Of all the supplements – approximately 76,000 sold in the US there aren’t that many that support healthy blood. But – there are single supplements that do, and are quite plentiful.
First, let’s introduce you to your blood. We know, you see it every time you cut yourself (paper cuts can be particularly nasty).
Getting to Know Your Blood
Blood is the fluid of life – it transports oxygen inhaled into the lungs throughout the body and into cells where it is used for metabolism; blood carries the carbon dioxide produced via metabolism is then carried back to the lungs. Blood also ferries nutrients to cells and removes waste compounds. One source describes blood as “a lifesaving liquid organ.” Bone marrow is the chief factory of blood cells, producing up to 95 percent; bone marrow receives the raw material blood cells from hematopoietic stem cells.
Adults average a little more than 1 gallon of blood, comprising up to 8 percent of total body weight. The macro composition of blood is about 55 percent plasma, 40 percent red blood cells (also known as erythrocytes, whose main function is to transport oxygen from lungs to tissues), 4 percent platelets (whose main function is to ensure proper coagulation and minimize blood loss) and 1 percent white blood cells (which are part of immunity). Mature blood cells have varying life cycles. Red blood cells live for approximately four months, platelets for about nine days, and white blood cells are only viable for several hours to several days. Micronutrients commonly found in healthy blood include manganese, iron, chromium, zinc, lead, copper – and believe it or not, gold (approximately 0.2 mg).
Healthy blood has a couple of characteristics that your physician can easily test for. The first is viscosity, which affects blood pressure and flow. Another aspect of blood quality is pH – which should be anywhere between 7.35 and 7.45.
There are four main blood types – A, B, O and AB. According to one source, while these were identified in 1900, “doctors now recognize 23 blood group systems with hundreds of different ‘types.’” It’s good to know what your type is, and it’s only truly necessary if a blood transfusion is required.
Another reason to know your blood type is that diets can affect health differently for each blood type, according to Peter J. D’Adamo, ND, originator of The Blood Type Diet, and author of Eat Right for Your Type (1996). Primarily, for example, Type As are best off if eating vegan or vegetarian diets, while Bs should eat the most variety – chicken, red meat, dairy. Type ABs, according to Dr. Adamo, need to refrain from cured or smoked meats, and Type Os are advised to eschew grains.
Regarding hue, oxygenated blood is bright red while deoxygenated blood is maroon, a darker richer red. Fun fact: nobody’s blood is blue: the phrase “blueblood,” meant to describe aristocracy, was originally coined by the Castillians who claimed pure bloodlines that were “proven” likely from the blue-tinged visible veins. If you have those, you can claim you’re a “blue blood” too.
Supplements for Healthy Blood
There are several dietary supplements and myriad foods containing nutrients that can enrich your blood.
Iron: The number one “blood supplement” that comes to mind for many is iron. And for good reason – this mineral helps the body create hemoglobin, the compound within blood that carries the oxygen to cells. If you don’t get enough iron, you have something in common with up to 2 billion people worldwide – as iron deficiency is the top-ranked nutrient deficiency in the world.
According to experts, men and postmenopausal women should consume 8 milligrams of iron per day, while women of childbearing age (18 to 49) are recommended to obtain 14 milligrams daily; during pregnancy, 27 mg daily is strongly suggested. Vegetarians and vegans, according to another source, should consume 33 mg daily.
Vitamin B-12. Lack of cyanocobalamin (B12) can contribute to a condition known as pernicious anemia, as B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells. B12 can be deficient in those with a lack of a protein called intrinsic factor, which tends to be common in people from northern Europe. According to one source, adults need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 a day. Strict vegetarians and vegans are known to be more at risk for pernicious anemia.
Copper: This trace mineral is involved in the formation of erythryocytes and it is commonly found in whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, legumes, and dark leafy greens as well as shellfish. It also assists in iron absorption.
Vitamin D: Up until more recently, the association between vitamin D (or 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) as it’s formally known) was not understood clearly and researchers found significant associations between D concentrations and red blood cell indices their study of vitamin D and blood quality in a cohort of adolescents (5,066 participants).
Vitamin K1: Vitamin K has two forms – K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone), and it is K1 that is the “koagulation” vitamin, as it was coined in Germany. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin K1 “functions as a coenzyme for vitamin K-dependent carboxylase, an enzyme required for the synthesis of proteins involved in hemostasis (blood clotting) and bone metabolism, and other diverse physiological functions. Prothrombin (clotting factor II) is a vitamin K-dependent protein in plasma that is directly involved in blood clotting. Vitamin K deficiency is only considered clinically relevant when prothrombin time increases significantly due to a decrease in the prothrombin activity of blood.”
Herbs that help promote healthy blood clotting include white turmeric (Curcuma angustifolia) and favela (Cnidoscolus quercifolius), according to one source.
Flaxseed, which is showing up in a bounty of foods and beverages – as well as a featured element in smoothies, bowls and salads – is also blood-healthy. According to one source, it helps make platelets, and flaxseed’s oil can reduce risk of blood clot formation.
Complete Blood Count
When you get your physical, your physician typically performs a complete blood count (CBC), which counts your red and white blood cells as well as platelets, detect imbalances and abnormalities, and monitor for nutrient deficiencies. It can even detect if a person is an alcoholic – high amounts of carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) is a biomarker that reveals alcohol abuse.
Healthy habits such as regularly consuming a nutritious diet and dietary supplementation will go a long way to protect your blood quality and clotting function.