The effect of food on health is well-established. Most people are familiar with diet changes helping people lose weight, control diabetes, protect against cancer, and prevent heart disease. Food is our basic fuel and the building block for healthy cells and organs.
There are many ideas about what is included in a healthy or healing diet. Examples are listed below, on the side bar, and in PDSA's diet info tip sheet.
How can this help?
Often simple changes to your diet can make a positive difference, like adding more fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. Eliminating white rice, white flour, and white sugar can also help. These foods contain few nutrients, add to obesity, rob the body of vitamins and minerals, and promote acid indigestion. It is important that your diet is nutrient dense and as organic as your budget allows.
Below are examples of approaches to eating that may have a beneficial effect on the platelet count or on the symptoms associated with ITP.
Some foods can cause low platelets and eliminating them from the diet may help raise the platelet count. The most common offenders are foods that contain quinine (tonic water, bitter lemon, bitter melon), aspartame (diet soda, sugar-free and low-fat candy and cakes) or alcohol (beer, wine, hard liquor). There is more information on the Warnings page and the Other Platelet Disorders page.
Oxidative stress (inflammation) can promote autoimmune diseases as well as make them worse.6 It can also impair the functioning of hematopoietic stem cells, the bone marrow cells that give rise to platelets.11 Dr. Paul Imbach, a noted ITP researcher, wrote, “Oxidative stress may cause ITP."3 Therefore, a diet that reduces oxidative stress or inflammation could have a positive effect on the disease.
You can find an example of an anti-inflammatory diet on Dr. Andrew Weil's website.
The macrobiotic diet is a type of anti-inflammatory diet, emphasizing whole grains, beans, and vegetables, and minimizing consumption of animal foods such as meat, poultry, and dairy. Unlike most diets, the macrobiotic diet considers the energy of food, whether the food itself or cooking method enhances the expansion (yin) or contraction (yang) of the body. For example, ITP is an expansive disease since the blood is expanding outside of the body. Therefore, eating contractive foods (ex.slow-cooked or very compact) and reducing expansive foods (ex. raw or very sweet), could off-set the expansive nature of the disease.
In the PDSA "Survey of Non-Traditional Treatments of ITP" more than 40% of those surveyed felt the macrobiotic diet helped their platelet count and bleeding symptoms.
Eat Right 4 Your Type
In his best-selling book “Eat Right 4 Your Type”, Dr. Peter D’Adamo suggests that some foods have proteins that are incompatible with a particular blood type and cause an immune reaction. According to this theory, when we eat incompatible foods our body mistakes them for invaders and pastes them together or glues them to various organs.
In the PDSA "Survey of Non-Traditional Treatments of ITP" more than 35% of those surveyed felt the diet helped their platelet count and bleeding symptoms and about 10% felt the diet had a sustained effect.
In a study of ITP-prone mice, those fed a diet containing 32% fewer calories than the controls had improved platelet counts and an extended life-span.5
Other studies of calorie restriction in humans suggest that reducing calorie consumption, while maintaining good nutrition, can help slow the aging of the cardiovascular system, reduce inflammation, and help prevent bone marrow fibrosis.10
Food Allergies and Sensitivities
Food allergies can cause a multitude of symptoms, including depression, fatigue and cell destruction,7 things that plague many people with ITP. There are several types of food allergies and sensitivities, including those that are immediate and those that cause delayed reactions, sometimes days later. These reactions are mediated by different antibodies and are exacerbated by stress.
People with abnormal numbers and ratios of T-cells (a type of white blood cell), especially those with a higher percent of T-helper cells, are more prone to develop food allergies and sensitivities because they have a lower allergic set-point.7 Note that people with ITP have, in general, more reactive T-helper cells than healthy individuals.4
Food sensitivities vary by individual but foods that are frequently consumed or craved in the evening are likely culprits. There have been reports in the literature of low platelets caused by food sensitivities to cow’s milk, tahini (sesame paste), and cranberry juice.8
Immediate food allergies are diagnosed with a skin-prick test. There are two main approaches to diagnosing and eliminating delayed food sensitivities: the elimination diet/food challenge and blood tests that measure white blood cell reactions.7
Gluten Free Diet
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease of the small bowel caused by a cross-reaction to the gluten in wheat, barley, rye, and similar grains, has been linked to low platelets.1,2 In gluten sensitivity, a different problem, the ingested gluten, along with other triggers, breaks down the wall of the intestines and increases the possibility of particles passing directly into the blood stream, leaky-gut syndrome. Leaky-gut syndrome has been linked to autoimmune disease.9 A gluten-free diet allows the intestines to heal and eases the symptoms of both diseases.
When considering a stark diet change, it is advisable to consult an expert. A change to a healthier diet can trigger elimination symptoms as your body clears stored toxins.
"I took the ALCAT test about a year ago, and it showed me my food sensitivities. After avoiding those foods for just three weeks, I noticed a big difference in my energy levels. I have always suffered from fatigue, so this was a most welcome change for me! I have always eaten a good diet, but never knew I had sensitivities to certain foods. This change in my diet also caused a 20-25 lb. Weight loss, which was also welcomed!" -Barbara
"My platelets have gone from 100 to 146 in four months with no drugs — just a grain and vegetable (macrobiotic diet). It's been a learning experience to eliminate caffeine and dairy and sugar. I have never eaten so much food and managed to loose some weight, a win-win situation. Just wanted others to know this is a possible alternative to drugs." -Shannon
“My husband’s platelet counts have been steadily climbing since taking your advice on eating kale (the highest amount of K for the blood). I immediately planted a garden and literally have it in our salad every night. His counts were down to 17,000, and, as of today they are up to 55,000. -Rami and Natalie
“I want to share with you my platelet success by following Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo’s blood type O diet. I’m happy to say my recent platelet count was 54,000 as a result.” -Sandy
“The very first visit I had with the naturopath he suggested that I eliminate all grains from my diet to see what happened. After three weeks, my platelet count, which had been as low as 8,000, came back to normal. I learned I had gluten intolerance (celiac disease) and as long as I don’t ingest gluten I remain healthy.” -Louise
1. Halfdanarson TR, et al. “Hematological manifestations of celiac disease.” Blood-2006-07-031104 doi:10.1182
2. Hatting M, et al. [Anemia and severe thrombocytopenia in celiac disease].
[Article in German] Med Klin (Munich). 2010 Apr;105(4):249-52.
3. Imbach P. “Oxidative stress may cause ITP.” Blood. 2011 Apr 28;117(17):4405-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21527538
4. Lazarus AH, et al. “Analysis of transmembrane signalling and T cell defects associated with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).” Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1998 Jun;424:21-5.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9736214
5. Mizutani H, et al. “Energy restriction prevents and reverses immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and increases life span of ITP-prone (NZW x BXSB) F1 mice.” J Nutr. 1994 Oct;124(10):2016-23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7931711
6. Moudgil KD, Choubey D. “Cytokines in Autoimmunity: Role in Induction, Regulation, and Treatment.” J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2011 Sep 23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21942420
7. Murray M and Pizzorno J. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 2nd edition, Prima Publishing, 1998, pp. 464-475.
8. Royer DJ, et al. “Thrombocytopenia as an adverse effect of complementary and alternative medicines, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, foods, and beverages.” Eur J Haematol. 2010 Jan 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20525061
9. Visser J et al. “Tight junctions, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity: celiac disease and type 1 diabetes paradigms.” Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 May;1165:195-205. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19538307
10. Weiss EP, et al. “Caloric restriction: powerful protection for the aging heart and vasculature.” Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2011 Oct;301(4):H1205-19. Epub 2011 Aug 12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21841020
11. Yahata T, et al. “Accumulation of oxidative DNA damage restricts the self-renewal capacity of human hematopoietic stem cells.” Blood. 2011 Sep 15;118(11):2941-50. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21734240