The Anatomy of Blood Clots
Blood clots are formed by the process of coagulation, the blood's natural tendency to clump and plug an injured blood vessel. Blood clots are made of blood cells and fibrin strands. They serve a valuable function in wound healing and stopping the flow of blood after an injury.
Thousands of people will have long term health problems as a result of a blood clot in the vein. But many are completely unaware that they are at an increased risk of venous thrombosis, missing out on treatment which could be life saving.
Furthermore, blood clots can form in any vein deep within the body, but most often can be found in the deep veins of the leg. These deep vein thromboses (DVT) form in the calf or lower leg, behind the knee, in the thigh or in the veins passing through the pelvis.
Risk Factors and Causes of Blood Clots
Blood clots may form for various reasons. Severe trauma, such as from an auto accident, may cause internal blood clotting. Blood clots may also be created during surgery. For example, some side effects of open-heart surgery may be caused by tiny blood clots that form during use of the heart-lung machine (microembolization).
Blood clots may also be Formed by or in Association with:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Valvular heart disease
- Heart failure
- Autoimmune disorders (e.g., lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- Bleeding disorders (e.g., hemophilia)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease)
- History of varicose veins or other vascular conditions
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Thrombocythemia (in which greater numbers of platelets are produced)
- Atrial fibrillation
In addition, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the chances of developing a blood clot. These risk factors include:
Raw Lifestyle Solutions for Blood Clots
- Elevated levels of homocysteine (homocysteinemia), which may be treated with diet and folic acid supplements
- Obesity (body mass index greater than 30)
- Prolonged lack of exercise
- Use of contraceptive pill or patch
- Advanced age
- Genetic factors (e.g., inheriting a tendency to develop deep vein thrombosis)
- Sitting or laying in one position for a prolonged period of time
- Having a mechanical heart valve
- Hypercoagulable state, where genetic (e.g., Factor V Leiden) or acquired (e.g., trauma, pregnancy, Heart failure) factors affect blood clotting due to abnormal levels of blood-clotting proteins
Since you have a history of blood clots, I assume that you are taking Coumadin (warfarin) or another blood-thinning (anticoagulant) drug. If so, you do have to be aware of your intake of vitamin K, an essential nutrient necessary for blood clotting that occurs in many vegetables. Vitamin K antagonizes the action of Coumadin. People taking anticoagulants should maintain a consistent intake of vitamin K so that their drug dosage does not have to be adjusted and readjusted. For instance, if you eat lots of vegetables, make sure that the total amount you eat each day is relatively constant and be sure to discuss any major change in your diet with your physician.
One type of natural blood thinners are substances that block vitamin K. These include salicylates. The most well known salicylate is aspirin, but many foods such as preservatives and flavorings also contain salicylates or aspirin-like substances. Some individuals are known to be aspirin or salicylate sensitive. I am one of those salicylate sensitive types, but I have found that I can eat more salicylates as long as I eat a balanced amount of vitamin K foods, too. (Vitamin K plays an important role in the body in blood clotting processes. The ‘K’ in vitamin K gets its name from the Danish word for coagulation.)
Foods that are generally high in salicylates include many spices, most fruit, especially dried fruits, nuts, and also some flavorings and preservatives.
Herbs and Spices High in Salicylates Include:
- Curry powder
- Fresh Turmeric
In Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine), many of the above spices are known as ‘warming spices’. I think this is because by thinning the blood they increase a person's blood circulation, which in turn speeds up the metabolism and makes a person feel warmer.
Fruits high in salicylates include:
Other substance high in salicylates:
There are a number of foods that are known to thin the blood. These include foods with high amounts of aspirin like substances called salicylates, omega-3 fatty acids, foods with natural antibiotic properties and vitamin E supplements.
When someone is known to be at risk of venous thrombosis, clots can be prevented by taking a few simple steps and giving small doses of anti-coagulant drugs or if felt easy with the natural raw food suggestions above.
During long distance travel, or other periods of immobility, you should:
- Keep well hydrated, this can also be done by simple well balanced firy smoothies, to avoid high fatty foods, and keep the body warm.
- Wear elastic compression stockings to support blood flow through the veins.
- Take a little exercise at frequent intervals (if stuck in a seat, carry out simple leg exercises in the chair such as flexing your ankles)
Heparin treatment will reduce the risk of DVT following cancer treatment or hip or knee surgery by 70 per cent. People having major surgery have a 30% risk of DVT which is reduced by about 60% with anti-coagulants.
If you are going into hospital for an operation or other treatment, you should be assessed for your risk of developing a blood clot and in most cases will be offered preventative treatment with both compression stockings and anti-coagulant injections. That is if you haven't taken a few simple easy healthy steps with the above suggestions.
Warning: Grapefruit Diet
Doctors writing in The Lancet medical journal described the unusual case of a woman who nearly lost a leg after trying a grapefruit diet.
The 42-year-old woman arrived at hospital complaining of shortness of breath, difficulty walking and light-headedness. The previous day, she felt pain shooting down her left leg, which later turned purple. An ultrasound scan revealed a deep vein thrombosis, or blood clot, extending from hip to calf. Three days earlier, the woman, who was slightly overweight, had embarked on an aggressive diet, which involved a 225 gram helping of grapefruit every morning. Previously, she had only rarely eaten grapefruit. Her condition was so bad she was in danger of losing her leg, said four doctors from Providence St Peter Hospital in Washington, US. In the end, she was successfully treated with a clot-dissolving drug and by widening a large vein in her hip. The woman had a number of unlucky factors that increased her chances of suffering a blood clot, said the doctors. She had a narrowed vein with damaged inner walls, a genetic clotting mutation called Factor V Leiden, and in addition was taking the contraceptive Pill. Estrogen in the Pill slightly raises the risk of clotting, and it was this, combined with the effect of grapefruit, which appeared to have tipped the balance.
The fruit's juice blocked a key enzyme that normally breaks down ethinylestradiol, the form of estrogen in the contraceptive.
Regular grapefruit consumption would also have had an accumulative effect, making the hazard worse, said the doctors.
They wrote: "Our patient had a constellation of potential risk factors for venous thrombosis; a heightened hypercoagulable (clotting) state from increased ehtinylestradiol serum concentration due to her three days of grapefruit for breakfast may well have tipped the balance."
Dr. Trevor Baglin, consultant haematologist at Addenbrooke's NHS Trust, Cambridge, said: "From this case study, it appears as if the grapefruit enhanced the thrombotic effect of the contraceptive Pill in the presence of a genetic predisposition. However, it is worth pointing out that this is a single case study and a very unusual case at that. I would suggest that any extreme diets should be avoided because they can have unpredictable consequences".
By TTS Cofounder Botanical Chef Omid Jaffari