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Ask the Diva: Natural Blood Thinners

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Ask the Diva: Natural Blood Thinners:

Q. I am on a blood thinner and avoid green leafy vegetables, which my doctor says can block the effectiveness of the medication. But are there other foods I should avoid because they might enhance the effectiveness of anticoagulants?

A. As I explained in my episode on Blood Thinners and Broccoli, vegetables that are high in vitamin K can interfere with the effectiveness of a popular anticoagulant medication (Warfarin, or Coumadin). Doctors used to hand patients a list of these vegetables and advise them to avoid them entirely. More progressive physicians now recognize that this is neither necessary nor particularly desirable. (For more on this, please click through to the Blood Thinners and Broccoli episode.)

But you raise a very interesting question: Are there foods or nutrients that act as natural blood thinners? Yes, there are! One of the reasons that fish oil is good for your heart is that it has natural anticoagulating properties, meaning that it helps to prevent blood clots from forming. Other foods with natural anticoagulating effects include ginger and garlic. Large doses of Vitamin E can also affect clotting times.

The amounts of fish oil, vitamin E, ginger, and garlic that you’d get from a normal diet aren’t likely to cause any problems. However, taking supplements containing large amounts of any of these could potentially be a concern. If you’re currently on blood-thinning medication, consult with your doctor before adding (or abruptly discontinuing) any of these supplements so that he or she can monitor and adjust your blood-thinning medication to compensate. It’s also a good idea to stop taking high dose fish oil and/or vitamin E before surgery, to prevent excessive bleeding. (In fact, I’d suggest tossing the vitamin E in the trash—the latest research shows that you’re unlikely to get any benefit from it.)

Related: What to Eat Before and After Surgery Can You Get Too Many Vitamins? Fish Oil and Omega-3s

Broccoli isolated on white from Shutterstock

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