Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an autoimmune disease that results in low levels of platelets, the blood cells that help blood clot. There are no official dietary recommendations for someone living with ITP. However, a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients may help you to feel better while managing the condition.
If you have ITP, your specific dietary needs will vary based on your overall health, what other conditions you have, and what medications you take. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about nutrition and ITP. They can offer advice and resources, as well as provide referrals to nutrition specialists and dietitians.
Read on for an overview of some types of food to eat and foods to avoid if you’re living with ITP.
Many nutritious foods can benefit people with ITP. Eating a balanced diet may help address ITP symptoms like fatigue. It can also lower your risk for other chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Leafy greens and dark green vegetables like broccoli are a great source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Specifically, they are high in vitamin K — a vitamin that helps blood to clot. Making leafy green vegetables a part of your daily diet could help contribute to your overall health while living with ITP.
Experiment with different greens to get a range of flavors and phytonutrients (health-promoting plant compounds). You can try roasting kale to make kale chips, braising collard greens, adding spinach to omelets and soups, or swapping the bread on your sandwich for hearty leaves of romaine lettuce.
If you’re not a big fan of salads or sauteed greens, you can also sneak more greens into your diet with a refreshing green smoothie. Put a handful of fresh or frozen spinach, kale, or spring mix in your blender, along with sweet fruits like ripe bananas, pineapple, mango, strawberries, blueberries, or citrus. Add water or yogurt, blend until smooth, and enjoy.
To encourage kids to eat more greens, call a green smoothie “dino juice” and let them help you choose the ingredients. You can also freeze green smoothies into ice pops.
Healthy fats are anti-inflammatory and promote a healthy heart, brain, and nervous system. Look for foods that are low in saturated fat and contain monounsaturated fats.
Foods that contain healthier fats include:
When cooking, reach for olive oil and canola oil instead of solid fats (like butter, margarine, or lard).
Choose whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. Examples of whole foods are whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, eggs, lean meats and poultry, and seafood. These foods help make up a nutrient-dense diet, one that provides the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain a healthy immune system and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases.
There’s no specific list of foods you should avoid if you have ITP. However, moderating your intake of certain types of food can help you to focus more on foods that provide nutritional benefits and help you to feel better.
Limiting foods and beverages with high amounts of added sugars can leave more room for nutrient-rich whole foods in your diet. Unfortunately, added sugar is a hidden ingredient in many different foods, even if they don’t taste sweet (like condiments and savory prepared meals). Food manufacturers often add sugar as a preservative and flavor enhancer. In addition, sugar can be listed under various names, making it difficult to spot on a food label. Words ending in “-ose” are usually sugars, such as maltose, sucrose, fructose, glucose, and dextrose.
Other examples of added sugars include:
While you don’t have to cut out sugar completely, checking the ingredients on food labels and preparing your own food from home can help you be more aware about your intake of added sugars. Then you can try to find alternatives as necessary.
Many processed foods contain trans fat because it increases their shelf life and keeps them from spoiling as quickly. Unfortunately, trans fat can be bad for health, particularly heart health and inflammation.
High-fat dairy products, deep-fried foods, and fast foods contain trans fats. Therefore, it’s best to consider these “once-in-a-while” foods rather than daily staples.
When shopping for food, it’s important to know that sometimes trans fat isn’t listed on the food label. A product may say it contains zero grams of trans fat, but that isn’t the whole story.
Nutrition facts are listed per serving. Therefore, a food item with a small amount of trans fats per serving may seem like it doesn’t have any. However, trace amounts of trans fats may still be present in the food, just in low enough amounts that they do not need to be listed. And if you eat more than the listed serving size, the amount of trans fats you’re taking in can start to add up.
Check the ingredient list to determine if a food is truly free of trans fat. If you see the words “hydrogenated oil,” you know it has at least some trans fat, because hydrogenation is the process of transforming liquid fats into trans fats.
Some foods and spices might affect blood clotting, and these are often discussed as a problem for people who take anticoagulant (anticlotting) medications. However, people with ITP would probably need to consume these foods in very large amounts to have any effect on clotting and platelet levels.
Some foods, spices, and oils that may affect clotting include:
If you’re considering eating any of these foods, do so in moderation. Any potential health effects may depend on your individual platelet count and ITP symptoms. If you have any concerns, ask your health care provider for nutrition advice.
In addition to watching your plate, considering what you drink is also important with ITP. Alcohol consumption can affect overall well-being and may contribute to symptoms of ITP like fatigue. Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of bleeding.
Tonic water contains quinine, which may lower platelet counts. Instead, enjoy fizz from club soda.
You may need to alter your diet when taking certain medications to manage ITP. Certain medications, such as avatrombopag (Doptelet), must be taken with food.
Other ITP medications work best while avoiding certain foods. For example, eltrombopag (Promacta) shouldn’t be taken with high-calcium foods or drinks because calcium prevents the drug from working effectively. Any calcium-containing food must be consumed at least four hours before or two hours after your dose. Common calcium-containing foods are dairy products, soy milk, leafy greens, tofu and edamame, sardines, and calcium-fortified juices. Calcium supplements and antacids like Tums should also be taken separately from eltrombopag.
People who take steroid medications to control symptoms of ITP should understand potential side effects like weight gain, water retention, gastrointestinal symptoms, and high blood sugar. Talk to the pharmacist for medical advice when you start a new medication. You can also ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian or nutritionist to address any digestive and nutritional concerns.
On myITPcenter, the site for people with immune thrombocytopenia and their loved ones, people come together to gain a new understanding of ITP and share their stories with others who understand life with ITP.
Do you follow a certain diet for your ITP? Have you noticed any effect on your ITP symptoms from the way you eat? Post your thoughts in a comment below.
I also have SLE LUPUS and ITP