Low Platelet Count?

Cardiovascular Care

Jan 29

A reader asked me about thrombocytopenia. Well, actually he asked about low blood platelets; he wanted nutritional advice. So first off, nobody here is a physician (so get that through your head). We are journalists with years of experience in nutrition, but we should warn you that no one here now has had formal training in nutrition. We are autodidactics. You don’t have to look up the term. It simply means that we are self-taught. And before you start laughing your ass off, keep in mind that most of the geniuses (and billionaires) in the computer industry were autodidactics, including your present author who built up a computer business and wrote millions of dollars in software for customers, retiring at the age of 47. I started programming on a Commodore 64 while visiting my brother in the middle of an Iowa winter; 40 below outside.

And as journalists, if we get it wrong, we will admit our mistakes and then we will make it right.

Now, back to our subject.

Blood platelets are colorless. Isn’t that surprising? You’d think they’d be red or something. They are very necessary for clotting. Note that this is not related to the genetic disorder of hemophilia which is caused by a lack of clotting factors (proteins).

Symptoms of a low platelet count, as you can guess from an inability for your blood to clot, are (from the Mayo Clinic):

  • Easy/excessive bruising (purpura)
  • Superficial bleeding into the skin that appears as a rash of pinpoint-sized reddish-purple spots (petechiae), usually on the lower legs
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts
  • Bleeding from your gums or nose
  • Blood in urine or stools
  • Unusually heavy menstrual flows
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Jaundice

The Mayo Clinic article (linked above) goes on to list a number of reasons for a low platelet count (trapped by an enlarged spleen, diseases/conditions that decrease the production of platelets, and diseases/conditions that increase the breakdown of platelets, and side effects from medication) but not once do they mention nutritional factors that could cause this problem, except when they mention alcoholism, which can cause a variety of nutritional deficiencies.

The Mayo Clinic is staffed with doctors. They do have clinical dietitians (a specialty group), but our VA has dietitians, and the mess hall serves margarine instead of butter; the vegetables are cooked to a point where you don’t need teeth to chew them.

Nutrients and Foods to Help Increase Blood Platelet Production and Maintain a Healthy Count

We’ll start with the vitamins: C, A, K, B-9 (folate/folic acid), and B-12.

Of these, vitamin K is probably the most important. If you Google it, you’ll find right away:

Vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood clot, preventing excessive bleeding.
 Unlike many other vitamins, vitamin K is not typically used as a dietary supplement.
 … The most important of these compounds appears to be vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

WebMD via Google

Vitamin K is found in (from most to least):

  • Kale (cooked) — add bits of it to your stir fries, or cook it up, refrigerate it, and as we say in the nutrition world, anything you don’t really like, hide it in your smoothies.
  • Mustard Greens (cooked) — same as above. But personally, I’ve never found a method of cooking this one that is palatable. (Hey, send me your favorite recipe!)
  • Swiss Chard (raw)
  • Collard Greens (cooked) — same as mustard greens
  • Nato — I don’t know why I list it. I’ve never met anyone who’s eaten it.
  • Spinach (raw) — great in salads.
  • Broccoli (cooked) — here is our low-carb, low-sugar version of Chinese Broccoli.
  • Brussels Sprouts (cooked)
  • Beef Liver — also high in iron.
  • Pork Chops
  • Chicken
  • Green Beans
  • Prunes
  • Kiwi — also the only fruit with vitamin E (which is in the skin, which is edible)
  • Hard Cheeses
  • Avocado — one a day prevents heart disease by lowering oxidized cholesterol.
  • Green peas (cooked)
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Cabbage (cooked or pickled, as in sauerkraut) (Reference for all the above)

If you go to the page referenced above, you’ll notice that we left out some on their list, mainly because I wouldn’t put that crap in my body. The author has a PhD and listed Soy Oil? Or goose liver paste? The gourmet version of this is called foie gras and it’s made by torturing the animal. So I will just boycott all goose liver products till this practice is halted.

Though you should know that it’s the liver where you will find most of your vitamin K in animal products, and iron as mentioned above. However, again, there is a debate among nutritionists about eating liver since it is the filter of the body (often referred to as the garbage can of the body). I avoid it unless the animal has been raised and butchered humanely without chemicals.

Food with Vitamin C (from most to least):

  • Kakadu plums (found in Australia) — highest known concentration of vitamin C, also rich in potassium, vitamin E (I guess I was wrong about the Kiwi [above]) and lutein.
  • Acerola Cherries
  • Rose Hips
  • Chili peppers
  • Guava
  • Sweet Yellow Peppers (red comes in second, then orange, then green)
  • Blackcurrants
  • Thyme (ever heard of thyme tea?)
  • Parsley — ever had tabbouleh salad? It’s “brilliant,” as the English say.
  • Mustard spinach (raw)
  • Kale
  • Kiwis
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Lemons (limes)

We’re stopping here because, really, there is so little vitamin c in the things listed at Healthline that to continue is ridiculous. Especially when you can get one capsule of 500 mg of vitamin C with 500 mg bioflavonoids plus rutin (a very important bioflavonoid) through our affiliate program with Swanson.

Folate (the artificial form is folic acid) is found in foods, but also found in your vitamin B complex supplements. You can find folate in legumes (like peanuts), asparagus (an amazingly healthy food), eggs, leafy greens (as mentioned above), beets (have you tried our delicious Beet & Blue Cheese Salad?), most citrus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and finally nuts and seeds.

B-12 is a water soluble vitamin, but unlike most of those, it’s not washed away quickly but stored in our livers. There are foods high in B-12, but most are animal products which makes it tough for vegan and vegetarians to get what they need. You get it from livers and kidneys (something most people don’t eat anymore), and fish; lots of B-12 in fish, but the most is found in clams (one of my favorite raw dishes, except that the oceans are poisoned and dying so, not really a favorite anymore). Then there’s eggs and milk products, especially fortified milk products. But, as we pointed out in one of our oldest articles, Nutrition and Depression:

Additionally, I learned that B-12 vitamin deficiency is common in people over 40 because it (like many of the B vitamins) relies upon stomach acid to be absorbed. Unlike the other B vitamins, it also needs to bond with something called “intrinsic factor.” Those of Scandinavian, English, and Irish descent often lack this “intrinsic factor” (produced by the parietal cells of the stomach). I note the age 40 (though it could happen earlier) because as we age our digestion slows, we produce less stomach acid and less intrinsic factor; thus I discovered sublingual forms of B-12 to help my body absorb it better. There are liquids and little pink pills that you hold beneath your tongue and facilitate absorption that way.

Nutrition and Depression

My favorite B-12 is a liquid form found at Swanson called NOW Foods Ultra B-12. That link will bring you to all their B-12s, but the liquid form by NOW Foods is just the best. It contains three forms of B-12 and your folate (and a lot more). It’s liquid, and you can just squirt some under your tongue for maximum absorption (and thus it bypasses the stomach where, if you have problems with absorption, those will be avoided).


If you have ever had any form of anemia (including a low platelet count) your doctor always tells you to get lots of iron. Again, most iron comes from good old, but heavily detracted “red meat.”

For vegans you have pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, lentils, and the old leafy greens. (Never forget the leafy greens. They’ve been keeping our livestock healthy for centuries.)

And finally . . .

Wheat Grass

This is the hardest thing for you to make in your kitchen. You actually need “fresh” wheat grass, so you really must grow your own in your kitchen. And you need a special wheat grass juicer. Now both of these things I learned over 30 years ago, so if someone knows of an update, please correct me, but until then, I’m just going to order wheat grass products from Swanson.

You see, the Journal of Universal Pharmacy and Life Sciences (don’t you just love the names of these journals that sound like they just popped up overnight?) published a study (a small study) showing that a cup of wheat grass juice with a squeeze of lemon “might” help increase blood platelets.

Here are all of Swanson’s Wheat Grass products from pills to powders, some of which you can hide in a smoothie.

So, good luck, Randy with the platelets and check back later telling us how you fared!