Partner with your physician on diet choices
Blood thinners can save your life by helping the blood flow freely through your arteries and veins and reducing your chances of developing dangerous blood clots that can lead to heart attack or stroke. However, special precautions should be taken when on these medications, particularly avoiding certain foods in your diet that can interfere with how well your blood thinner works.
One class of blood thinners – known as anticoagulants – prevent blood clots from forming by increasing the amount of time it takes for your blood to clot. Warfarin (Coumadin) and Heparin are commonly prescribed anticoagulants.
A second class – known as anti platelet drugs – prevent blood cells from clumping together by targeting tiny particles in the blood called platelets. Aspirin and Plavix are commonly taken antiplatelet blood thinners.
Quite often, when a person is put on a blood thinner it is because that person either has had a stroke or heart attack, or is considered at risk of having one. These people may also begin to make healthier choices in their life, including switching to a healthier diet. It’s okay – and even recommended – to make the change to a healthier diet, but only as long as you work with your physician to ensure the foods you are eating aren’t interfering with the effectiveness of your medication.
Foods containing vitamin K
Some of the healthiest foods you can eat, such as kale and spinach, are high in vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body synthesize proteins that aid in blood clotting. Because vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood clot, it can interfere with how some blood thinners work or make them less effective.
Foods containing vitamin K tend to be healthy vegetable sources in your diet, so you may have a difficult time eliminating them completely. Be sure to talk to your physician about the vitamin K servings you tend to enjoy daily. Your physician may be able to work with you to adjust your medication dosage to allow for a certain daily intake of vitamin K.
It is likely that your physician will recommend that you avoid foods high in vitamin K altogether. If so, don’t fret. There are still delicious food options available that have moderate to low levels of vitamin K that your doctor will probably allow in your diet.
Foods that are high in vitamin K that you should look to avoid unless given the explicit okay by your physician include*:
· Mustard Greens
· Beet Greens
· Dandelion Greens
· Brussel Sprouts
· Green Tea
Foods that have moderate to low levels of vitamin K that you can likely include in your diet with physician approval include*:
· Green Peas
· Green Beans
Just as certain foods that contain vitamin K can contribute to blood clotting and interfere with the effectiveness of the blood thinner you are taking, some foods can cause blood thinning. This can be problematic if you are taking a blood thinner because your blood may become too thin so that even the smallest cut could lead to severe bleeding and excessive loss of blood, or a fall or hard bump could lead to internal bleeding.
Foods high in salicylates, such, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, thyme, dill, oregano, peppermint, and curry powder contain natural blood thinning properties. Cranberry juice and alcohol also act as natural blood thinners. You should discuss with your physician whether any of your dietary choices may interact with your blood thinner to thin your blood too much, leaving you vulnerable to excessive bleeding.
Other than partnering with your physician to ensure the foods known to interfere with blood thinners aren’t interfering with your medication’s effectiveness, you can generally keep the same diet you had before you started taking the medication.
By educating yourself about conflicting dietary choices and working closely with your physician to ensure your diet is blood thinner-friendly, you can be sure your medication is working properly and helping your blood flow freely through your veins and arteries as intended.
*How a food is prepared can affect the vitamin K content.