamin D-rich foods

Vitamin D contributes to the proper functioning of the bones, muscles, nerves, and immune system.

According to the Platelet Disorder Support Association (PDSA), vitamin D also plays an essential role in the function of the bone marrow cells that produce platelets and other blood cells.

The body can produce vitamin D from sun exposure. However, not everybody receives enough sunlight each day, especially if they live in colder climates or regions that are farther away from the equator.

Adults aged 19–70 years require 15 mcg of vitamin D daily, while those over 70 years of age require 20 mcg per day.

Food sources of vitamin D include:

  • egg yolk
  • oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • fish liver oil
  • fortified milk and yogurt

People who follow a vegan diet can get vitamin D from the following:

  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • fortified dairy alternatives, such as soy milk and soy yogurt
  • fortified orange juice
  • UV-exposed mushrooms
  • supplements

Vitamin K-rich foods

Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health.

In an informal PDSA survey, almost 27% and 32% of people who took vitamin K reported an improvement in their platelet counts and bleeding symptoms, respectively.

An adequate intake of vitamin K for adults aged 19 years and over is 120 mcg for males and 90 mcg for females.

Foods rich in vitamin K include:

Certain foods and drinks can decrease platelet counts. Examples include:

According to a 2020 review, regular excessive alcohol consumption may also reduce platelet counts.

Some supplements can also increase platelet counts.

However, it is important to check with a doctor before taking a new supplement, as some can worsen certain conditions or interact negatively with other medications or supplements.

Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a green pigment in plants. Algae-based supplements, such as chlorella, are rich in chlorophyll.

Taking chlorophyll may alleviate some of the symptoms of a low platelet count, although research on its effectiveness is limited. The PDSA mentions chlorella as a potential supplement for those with a low platelet count.

In the PDSA survey, of the participants who took chlorella, 19% reported increased platelet counts, and 33% reported improvements in their bleeding symptoms.

Papaya leaf extract

A 2017 study investigated the effect of papaya leaf extract (PLE) on platelet count among people with chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia.

The researchers divided the 40 participants into two groups of 20. All participants had completed a round of chemotherapy 7 days before the start of the study. One group received 7 days of treatment with PLE, and the other did not receive any treatment.

The study found that by day 13 post-chemotherapy, platelet counts significantly increased for the group who had taken the PLE. There was no significant increase in platelet counts for the group that did not receive any treatment. These findings suggest that PLE may help boost platelet counts, though controlled clinical trials are necessary to support this claim.

Papaya leaf extract is available in health stores in pill form.

According to the PDSA, certain supplements can reduce platelet levels. Supplements to avoid include L-tryptophan and vitamin B3, or niacin.

It is not yet clear whether other supplements may also reduce a person’s platelet counts. As a result, the PDSA warns that a person who receives a diagnosis of thrombocytopenia should notify the doctor of any new supplements they have been taking.

People with a low platelet count may be able to improve their condition by eating specific foods and taking certain supplements. Foods that may be of benefit include those containing folate and those rich in vitamins B12, C, D, or K.

Supplements that may help include chlorophyll and papaya leaf extract. However, a person should always ask for a doctor’s advice before starting a new supplement, as some can interact negatively with other medications or supplements.

People with thrombocytopenia should also avoid substances that could decrease their platelet count, such as cranberry juice, aspartame, and quinine. They should also avoid the supplements L-tryptophan and niacin.

It is advisable to seek medical advice before adjusting the diet, as dietary adjustments alone may not be sufficient to restore platelet levels.