What comes to mind first when I say blood clotting? You are probably thinking about doctor visits, having to take medications or serious health consequences. This is only part of the puzzle.

The truth is, blood clotting is critical for your protection and survival. If you have an injury, blood clotting will save you from losing too much blood and support recovery. In other cases, however, you may develop blood clots in your veins and arteries, which can lead to serious health issues, including stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism.

So, what is blood clotting? How to improve your health and reduce blood clotting-related health issues? Let’s dive into the fascinating world of blood clotting together.

 

Formation of a blood clot

What Is Clotting

Your blood has a unique texture. It is not thin like water. It’s also not quite as thick as ketchup. Its texture is somewhere in the middle.

Viscosity refers to the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow. A fluid can be homogeneous and heterogeneous. Water is homogeneous and also a Newtonian fluid, which means that its velocity is not affected by shear rate.

Blood is different. It’s a higher viscosity fluid in comparison to water, and it’s non-Newtonian. The viscosity of water increases at a lower flow. If your blood flow is slower than normal, the molecules of your blood cells and plasma proteins can interact. Your red blood cells may begin to stick together, increasing blood viscosity and the risk of clotting.

Blood clotting and blood thinning behaviors very much depend on your blood viscosity (1). Blood clots are semi-solid, gel-like, sticky clumps of blood that develop due to reduced velocity. It is a critical mechanism if you are dealing with a cut or an injury. It helps to reduce blood loss and allow timely recovery.

However, if you develop blood clots in your veins, that can lead to some serious issues. Some blood clots may resolve on their own, but in other cases that can have profound consequences. Blood clots can limit or completely block blood flow in your arteries and veins in your heart, brain, lungs, kidneys, or limbs. This can result in a heart attack, stroke, organ damage, or death (2).  Clearly not a good thing for health!

Risk Factors for Blood Clotting

The following factors may increase your risk of blood clotting:

  • Being over the age of 65
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Extensive bed rest
  • Long travel that requires sitting for over 4 hours
  • Being sedentary
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Some birth control pills

Major Symptoms of Blood Clotting

Your symptoms of blood clotting may depend on the location of the actual blood clot and other health circumstances.

Symptoms of blood clots in the legs or arms may include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth to touch
  • Reddish skin color

Whereas symptoms of a blood clot in the abdomen region may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling of the stomach
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Blood in the stools

Symptoms of a blood clot in the heart causing a heart attack may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Discomfort or pain in the arms, neck, jaw, or back

However, symptoms of a blood clot in the brain causing a stroke may include:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Confusion
  • Headache (severe)
  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arms, or legs
  • Drooping of the face
  • Loss of coordination or balance

Symptoms of a blood clot in the lung causing pulmonary embolism may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other breathing difficulties
  • Cough up blood

Symptoms of hyperviscosity syndrome, which interferes with normal blood flow, include:

  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Visual disturbances
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Red skin
  • Vertigo
  • Difficulty walking
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Diagnosis

Diagnosis begins with a thorough personal and family health history, symptom history, and a physical exam. Further diagnosis may include a variety of imaging testing. Depending on your symptoms, imaging may include duplex ultrasonography to check the blood flow in your veins to find potential blood clots, computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) to examine the blood vessels of your lungs, ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) to check the oxygen levels in your lungs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your lungs, or a pulmonary angiography to look inside your veins. Additionally, a blood test, called d-dimer levels, may be part of your diagnosis.  D-dimer refers to a protein fragment created when blood clots dissolves.

 

Old tree with big roots in sunny forest

Root Cause of Blood Clotting

You may develop a blood clot for many reasons. Understanding the underlying root issues behind blood clots may help to reduce your risk and support treatment.  Most people are aware of the most obvious causes of blood clots including obesity, smoking, pregnancy, immobility, certain surgeries, trauma and central line placement.  We will cover some of the less obvious risk factors below.

Insulin Resistance

If you have insulin resistance, it means that your body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should, thus, glucose is unable to enter your cells easily, causing a build-up, high blood sugar, or blood sugar fluctuations. Insulin resistance can increase your risk of prediabetes and diabetes. It can also contribute to the increased risk of various health issues, including blood clotting. According to a 2006 study published in Diabetes, insulin resistance and hyperglycemia may increase the risk of thrombotic events because insulin may affect fibrinolysis, and high glucose levels may increase coagulation (3). Other research has shown that those with type 2 diabetes commonly have issues with coagulation (4).

Too Much or Too Little Iron

Iron is a really important mineral for your immune health, energy, digestion, focus, and overall health. Too much iron, however, is not a good thing. Having a genetic condition known as hemochromatosis means that your body is taking in too much iron from food. This is an autosomal dominant condition, meaning 1 gene variant leads to higher than normal ferritin levels (iron stores), and having 2 genes, one from each parent,  is a more severe condition, requiring therapeutic phlebotomy.  Hemochromatosis can result in a buildup of iron stored in your liver, pancreas, and heart, increasing your risk of liver issues, diabetes, and heart disease. Research has shown that iron overload can increase your risk of blood clotting, thrombosis, and cardiac events. Other research has shown that not only iron overload but also iron-deficiency anemia may increase the chances of thrombosis and related cardiac issues (5, 6).

Chronic Infections

Whether they are viral, bacterial, or fungal, chronic infections can affect your entire body and overall health. It’s not surprising that they may increase your risk of blood clotting. Various research studies have found that H Pylori bacterial infections, Lyme disease, COVID infections, and dental infections may all contribute to an increased risk of coagulation and blood clotting (7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

High Omega 6:3 Ratio

Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. You need them both — at the right balance. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, whereas omega-6s have inflammatory effects. You need the proper ratio of Omega-6s to omega-3s; which is 4:1 with the omega-6 preferably being from organic sources of healthy fats. The standard American diet can often result in a Omega-6: omega-3 ratio that is 20:1 or even higher.  This high omega 6:3 ratio can increase chronic inflammation, blood clotting, and thrombosis, while a low ratio may decrease it (15). According to a 2019 study published in Open Heart, a low omega-6:omega-3 ratio may help to lower the risk of blood clotting, thrombosis, and platelet aggregation (16).

Low Vitamin B Levels

B vitamins are essential for the growth of blood cells, cellular growth, brain, nerve, and mental health, and other health factors. Deficiencies may lead to problems, including blood clotting (17). For example, according to a 2002 study published in the Annals of Hematology, B12 and folate deficiency may contribute to a higher risk of thrombosis (18). According to a 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis, low B vitamins may lead to a higher risk of blood clotting and thrombosis (19).  Low B vitamins can also lead to higher homocysteine levels which are a cardiovascular risk and clotting risk factor.

Low Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is essential for bone, brain, and immune health. Deficiencies may lead to health issues, including problems with blood clotting. Vitamin D deficiency may affect your platelet levels, increase your blood health, and increase your risk of cardiovascular issues (12, 13). According to a 2019 review published in Biomolecules, vitamin D deficiency may contribute to thrombotic episode risk factors (14).

Gut Microbiome Imbalance

We know  that gut microbiome health is important for your overall health, for so many reasons.  It turns out that gut microbiome imbalances or gut dysbiosis also can contribute to the risk of blood clotting and thrombotic events. According to a 2020 review published in Thrombosis Research, keeping your gut microbiome healthy is essential for lowering the risk of developing thromboembolism (26). Some bacteria in your gut may increase trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which can result in platelet hyperreactivity and blood clot formation in the circulatory system. A balanced gut microbiome and normal TMAO levels may decrease the risk of thrombosis (25).

Stress and Poor Lifestyle Choices

Experiencing high stress, not sleeping enough, and being sedentary may increase your risk of many health issues, including blood clotting. Research has shown that acute mental stress, high stress, and anxiety may increase the risk of blood clots and thrombotic events (27, 28). Sleep deprivation or sleep apnea may also affect blood coagulation and blood clotting  (29, 30). Finally, sitting too much, being sedentary, bed rest, and poor physical fitness may increase the risk of blood clotting, thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism (31, 32).

Toxic Metal Exposure

Toxic metal exposure may also have a serious impact on your blood and increase clot formation. Mercury from dental fillings, root canals, and mercury-containing fish, lead from lead-based paint, tap water, and lead dust ions in clothing, furniture, and toys, and cadmium from cigarette smoke and food from contaminated soils may increase your risk of coagulation issues, blood clotting, and thrombosis (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

Genetic Predisposition for Clotting

Genetic predisposition may also increase your risk or cause blood clotting issues. Furthermore, genetic mutations can be passed down from your parents. Thrombophilia is a dominant trait which means that you only have to have a mutation in one of our two gene copies to develop this mutation. If you only inherit one copy, it’s called heterozygous mutation. However, if you have both copies, it’s homozygous. If you have a homozygous mutation, you have a greater chance of blood clotting issues than those who are heterozygous. Inheriting a mutation in more than one gene for thrombophilia may also increase your risk of blood clotting (33).

There are a number of specific genes that increase the risk for blood clots, including Factor V Leiden, Prothrombin G20210A mutation, Protein C and S Deficiency, Anti-Thrombin III Deficiency and Plasmalogen Activator Inhibitor-1 gene variant. Another related risk is elevated Lp(a) which is a genetically determined cardiovascular risk.

Other Issues

Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome is an autoimmune condition that can lead to abnormal blood clotting (34). Certain cancers, including cancers involving the stomach, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries, uterus, brain, lungs, and blood cancers, such as lymphoma and myeloma may also increase the risk of blood clots (35).

Using birth control pills and hormonal replacement therapy may also lead to an added blood clotting risk (36). Moreover, certain infections, particularly COVID-19, may increase the risk of blood clots (37).

 

woman exercising outdoors

Recommendations for Blood Clotting

Treatment strategies for blood clotting generally involve anticoagulants or blood thinners, which decrease your blood’s clotting ability and help to prevent future blood clots. You may be prescribed oral or injectable anticoagulants, in some cases both. Additionally, compression stockings are recommended for reducing risks of blood clotting in the leg.

Thrombolytics or clot busters may also be used to dissolve a clot. When blood thinners don’t work, an inferior vena cava filter may be inserted to capture any blood clots before moving into the long. In some rare and serious cases in those with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a thrombectomy or embolectomy may be necessary. For some, stents may be recommended to keep the blood vessels open.

In the next sections, I want to recommend some natural strategies to reduce your risk of blood clots and improve your health if you are dealing with or are at risk for blood clots. These recommendations may not replace medication, they can be necessary and life-saving. Always talk to your doctor to see what’s right for your situation.

Get Regular Blood Work

Getting regular blood work done may also help to identify risk factors or lower your risk of blood clotting. Since iron overload may lead to blood clotting, checking your iron levels is important if you are prone to high iron or clotting issues. If you are dealing with other underlying risk factors, checking on your markers regularly, for example, checking your blood sugar levels, vitamin D, omega3 ratios, homocysteine, cholesterol and Lp(a) levels can be helpful as well.

I also like to check D-dimer, fibrinogen levels, and a marker called prothrombin fragment 1+2 to assess risk as well as check genetics in folks with a family history, autoimmune disease or other risk factors. Patients with cancer, chronic infections and complicated medical issues should consult a professional to help sort out their risks.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Since inflammation is a known risk factor for clots, following an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich, whole foods diet may help to reduce your risk of blood clots (38). Remove all inflammatory foods from your diet, including refined sugar, refined oil, additives, artificial ingredients, gluten, conventional dairy, food sensitivities, and overly processed food items.

Follow a diet rich in greens, sprouts, vegetables, spices, herbs, fermented foods, nuts, seeds, and clean animal protein, such as grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, pasture-raised eggs, wild-caught fish and seafood, and wild game. Eat lots of healthy fats, including olives, olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil. Add herbs and seeds that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, including ginger, turmeric, rosemary, basil, black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, and onion, if tolerated.

Important note: If you are taking a blood thinner, be aware that fish oil and some nutraceuticals such as turmeric may also cause blood thinning. Consult your doctor if you are on any medication.

Move Your Body

Living a sedentary lifestyle may increase your risk of blood clotting. I recommend avoiding or lying down for too long. Get up and move around, shake your legs, and stretch regularly. Move your body throughout the day by incorporating walks, using a stand-up desk, playing with your kids, fun shake-out dances, or stretching. Aim for some form of movement daily and work towards workouts five days a week for 20-30 minutes a session. If you are taking a plane or extended ride of any kind, get up regularly during your trip and consider compression stockings. If you are on bed rest, get whatever movement you can in bed and work with a physical therapist.

Hydrate Your Body and Improve Detoxification

Drinking plenty of water is critical for hydration. It is also essential for detoxification through sweat and urine. Since toxic metal toxicity and chronic infections may increase the risk of blood clotting, hydration, and detoxification are important. Drink at least 10 glasses of purified water a day. Eat lots of hydrating vegetables and fruits. You may also add some herbal tea.

To further improve your detox, use a high-quality air filtration and water filtration system. Sweating in an infrared sauna is an easy way to begin detoxing if tolerated. Try rebounding, oil pulling, and dry skin brushing. Removing toxic metals is a complicated process that requires working with a professional.

Stress Less and Sleep More

High stress levels and not enough sleep may both increase your risk of blood clotting. Practice meditation, mindfulness, breathwork, and gratitude to improve your stress levels. Avoid heavy food, sugar, and electronics in the evening. Follow my guide for better sleep here. INSERT KELLY’S BLOG ON SLEEP

Improve Your Omega-3, Vitamin D, and B Vitamin Levels

Poor omega-3, vitamin D, and B vitamin levels may all contribute to the increased risk of blood clots. Improving your levels is critical. Eat lots of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish and seafood. Try high-quality omega-3 fish oil supplements daily. Get some sunshine every day, as the weather allows, for better vitamin D. Eat vitamin D-rich foods, such as cod liver oil, beef liver, and fatty fish. Use a high-quality vitamin D/K2 supplement. Eat foods high in B vitamins, including greens, seeds, liver, meat, poultry, and seafood. Use a high-quality B-12 and B complex daily. Please include links to supplements.

Try Some Other Supplements

Since your gut microbiome health plays such a critical role in blood clotting, I recommend using a high-quality probiotic supplement for better gut health. You may also add some probiotic-rich foods and drinks, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented foods, coconut kefir, and kombucha too. You may try proteolytic enzymes to improve the breakdown of food and support digestion. It may help to reduce inflammation and blood clots (39, 40, 41). You may also try enzalase to improve digestion (42).

Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, is full of anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties. It may also help to reduce blood clotting, thromboembolism, atherothrombosis, and other blood clotting-related issues (43, 44, 45). However, it’s critical that you avoid turmeric or curcumin if you are on a blood-thinner medication. Talk to your doctor to see if curcumin is right for you.

Resveratrol and quercetin are two other compounds that offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Research has shown that they may help to reduce blood clotting, thrombosis, and cardiovascular issues (45, 46, 47). You may benefit from resveratrol-rich foods, such as berries, grapes, and pistachios, and quercetin-rich foods, such as kale, red leaf lettuce, cruciferous vegetables, pepper, asparagus, cabbage, sprouts, red onion, herbs, olive oil, berries, apples, and grapes. You may also try resveratrol and quercetin supplementation. I recommend Anti-InflammaX as a great combo for turmeric and quercetin. Resvoxitrol is another great option with resveratrol and turmeric.

 

spring flowers

Next Steps

If you are at risk of blood clotting issues or underlying factors or you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, cancer or clotting issues, we would love to partner with you.  We are committed to helping people understand their health and health risks and feel empowered to make healthy choices for themselves. You can learn more about enrolling as a patient at the Spring Center here.

Stay tuned for more information to help you uncover the root cause of your health issues, improve your nutrition, repair your body, and regain your health naturally.

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