Platelets, or thrombocytes, are one of the three main types of cells in your blood, along with red and white blood cells.
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Platelets play an important role in the body: The very small, colorless cells are critical for blood clotting. The process is triggered by an injury to a blood vessel.
A low platelet count, known as thrombocytopenia, can arise from a variety of factors and diseases, including a bone marrow disorder like leukemia or a problem with the immune system, per the Mayo Clinic. Thrombocytopenia can also be a side effect of taking certain medications.
Having fewer than 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood is known as thrombocytopenia, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Platelets stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs in blood vessel injuries; without enough platelets, easy or excessive bruising, fatigue, prolonged bleeding and an enlarged spleen may occur.
If you're wondering how to increase platelet count with vitamins or food, read on to learn more about the potential of certain nutrients. Still, if a blood test shows that your platelet count is low (or high), it's important to work with your doctor to figure out the cause and devise a treatment plan.
Be wary of labels that claim supplements can increase blood platelets, or the reverse — that supplements can lower platelet count.
Because vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission strongly recommends that consumers consult with their healthcare provider before taking a new supplement, and to avoid any supplement that claims to be a cure, per the Platelet Disorder Support Association.
How to Raise Platelet Count With Vitamins
Certain vitamins may raise platelet counts, and many of them are naturally present in food. What you eat may help increase white blood cell and platelet counts.
1. Vitamin B12
Low platelet counts are sometimes associated with vitamin B12 deficiencies, per March 2012 research in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a large, complex molecule involved in a variety of bodily processes, ranging from metabolism to brain chemistry to blood cell production.
B12 is necessary for producing healthy red blood cells and platelet cells, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, a blood disorder that causes weakness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, headache, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
B12 deficiency is typically treated with vitamin B12 injections, because this method bypasses any barriers to absorption, according to the NIH. It's also possible that high doses of oral vitamin B12 might also be effective, per a March 2018 study in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
People who consume few to no animal products (namely vegans and vegetarians) have a higher risk of developing a B12 deficiency. That said, eating foods fortified with vitamin B12, including whole grains, cereals and nutritional yeast, and also supplementing with the vitamin can reduce the risk of deficiency, per the NIH.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
Many foods provide good amounts of B12, including:
- Beef liver
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Fortified soy milk and tofu
- Canned tuna
Folate (vitamin B9) works with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help the body break down, use, and make new proteins, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The vitamin helps form red and white blood cells — one of the reasons why it's considered important for platelet formation — and also helps produce DNA.
A folate deficiency can also lead to megaloblastic anemia, and may also cause open sores on the tongue and inside the mouth as well as changes in the color of the skin, hair, or fingernails, according to the NIH.
Sources of Folate
Folate is present in many foods, and the best way to ensure you're getting enough of the vitamin is to eat a well-balanced diet. The following foods are considered good sources of folate:
- Beans and legumes
- Dark green leafy vegetables (including spinach, asparagus and broccoli)
- Poultry, pork, and shellfish
- Wheat bran and other whole grains
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, supports platelet function. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals, according to the NIH.
Furthermore, vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, another nutrient that's critical in maintaining healthy platelet counts. Eating vitamin C-rich foods may help raise platelet counts.
Foods With Vitamin C
Foods high in vitamin C include the following:
- Citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
Iron supports the body in producing health blood cells. In a very small September 2012 study in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, researchers found that iron supplements could increase the platelet count in people with iron-deficiency anemia.
The following foods are high in iron:
- Dried apricots
- Kidney beans
- Fortified cereals
- Sesame seeds
- Chicken liver
When Platelet Counts are Too High
While low platelet counts can be problematic, high platelet counts — known as thrombocytosis — may also cause certain health issues.
Having an excess of platelets can lead to certain conditions, such as stroke, heart attack or a clot in the blood vessels, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The condition is most common in people who are 60 years old and older.
Having more than 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood is considered thrombocytosis, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Essential Thrombocythemia Diet
If you have a high platelet count, it might be wise to focus on healthy lifestyle habits that can lower your risk of developing conditions that may contribute to blood clotting, per the Mayo Clinic.
Eating a healthy diet is one such habit that falls under this healthy lifestyle umbrella. While there isn't a single definition for the word "healthy," you can focus on a variety of foods that emphasize whole grains and fruits and veggies and try to avoid trans fats.
Normal Platelet Count
A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood, and the range can vary slightly depending on differing lab measurements, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
You'll need to get a blood test to measure how many platelets are in your blood.
Beyond varying testing measurements, there are several factors that may cause platelet counts to fluctuate. These include infections, vitamin deficiencies and inflammatory disorders.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin D
- Johns Hopkins University: Thrombocytopenia
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
- Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care: "Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D Deficiencies: An Unusual Cause of Fever, Severe Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B12"
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Oral vitamin B 12 versus intramuscular vitamin B 12 for vitamin B 12 deficiency"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Folate deficiency"
- NIH: "Folate"
- Pediatric Hematology and Oncology: "Severe Thrombocytopenia with Iron Deficiency Anemia"
- NIH: "Vitamin C"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Thrombocytosis"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Why are platelets important?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Thrombocytopenia"
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin K