Platelets are small blood particles that help in clotting and hemostasis. Platelets exist in circulation for about five to seven days. Following any vascular injury, the platelets get activated and form a platelet plug by adhesion to the exposed endothelium. It is followed by the formation of thrombus which helps in stopping the bleeding from the damaged blood vessel.
Platelets also play a role in immunity. The normal blood platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microlitre of blood. Low platelet count is known as thrombocytopenia and can result various causes or medical conditions such as leukemia or immune disorders. It can also result as a side-effect of certain medications. Blood disorders and certain hereditary syndromes can also cause thrombocytopenia. Infections like mumps, rubella, HIV or chicken pox can cause a decrease in the number of the platelets.
The signs and symptoms caused due to low platelet count are:
- Excessive bleeding
- Easy bruising
- Prolonged bleeding
- Enlarged spleen jaundice
- Superficial bleeding into the skin which is known as petechiae
- It appears as a rash or purplish-red spots
- Bleeding from gums
- Bleeding from nose
A doctor should be consulted if any of the above symptoms are experienced in order to diagnose the cause and decide how to increase the blood platelet count.
FOOD TO INCREASE BLOOD PLATELET COUNT
In order to achieve normal platelet count, various lifestyle modifications and food supplements are recommended. Foods high in certain vitamins and minerals help in increasing the platelet count. These are available in supplement form but food rich in these is the best way to regain the ability of the body to make and maintain platelets in the blood. Foods which help in increasing low platelet count are:
- Vitamin B-12 – It helps in keeping the blood cells healthy. Vitamin B-12 deficiency leads to low blood platelet count. The daily requirement of vitamin B-12 is around 2.4mcg. This is more for pregnant women. Foods rich in vitamin B-12 are:
- Beef and beef liver
- Fish like trout, salmon and tuna
- Dairy products like milk and cheese
- Fortified cereals
- Almond and soy milk
- Folate rich foods –The daily requirement of folate is around 400mcg. It is essential for healthy blood cells and is present in the following foods:
- Beef liver
- Dark green and leafy vegetables
- Vitamin C – It helps the platelets to perform their functions properly and also plays a role in immunity. Vitamin C helps the platelets to group together and function properly. It also helps in the absorption of iron which is necessary for platelet function. Vitamin C is present in many fruits and vegetables like the following:
- Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges
- Broccoli and brussels sprouts
- Bell peppers
- Vitamin D – It is produced by the skin in presence of sunlight and contributes to the health of bones, muscles and the nerves. As platelets are produced by the bone marrow, vitamin D is essential for maintaining platelet count. Vitamin D is also present in:
- Egg yolk
- Fatty fish
- Fish liver oil
- Milk and yogurt
- Fortified cereals
- Soy milk
- Vitamin K – It is required for proper blood clotting and around 120mcg of vitamin K is needed on a daily basis. Foods rich in vitamin K are:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Soybean and soybean oil
- Iron – It is essential for the functioning of the blood cells. An adult male needs 8mg of iron and females need 18mg iron on a daily basis. Foods that are a rich source of iron are;
- Beef liver
- Kidney beans
- Dark chocolate
All these vitamins and minerals are also available in the form of supplement.
Certain food supplements are also found to increase blood platelet count. These include:
- Chlorophyll – It is a pigment found in plants. Algae based supplements are rich in chlorophyll which is used to increase platelet count.
- Papaya leaf extract – It has been shown to increase the platelet count significantly and is available in pill form.
- Melatonin – It is a hormone which is available in the stores in liquid topical and oral formulations. It also helps in increasing the platelet count.
- Bovine colostrum – It is available in supplement form and is beneficial in increasing the platelet count.
In cases of mild thrombocytopenia, no treatment is required. Dietary supplements are prescribed and few precautionary measures are advised. The platelet count returns to a healthy level in these cases. In cases of severe low platelet count, the treatment of the underlying cause is done. Corticosteroids are prescribed which slow the process of platelet destruction. People with high risk of bleeding are given blood or platelet transfusion. In severe cases, splenectomy is recommended as the surgical treatment.