White blood cells protect the body from disease and infection. Sometimes, diseases or infections can cause low white blood cell counts. Some ways to increase them involve diet, medications, and supplementing vitamins. Still, the underlying cause of the low levels needs addressing.
There are multiple types of white blood cells, which people also call leukocytes. When there are insufficient levels of them, doctors refer to this as leukopenia. When someone has low amounts of certain white blood cells, it can be called neutropenia, lymphopenia, or other names according to the cell type.
This article will discuss why white blood cell counts are important and ways to raise them.
When someone has low white blood cell counts, they have a higher risk of getting infections and illness. White blood cells help fight off disease, and some of their actions include:
- making antibodies
- killing cells with disease or cancer
- recognizing invaders
- acting as the body’s defence
The way for someone to increase their white blood cells depends on what is causing low cell counts. A person can consult a doctor about the best course of action.
Sometimes, underlying diseases or infections can lead to low white blood cell counts.
They might include the
- a disease that affects the blood, such as blood cancer
- HIV or other conditions that weaken the immune system
- infections, such as influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and many others
- autoimmune disorders, where the immune system attacks its own cells
Treatment or management of these underlying conditions can usually help someone increase white blood cell counts.
Depending on what is affecting white blood cell counts, a doctor may prescribe certain medications to help.
Colony-stimulating or myeloid growth factors can promote white blood cell production in the bone marrow. Doctors may prescribe growth factors to cancer patients with neutropenia or when someone has low levels of white blood cells called neutrophils.
Some myeloid growth factors
- filgrastim (Neupogen)
- tbo-filgrastim (Granix)
- pegfilgrastim (Neulasta)
- eflapegrastim (Rolvedon)
Learn more about granulocyte colony-stimulating factor.
Evidence also suggests that a Mediterranean diet may help protect against low white blood cell counts.
- extra virgin olive oil
The diet also focused on homemade foods, limiting processed foods or added sugars, and substituting poultry for red meats. Researchers found that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of leukopenia or low white blood cell counts.
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids may potentially promote white blood cell activity.
Still, more research is necessary to know how omega-3 fatty acids affect white blood cells and whether they can raise white cell count.
Generally, a person needs to speak with a registered dietitian to help address nutritional needs and increase white cell counts.
However, a person should always consult the doctor before trying supplements because some may interfere with certain cancer treatments.
Some cancer treatments
If cancer treatments are causing low white blood cell counts, a doctor may temporarily pause treatment and review the situation.
A person should always speak with a doctor about any concerns before terminating any medications.
White blood cells play an important role in immunity and protecting the body from disease. Low white blood cells can be called leukopenia, lymphopenia, neutropenia, or other names according to the type of white blood cells.
Strategies to increase white blood cell counts depend on what is causing low amounts. If underlying diseases, such as HIV, or infections affect a person’s white blood cells, treating them can help.
Other times, doctors can prescribe myeloid growth factors to stimulate white blood cell production in bone marrow, particularly for cancer patients.
Eating a balanced diet and limiting alcohol consumption may also help someone maintain healthy white blood cell counts.