Experts do not recommend people with von Willebrand disease avoid any specific foods. They need to eat a balanced and varied diet and speak with a doctor if they have any dietary concerns.

Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is the most common bleeding disorder, affecting around 3.2 million people in the United States. It causes either insufficient levels of von Willebrand factor (VWF), a protein that helps blood to clot, or affects VWF protein function.

This article discusses VWD. It covers the foods people should include and avoid to stay healthy and offers additional tips for managing the condition.

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VWF attaches to small blood cells or platelets, helping them stick together at the site of an injury to stop bleeding.

In someone with VWD, the VWF does not work correctly or occurs in insufficient levels, and blood takes longer to clot. People with VWD can develop serious complications or, in rare cases, bleed to death.

There are three types of VWD:

  • Type 1: This is the most common and mildest form, affecting around 85% of people with VWD. Those with type 1 have lower than typical levels of VWF.
  • Type 2: This features four subtypes, depending on the specific issue with the person’s VWF. People with type 2 have typical amounts of VWF, but the factor does not work as it should.
  • Type 3: This is the rarest and most severe form of VWD, affecting only 3% of people with the disease. Individuals with type 3 have very little or no VWF.

There are no specific dietary guidelines for people with VWD. However, people with VWD should consult a healthcare professional about which foods to eat, limit, and avoid.

For general health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people limit the following:

  • saturated fats
  • added sugars
  • sodium
  • alcoholic beverages

Those with VWD should aim to eat a balanced and nutrient-dense diet with varied sources of whole foods while limiting processed food.

A review from 2017 suggests that fish oil may inhibit clotting but not increase bleeding risk in people with no health issues. However, a person with VWD needs to consult a doctor about how much oily fish or fish oil supplements are safe for them to consume.

Additionally, doctors may prescribe desmopressin for VWD, an antidiuretic that can cause the body to retain water. After taking desmopressin, healthcare professionals may recommend drinking only enough fluids to satisfy a person’s thirst.

There are no specific dietary guidelines for people with VWD. However, they need to discuss their dietary needs with a healthcare professional.

People with this condition may want to aim to eat a balanced diet according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which advises including the following:

  • vegetables, including leafy greens and other colorful produce
  • fruits, especially whole fruits rather than juice
  • lean meat and fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and soy products
  • grains, particularly whole grains, which should make up at least half of all grains in a person’s diet
  • healthy vegetable oils, including nuts and seeds
  • dairy products, including fat free or low fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and plant-based dairy alternatives

People with VWD who have heavy menstrual bleeding may develop iron deficiency and anemia. They may benefit from including iron-rich foods in their diet. Sources of iron from food include:

  • iron-fortified breakfast cereals and breads
  • lean meat and poultry
  • seafood
  • nuts
  • some dried fruits, such as raisins
  • spinach and peas
  • white beans, kidney beans, and lentils

In addition, eating vitamin C-rich foods can help the body absorb iron from food. Foods containing vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits
  • bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • strawberries

A person with VWD can also discuss iron management with their healthcare professional.

Learn more about iron-rich foods.

There is currently no research on the effects of nutrition on VWD.

People with VWD who are taking medications or have other conditions need to consider speaking with a doctor or dietitian about the best diet for their needs.

People with VWD may bleed longer than usual after dental work, surgery, or childbirth. They need to let healthcare professionals know they have VWD so they can prepare for potential excess bleeding.

Additionally, some medications can affect the way blood clots. People with VWD need to avoid the following drugs unless a doctor prescribes them:

Additionally, people with VWD may want to avoid high risk sporting activities or contact sports to prevent excess bleeding from injury.

No specific dietary guidelines exist for people with von Willebrand disease (VWD). However, eating a whole-food diet and limiting processed and convenience foods can help support overall health while living with VWD.

People with the condition can also consult a doctor or dietitian if they have questions about their diet, nutrient deficiencies, or other issues with the condition.