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Importance of Platelets in the Body
Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are plate shaped, colorless blood cells formed in the bone marrow. The average lifespan of a platelet is usually five to nine days. Along with calcium, vitamin K, and a protein called fibrinogen, platelets have a life saving function of forming clots to stop bleeding from a wound or a cut.
Platelets contain proteins on their surface that allow them to stick to each other and stick to the breaks in the blood vessel wall. Being the smallest and lightest of the blood cells, they are pushed out to the walls of the blood vessels. When bleeding occurs suddenly, the platelets rush to the wound, stick to each other and the blood vessel, and envelop it to block the blood flow and form a temporary blood clot. However, as they come into contact with air, the plate-shaped platelets break into irregular shapes. They react with fibrinogen to form fibrin. The fibrin forms a web-like mesh that traps the blood cells within it and form a clot.
Thus, a blood clot essentially consists of a clump of platelets enmeshed in a network of fibrin molecules. If not for the platelets, an individual can bleed to death from a simple cut or a wound.
You really need to worry if your platelet count goes down. Conditions such as anemia, heavy menstrual flow, leukemia, lymphoma, HIV infection, dengue, some forms of cirrhosis, and enlargement of spleen among others can cause a low platelet count.
The normal platelet count (number of platelets in the bloodstream) ranges from 150,000 to 350,000 platelets per micro-liter of blood. Low platelet count, say around 20,000, may cause massive bleeding and even death. People with a platelet count of less than 30,000 are generally hospitalized for blood transfusion. Others can build up their platelets with medicines. But, once the medication stops, the platelet count drops again. Moreover, some medicines are not recommended for pregnant women or children. So, what can be the solution?
Are there foods that help to build platelets? The answer is – yes. As long as you are over the 40,000 to 60,000 level, eating the right food and eliminating the ‘wrong’ foods can help you increase your platelet count.
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Foods that Help to Build Platelets
Most nutritious foods that help improve your immune system and reduce inflammation can help build platelets. Here are some categories of nutritious foods to help increase your platelet levels.
Whole grain foods: Whole grain foods, such as brown rice and whole wheat and their products, are rich in nutrients that help build platelets. Processed food grains are stripped of their natural nutrients that help in fighting disease.
- Blueberries, pomegranate, and all berry fruits help increase the platelet level. The quantity to be consumed should be equivalent to one cup of blueberries per day. But, allergic hives is the most common response to berries. Eliminate this food if you are allergic to berries.
- Carrots, squash, tomatoes and broccoli are vitamin-A-rich antioxidant foods.
- Fruits such as oranges and sweet lime contain dietary vitamin C that is easily absorbed by the body. These fruits help to restore the body’s platelet levels.
Omega-3 fatty acid foods: Use olive oil or canola oil for cooking or baking. These are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is also a good source of omega-3.
- Leafy greens such as kale, collards, and sea weed contain large amounts of calcium, minerals and vitamin K that help blood clotting.
- Amaranth, drumstick leaves and dried fenugreek leaves, too, may help improve the platelet count.
- In cases of infections like dengue, papaya leaf extract or suspension of powdered leaves in palm oil has shown to be useful in improving platelet levels. Two leaves without the stalk can yield approximately two tablespoons of the extract.
Vegetable proteins and lean proteins: Opt for vegetable proteins such as beans, nuts and seeds. Dried figs, dates, raisins are good source of anti-oxidants as well. Fish is the only animal protein that may help platelet rise. Other animal proteins usually contain residual antibiotics and saturated fats.
Organic foods: Organic foods don’t contain pesticides and herbicides that may increase autoimmune diseases and lower platelets. They don’t contain additives and preservatives that can increase toxic free radicals in the body causing inflammatory diseases.
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Foods to Avoid or Eliminate
What you shouldn’t eat depends very much on what caused your low platelet count in the first place, your body constitution, and foods that generally reduce platelet levels.
Eliminate allergic foods: Do not eat foods that make you feel unwell. If you are not sure of the foods you are allergic to, get a food allergy test done.
Avoid alcohol: Alcoholic beverages can damage bone marrow. Foods and drinks containing quinine too can lower platelets.
Avoid greasy foods and transfats: Greasy or fried foods and fast foods disturb the acid-alkali balance in the body as these are overly acidic. Avoid foods such as cakes, crackers, dips or spreads, granola bars, and ice-cream that contain transfats.
Avoid or reduce sugars: Refined sugar, fructose, corn syrup, honey, and fruit juices promote acidic diseases. Avoid or limit their intake.
Avoid or reduce dairy products: Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice-cream contribute to mucus formation that may aggravate autoimmune diseases. Eliminate these foods especially if you are dairy-allergic or if you are lactose sensitive.
In addition to consuming foods that help build platelets, it is important that you chew the food well to promote proper digestion. Drink warm, filtered water at regular intervals throughout the day to flush out toxic materials from the body. Consult your doctor if you are planning to make any changes to your diet.