Getting to know about any medical condition you have is certainly hard. Imagine you just got your blood test results, and your white blood cell count is low; what does that even mean?
“Can I do something to increase them? Is there a home remedy to increase white blood cells naturally”?
These are probably the first thoughts that come to your mind when you get to know about your low white blood cell count. But don’t panic.
This article will help you learn about leukopenia – or low white blood cell counts- and how to naturally increase your white blood cell counts.
1. What are WBCs?
Let’s take a quick biology lesson to know what white blood cells are.
Well, for starters, the human blood comprises four components: plasma, platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells.
White blood cells, or leukocytes, can be called immunity cells. These are the cells that protect you against any kind of disease. Although their impact is huge in your system, but they only account for around 1% of your blood.
These cells are produced in the bone marrow and are stored in your blood and lymph tissues. There are further five types of white blood cells:
Each of these types has its own role to play in the immune system, which we will cover later on. But right now, our main point of concern is “low WBC count” and how to increase the count naturally.
2. What is a low WBC Count?
You must have heard of a medical condition called leukopenia. This is a condition associated with low white blood cell count in a person.
WBC count is often determined through a blood test known as Complete Blood Count (CBC), and the results are calculated as cells per cubic milliliter (mm3) or cells per microliter (μL) of your blood.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the normal ranges of WBC count is as per the below table:
Factor WBC Range (per μLof blood)
So, if your WBC count falls below this range, then you possibly have leukopenia.
Among all the different types of white blood cells, neutrophils account for more than 50%.
A neutrophil deficiency, called neutropenia, is used interchangeably with leukopenia. If the white blood cell count falls below 500, it is considered serious and treated like a medical emergency.
3. Cancer and Leukopenia: Is There Any Connection?
Most people often mistake leukopenia to be a form of cancer. Leukopenia is not a form of cancer, but they are related.
Cancer is caused by a virus or other foreign compound damaging a cell’s genetic code. White blood cells are needed by your body to fight any infection. So, they are required for protection against cancer.
Various cancer medications and chemotherapy damage white blood cells, especially neutrophils. If your white blood cell count drops during cancer treatment or chemotherapy, they are usually stopped to help white blood cells recover.
4. Causes of Leukopenia
Various medical conditions and even medications can cause leukopenia.
4.1 Some medical conditions include:
- Severe infections: some infections like HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), influenza, and hepatitis can lead to a low WBC count.
- Damage to Bone Marrow: some bone marrow disorders that can cause leukopenia are aplastic anemia and multiple myeloma.
- Cancer and Chemotherapy: Cancer treatments affect a person’s WBC count. Also, leukemia can lead to leukopenia.
- Autoimmune diseases: Some diseases like Lupus, Sjogren’s, and rheumatoid arthritis severely affect the amount of white blood cells. In an autoimmune disease, a person’s immune system starts attacking the body instead of protecting it.
Some medications that can be causing leukopenia are:
- antipsychotic drugs such as clozapine
- Heavy metals
- Drugs that are immunosuppressants, such as tacrolimus and cyclosporine
- Medications helping in smoking cessation and depression, like bupropion
A deficiency in various vitamins and minerals caused by a poor diet can also lead to a low white blood cell count.
5. Associated Symptoms
A low white blood cell count doesn’t have any visible symptoms. However, a low white blood cell count means more chances of getting any kind of infection, and those infections can have symptoms such as:
- Body Aches
- Fever and chills
- Excessive sweating
- Mouth sores
- Painful urination
Apart from these, there might be other symptoms depending on the type and severity of the infection.
5. Treatment Options
To treat leukopenia, your doctor will treat the problem causing this condition. Some of the treatment options are discussed below:
- Infections: If leukopenia is caused by an infection in your case, then treating the disease would be helpful. You will be prescribed antibiotics or antivirals to treat any infection you might have.
- Bone marrow: Growth factor medications can be given to you to increase the production of blood cells by your bone marrow. Increased production of blood cells can lead to an increase in white blood cells, too.
- Chemotherapy treatments: Certain chemotherapy treatments and radiation therapy can cause leukopenia. If it happens, your doctor might recommend stopping the treatment until your body can increase white blood cells.
6. How to Prevent Infections?
You might be unable to avoid this health condition, but you can try to prevent it. Being healthy and avoiding infections are great ways to reduce any risk of leukopenia.
Some tips for preventing any infection are:
- Sanitize: Wash your hands frequently with simple soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer.
- Cleanliness: Make sure your kitchen, dishes, and hands are cleansed before you make any food.
- Avoid sick people and areas where you can come in contact with someone suffering.
- Don’t share: Avoid sharing your toothbrush, utensils, towels, cups, or food.
- Personal hygiene: Try to shower and brush your teeth daily.
- Avoid injuries: Try to avoid any cuts and tears.
- Avoid public water bodies like hot tubs, lakes, rivers, and ponds.
7. Ways to Increase White Blood Cells Naturally
Yes, you can increase your white blood cell count naturally. If leukopenia is because of some disease like cancer, then natural remedies like diet might not help much. But a healthy way of eating can make it easier for your body to recover. It can help increase white blood cells.
While your healthcare provider will give you medication or other measures, you can also use home remedies to improve your condition.
The human body is made mostly of water- about 60%. So, it makes sense that hydration is vital to maintain good health and increase white blood cell count.
According to a study, drinking enough water can help your bone marrow produce more B cells. It is a white blood cell lymphocyte that helps neutralize pathogens and toxins.
Water is also important for many other reasons. Dehydration can also lead to issues such as anxiety. So, try to drink your 8 glasses of water regularly.
Vitamins are vital for everyone’s well-being; you can easily get your required vitamins from dietary plans. And if your diet is not providing you enough, supplements are always available.
Vitamin A: Studies suggest vitamin A is important for your bone marrow and T cells.
Vitamin B: Vitamin B is essential for the proper functioning of your immune system. Leafy greens, fish, eggs, and seeds are some sources that can provide you with the needed amount.
Vitamin C: This is often considered as an immunity booster. It is considered good for neutrophils and T-cell regeneration. Citrus fruits offer ample vitamin C.
A good and well-balanced diet is essential for the proper functioning of your body. A variety of immune-boosting food items are available that you can include in your daily diet for better results.
They even help increase white blood cells. Some easily available and healthy options are discussed below.
Fish provides a rich supply of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these products are important for your immune system.
Protein has been known to help increase white blood cells. Omega-3 fatty acids acquired from diet are helpful for the production of phagocytes, a type of white blood cell.
You can get them through fatty cold water fishes. Some of these fish are salmon and tuna. Try to eat more of these regularly. But if you are vegan or cannot get these products for some reason, then you should look for supplements.
Many supplements that fulfill this nutrient requirement are available in the market.
Yogurt is abundant in probiotics, which are crucial in combatting harmful bacteria. A healthy gut makes you less vulnerable to infections as there is no environment for bad bacteria to thrive.
Yogurt is also known to stimulate your immune system and increase white blood cells. It is also loaded with vitamin D, which helps strengthen your immune system.
7.3.3 Fruits and vegetables
These are pretty obvious. All of our diets involve some vegetable or fruit. Eating fruits and vegetables daily will help produce antibodies and increase white blood cells. Try having at least 5 servings of colorful vegetables and fruits every day.
Every vegetable or fruit has some health benefits. But eating vegetables rich in vitamins will help you boost your immunity. Beta carotene or vitamin A is crucial for the production of T-cells. You can get it from greens like peppers, kale, broccoli and orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, and squash. They will be helpful to increase white blood cells.
Similarly, fruits like guava, strawberries, citrus fruits, and kiwi are excellent sources of vitamin C.
7.3.4 Nuts and Seeds
Vitamin E is crucial in enhancing B-cell production, which generates antibodies and protects our body. Try having them regularly if you want to increase white blood cells. To incorporate this important nutrient into your diet, include almonds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and other nuts.
Sunflower seeds are a powerhouse of vitamins B6, E, and magnesium. These amplify the effectiveness of white blood cells. Add this to your salads or munch on them as a snack.
Brazil nuts are a powerhouse of selenium. Selenium has a lot of influence on the immune system and cell growth. It helps in conditions like cancer and heart disease. Consuming even two wild daily is equal to the supplements. So, eat nuts every day to increase white blood cells.
7.3.5 Green Tea
Green tea has tons of antioxidants and EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate). These compounds enhance your immunity, and additionally, they also contain L-theanine amino acid, which helps in the rapid production of infection-fighting compounds in T-cells.
So, sip your green tea daily to increase white blood cells.
Understanding and addressing low white blood cell count, or leukopenia, is important to maintaining a strong immune system. A decrease in white blood cell count is very concerning, but steps and home remedies are available to handle such situations and increase white blood cells.
Being hydrated and having a well-balanced diet, which is rich in minerals and vitamins, is essential. Foods packed with these nutrients, like fish, eggs, nuts, and vegetables, are valuable to your diet.
Moreover, maintaining good hygiene and avoiding places where you are at risk of getting infections can help reduce the risk of leukopenia. You should seek medical help to treat any underlying cause of a low white blood cell count.
Working with healthcare providers and adopting these healthy measures, you can take steps to strengthen your immune system and enhance your overall health. You can naturally increase white blood cells. A healthy lifestyle will support you and help your body fight infection.