If you’ve been diagnosed with thrombocytopenia or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), gluten intolerance could be causing the low platelet count. Learn more about how what you’re eating could be affecting your blood count before considering a splenectomy.
What is Gluten Intolerance?
Gluten is the gluey protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. A person with gluten intolerance is unable to digest this protein. The undigested protein sticks to the intestinal walls where it is treated as a foreign invader by the body’s immune system. This creates a “sensitivity” or “intolerance”.
The next time gluten is ingested, the immune system goes to work fighting off what it believes to be a harmful invader. In those with an undiagnosed intolerance to this protein, the immune system is continually in “fight” mode, which begins to cause a host of autoimmune problems. After years or decades of this, the physical and mental health of the sufferer is usually in pretty bad shape.
What Are the Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?
Symptoms range from mild to extremely severe. The most common symptoms are as follows:
Chronic abdominal pain, especially after eating
Chronic yeast infections
Brain fog/learning difficulties
How Could Gluten Intolerance Affect My Platelets?
Though many conventional doctors do not agree with the gluten/low platelet connection, studies show that those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance are more likely to have decreased platelet counts. This food intolerance is also sometimes related to a condition called leaky gut syndrome, which can trigger strange autoimmune responses throughout the body, including low platelets. In a person with leaky gut syndrome, the lining of the gut is more porous than it’s supposed to be, allowing undigested particles of food to leak into the blood stream, causing body-wide inflammation and allergic response.
What Are My Options?
If the symptoms you’ve read above sound familiar, it would be best to try a gluten elimination diet to see if an intolerance is what is causing your discomfort and low platelet count. Even if the only symptom you are experiencing is depleted platelets, trying the elimination diet may prove to be just the answer you need. If gluten intolerance is not the culprit, you’ve lost nothing in trying.
For two weeks*, eliminate the following from the diet:
Frozen, Canned or Processed Foods
Condiments that are not labeled gluten free
For two weeks, eat the following:
Organic meat, chicken and fish
Organic vegetables and fruit
Millet or rice bread
Grain-free lunch meats
Gluten free breakfast cereal
Organic fruit juice
After the two weeks is up, reintroduce gluten back into the diet. For example, prepare whole wheat toast with cream of wheat cereal. This way, you will get enough of the grain in your system to accurately test for a reaction. If symptoms return, you’ll know the cause. Remove gluten from the diet completely and consult with a nutritionist or naturopath who can further guide and assist you in a gluten free lifestyle.
* It is important to note that if the only symptoms experienced are low platelet count to follow this diet for one month and then have your blood re-tested to see if there has been any improvement. Remember, it may take several months for the gluten to get out of your system completely, especially if the condition has been ongoing for years or decades. Blood platelet levels may not rise right away. Keep at it for a few more months.
Do some research on gluten free living and the wide variety of tasty foods you can substitute for traditional, wheat-based fare. If nothing else comes of it, substituting processed foods with whole foods will help your body be better equipped to handle having a low platelet count and may be just the ticket needed for it to heal!