Platelets are small, colorless cells that originate in the bone marrow and circulate through the blood. Unlike other cells, they completely lack DNA and a nucleus. When bleeding occurs, the platelets gather at the open wound. Their sticky surface allows them to come together and form a weblike mesh that traps the blood cells within the blood vessel. The mesh of blood hardens and dries to form a scab. Platelets need nutrients in order to properly function. Supplements are a good way to get these nutrients if you feel that your diet is not enough.
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Vitamin K controls the formation of coagulants in the blood. The use of vitamin K supplements can boost blood clotting naturally or increase a low platelet count in the case of a vitamin K deficiency. Symptoms of a deficiency include nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in the urine or stool and heavy menstrual bleeding. The human body stores only a small amount of vitamin K, and it will quickly run out unless otherwise replenished. Though vitamin K is ubiquitous in the diet, supplements may be warranted if you have one or more risk factors for vitamin K deficiency, such as problems absorbing fat.
Calcium is necessary for the activation of proteins that play a critical role in clot formation. A deficiency can cause minor breaks in the blood vessels as a direct result of a low platelet count. Under these circumstances, supplementation may be appropriate. On the other hand, calcium supplementation in the presence of high salt intake can actually lower platelet-specific protein levels significantly. In 1995 a group of researchers from the Kobe University School of Medicine published a paper in the journal "Hypertension" that suggests calcium supplementation can prevent salt-induced aggregation of platelets in hypertensive patients.
The use of vitamin C to boost low platelet count is mostly based upon anecdotal evidence. A few studies have found some benefits for vitamin C as a potential low-cost treatment, but others have concluded that vitamin C has virtually no effect on platelet count; nor have researchers defined a mechanism of action by which vitamin C could improve platelet count. However, a group of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, publishing a study in a 1999 issue of the "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology" found that vitamin C may reduce arterial stiffness and excess platelet clumping in patients with atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries due to the accumulation of fatty material.
You should always talk to your doctor first before taking supplements, especially if you are dealing with a specific medical condition. Many supplements may produce adverse reactions under specific conditions. Follow the recommended doses to avoid excessive intake.
- The Franklin Institute: Platelets
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute; Vitamin K; Jane Higdon; May 2004
- "Hypertension"; Calcium Supplementation Attenuates an Enhanced Platelet Function in Salt-Loaded Mildly Hypertensive Patients; Komei Saito, et al.; 1995
- Platelet Disorder Support Association: Successful Treatment of Immune Thrombocytopenia with Ascorbic Acid
- "Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology"; Oral Vitamin C Reduces Arterial Stiffness and Platelet Aggregation in Humans; I.B. Wilkinson, et al.; November 1999