It's important to prevent internal blood clots, as thrombosis can be dangerous. However, coagulation, or external blood clots, are essential for good health.
There are two types of blood clots employed by your body 13. External blood clots, aka coagulation, are good for you, while internal blood clots can cause several health problems 13. Many of the foods that can prevent blood clots within can also support your body’s coagulation ability 13.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Harmful internal blood clots are associated with unhealthy fats, sugars and large amounts of choline. Beneficial, external blood clots are dependent on the right levels of nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin B12 and iron.
Good vs. Bad Blood Clots
According to the Mayo Clinic, blood clots are semisolid clumps that form when your blood thickens 13. Outside your body, blood clots are essential 13. You don’t want to prevent these blood clots, because your body’s ability to coagulate prevents you from bleeding out when injured 13. In fact, if your body cannot form external blood clots properly, your doctor will likely recommend certain dietary changes and medications to resolve this issue 13.
Inside your body, however, you need to prevent blood clots at all costs 13. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a clot in your leg or arm can cause issues like deep-vein thrombosis 81315. This medical condition can cause inflammation, irritation and pain in the affected area. And the problem can become even more serious.
Should this internal blood clot break away from the affected area, it can travel to other parts of the body. If it reaches your lungs, it can cause another issue: a pulmonary embolism 14. This health issue is very serious, as around a third of people with undiagnosed pulmonary embolisms don’t survive 14.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to prevent blood clots internally while you increase blood clotting externally 13. Foods, beverages, physical activity and other preventative measures can support the health of your blood and cardiovascular system. Similarly, avoiding certain unhealthy products can also promote healthy blood clotting.
Foods That Cause Blood Clots
Internal, unhealthy blood clots are caused by a variety of reasons 13. You may not have control over all of these factors — pregnancy, surgery and a family history of blood clots can all play a role in your risk of blood clots 13. Certain medications, a history of heart problems and other medical conditions may also increase your risk of clots.
However, blood clots are also associated with a host of preventable issues 13. If you know you’re likely to experience blood clots, you should avoid smoking and a sedentary lifestyle 13. Obesity and weight gain are also major risk factors, as is atherosclerosis. This condition is caused when unhealthy fats, cholesterol and other substances accumulate on your artery walls. High triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin resistance can all contribute to this condition 12.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming a diet low in saturated fat and trans fats 11. Both these fats, which are commonly found in animal products and processed foods, have the potential to increase blood clotting by raising cholesterol and triglyceride levels and contributing to weight gain.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends limiting your added sugar intake, as sugars can also raise triglyceride levels and cause weight gain 13. Added sugars aren’t only in candies, baked goods and desserts, either. Large amounts of beneficial sugars, like honey, can also have the same negative effects when consumed in excess.
Unfortunately, certain healthy nutrients have also been associated with an increased risk of blood clots 13. According to an April 2017 study in the Circulation Journal, certain nutrients, like choline, a nutrient commonly found in animal products, are associated with the production of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).
TMAO is produced by the microbes in your gastrointestinal tract; it has been found to increase the risk of blood clots 13. This study found that consumption of choline, typically considered to be a beneficial nutrient, could increase TMAO production and thereby increase the risks of thrombosis.
Important Blood Clotting Nutrients
- Vitamin A
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Folic acid (vitamin B9)
- Cobalamin (vitamin B12)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
Some of these nutrients are a bit more important for blood clotting than others. Vitamin K is well-known for being involved in your body's clotting capacity. According to a January 2014 study in the Academic Journal of Nutrition, calcium also plays a major role in coagulation 5. Nutrients associated with anemia, like iron and vitamin B12 can also affect your body's ability to form blood clots 13.
Deficiencies in these nutrients are likely to cause issues with external blood clotting. Unfortunately, certain diets may make people particularly prone to such deficiencies. If you follow a plant-based diet, you may need to keep an eye on your vitamin B12 levels, in particular. Although there are vegetarian-friendly foods that contain this nutrient, few vegan foods are rich in vitamin B12.
Foods That Support Healthy Coagulation
In addition to these specific blood clotting nutrients, there are foods that support healthy blood coagulation, as well. Fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and gastrointestinal issues. The Food and Drug Administration also states that dietary fiber can help lower cholesterol levels and modulate fat absorption 2. This, in turn, can prevent the development of cardiovascular issues, like atherosclerosis.
Some foods can even support healthy coagulation while reducing the risk of unhealthy internal clotting. A February 2014 review in the Online International Interdisciplinary Research Journal reported that flaxseed can support external blood clotting by helping make the platelets needed for coagulation 1.
Simultaneously, flaxseed oil consumption can help reduce the risk of blood clots forming internally 13. Flaxseed oil is particularly beneficial because it contains healthy unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for your heart.
- Online International Interdisciplinary Research Journal: "Linum Usitatissimum L. (Flaxseed)–a Multifarious Functional Food"
- FDA: "Dietary Fiber"
- NIH: "Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- NIH: "Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- Academic Journal of Nutrition: "Review on Medicinal and Nutritional Values of Goat Milk"
- NIH: "Vitamin K Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- FDA: "Vitamins and Minerals Chart"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Listing of Vitamins"
- Circulation: "Gut Microbe-Generated Trimethylamine N-Oxide From Dietary Choline Is Prothrombotic in Subjects"
- Mayo Clinic: "Added Sugars: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners"
- American Heart Association: "Dietary Fats"
- Mayo Clinic: "Arteriosclerosis / Atherosclerosis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Blood Clots"
- Mayo Clinic: "Pulmonary Embolism"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Deep-Vein Blood Clots: What You Need to Know"