6 Easy Ways To Increase White Blood Cell Count
The definition of low white blood cell count varies from one medical practice to another. In general, for adults a count lower than 4,000 white blood cells per microliter of blood is considered a low white blood cell count. For children, that threshold varies with age.
Some people who are otherwise healthy have white cell counts that are lower than what’s usually considered normal, but which are normal for them.
White blood cells are manufactured in bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside some of your larger bones. A low white blood cell count usually is caused by:
- Viral infections that temporarily disrupt the work of bone marrow
- Certain disorders present at birth (congenital) that involve diminished bone marrow function
- Cancer (or other diseases that damage bone marrow)
- Autoimmune disorders that destroy white blood cells or bone marrow cells
- Severe infections that use up white blood cells faster than they can be produced
- Medications, such as antibiotics, that destroy white blood cells
Specific causes of a low white blood cell count include:
- Aplastic anemia
- Radiation therapy
- Hypersplenism — a premature destruction of blood cells by the spleen
- Tuberculosis (and other infectious diseases)
- Kostmann’s syndrome — a congenital disorder involving low production of neutrophils
- Leukemia and other diseases that damage bone marrow
- Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders
- Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Myelokathexis — a congenital disorder involving failure of neutrophils to enter the bloodstream
6 Ways of Increasing White Blood Cell Count:
- Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
Cat’s claw is a South American vine found in the rainforests in the Amazon that possesses incredible immune-boosting properties.
- A 2001 study published in Phytomedicine notes that when 12 healthy adult subjects were administered daily doses of cat’s claw water extract supplements for 12 weeks, they experienced an increased production of leukocytes.
- Studies also have demonstrated the efficacy of cat’s claw consumption in patients who had a low WBC count post chemotherapy.
- However, cancer patients should consult their doctors before consuming this herb, as it is known to have promoted survival of leukemic cells in lab conditions.
Note: Consult your doctor before consuming this herb if you are on any kind of medication. If you take blood thinners, use cat’s claw with caution as it could induce bleeding.
Also known as “huang qi” or “huang chi”, astragalus is a Chinese herb derived from the astragalus membranaceus plant. It possesses terrific WBC-promoting properties.
- A 2006 study published in Phytotherapy Research notes that when patients consumed astragalus separately and in combination with other herbs for seven days, the activity of the immune cells was strengthened.
- While astragalus does not eliminate cancer from its roots, it significantly boosts the immune systems of cancer patients by promoting phagocytosis in the existing WBCs.
- A 2006 study published in Cancer Letters notes that the astragalus membranaceus plant exhibits T-cell-boosting properties in cancer patients. T-cells are the body’s vital immunity-boosting WBCs.
- Astragalus is available as tablet or capsule supplements, as a tincture (alcohol extract) and prescribed by some doctors in an injectable form.
Note: Consult your doctor before taking this herb for any possible side effects and drug interactions.
Echinacea is a well-researched, immune-boosting Native American herb.
- Unlike vaccines that target a specific disease and antibiotics that directly attack bacteria, echinacea stimulates the activity of the WBCs that fight diseases through a process called phagocytosis.
- A 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics notes that 11 healthy individuals (between 26 and 61 years old) who consumed two echinacea tablets daily for 14 days experienced an increase in the overall number of WBCs and stimulated activity of leucocytes.
Note: Patients who have liver disorders or diabetes should consult their doctors before consuming this herb. Consult your doctor if you are on any kind of medication before consuming this herb. If you take blood thinners, use echinacea with caution as it could induce bleeding.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Dietary omega-3 fatty acids increase the body’s production of phagocytes, a type of WBCs that engulf harmful foreign entities like bacteria entering our bodies through a process called phagocytosis.
- A 2001 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention notes that the levels of WBCs in female volunteers increased when they took dietary fatty acids.
- In addition, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology notes that fish oil consumption promotes the activity of a type of WBCs called B cells.
- Foods with the highest omega-3 fatty acid content include flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, salmon, oysters, spinach and soybeans.
- Vitamins B6, B12 and Folic Acid (Folate)
Vitamins B6 and B12 as well as folic acid are all responsible for producing WBCs in the body.
- A 2011 study published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports notes that a neutropenia patient reported significantly decreased levels of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid. Oral vitamin B6 supplementation increased the level of neutrophil WBCs and corrected her condition.
- Severe neutropenia can cause cancer. The study further suggests a thorough screening for deficiencies of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid in neutropenia patients for focused treatment.
- Foods rich in vitamin B6 include sunflower seeds, turkey, chicken, dried nuts, avocados, bananas and spinach.
- Foods rich in vitamin B12 include fortified breakfast cereals, low-fat milk and yogurt, chicken, clams, salmon and trout.
- Foods rich in folic acid include dried beans and peas; lentils; leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, okra and asparagus; and citrus fruits. Folic acid supplements are also an option.
Note: Consult your doctor for recommended daily doses of these foods/supplements suitable for your health conditions and any prescribed medication.
Healthy adults have between 50 and 80 milligrams of copper in their blood. A copper deficiency leads to a number of disorders, including leukopenia.
- A 2002 study published in Blood notes that leukopenia and neutropenia is often misdiagnosed as myelodysplastic syndrome and not related to a copper deficiency.
- A later 2012 study published in Current Opinion in Hematology further states the same and suggests that patients diagnosed with leukopenia must be tested for copper deficiency, as it is often a leading cause of the condition.
- Foods rich in copper include seafood like oysters, lobster and crab; kale; mushrooms; seeds like flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds; nuts like brazil nuts, walnuts, pine nutsand pistachios; pulses, dried fruits and avocados. Copper supplements are also an option.
Note: Consult your doctor for the recommended daily doses of these foods/supplements suitable for your health conditions and any prescribed medication.
A chronic very low white blood cell count makes you vulnerable to infections, ask your doctor about precautions to avoid catching contagious diseases. Always wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. You might also be advised to wear a face mask and avoid anyone with a cold or other illness.
I am Ankit Sharma Nutrition Consultant. My approach is holistic and customized to enable you to achieve true wellness – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am from India but have clients across the globe. I can work with you to say goodbye to counting calories and short-term solutions. You will achieve long-term sustainable change in the way that they are eating, moving, living, and believing.