by Renée Canada
When I was in the clock-ticking years of my late 20s, I happily watched a number of my friends and former classmates become mothers and fathers. Ironically, while I was probably expected to be the first of my group of friends to have children, it was turning out that I would be among that last, even after those friends who had vehemently declared they would never be parents.
Yet I was trying to be patient as my body was working on healing. With a flurry of health problems, and the resulting pain and energy issues, my boyfriend at the time asked me, “Can you even have children right now?”
That question carried a different gravity when I was diagnosed with a blood coagulation disorder, which later turned into the diagnosis of antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS), also known as Hughes Syndrome, AKA “Sticky Blood.”
APS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body produces antibodies that mistakenly disable proteins in the blood needed to prevent excessive clotting. A majority of patients do not realize they have APS until they first experience blood clots—in large veins, arteries and lungs, early strokes (one third of strokes occurring in people under the age of 50 are due to APS), early heart attacks or most pertinent to this story, multiple miscarriages, especially in the second and third trimesters. APS accounts for up to 15 percent of recurrent miscarriages.
“You will need to plan in advance having a baby and be in consultation with several doctors before conception,” my doctor said to me a couple of months ago.
He also told me that I would likely need to take anti-coagulant medication during pregnancy. For now, he put me on daily baby aspirin and took me off of estrogen-based birth control pills. Being on those pills may be enough to give a woman with this disease a blood clot in the lungs, if she is unlucky—even worse, lead to death.
I was fortunate to have caught my APS due to a chance finding on a random coagulation blood panel years earlier and later, due to complications with another autoimmune disease: lupus. According to APS Foundation of America, Inc., 40 to 50 percent of patients with lupus also have APS. With the sudden onset of a movement disorder, livedo reticularis, migraines and a family history of early strokes and heart attacks, the specialist was not at all surprised when the lab results for anticardiolipin antibodies came up positive.
I dutifully began taking my baby aspirin and embarked on what has now become my signature hunt for additional ways to treat this elusive illness.
According to Medline Plus of the National Institutes of Health, there are a number of herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting, including alfalfa, celery, chamomile, clove, garlic, ginger and licorice. Garlic thins blood by decreasing blood pressure and platelet aggregation, helping the blood to flow more easily and not clump. Aged garlic has been shown in studies to inhibit blood platelet adherence and aggregation. Ginger reduces inflammation and relaxes muscles surrounding the blood vessels, which may allow it to act as a blood thinner, according to LIVESTRONG.COM. An anti-inflammatory compound found in licorice was found to prevent platelet aggregation induced by thrombin, a key clot promoter.
Bromelain is a digestive enzyme found in pineapples that can help dissolve a blood clot, according to Glen P. Wilcoxson, M.D., director of the New Beginnings Medical Group in Alabama. It can be taken no sooner than a day after an initial stroke to prevent a second stroke. Wilcoxson recommends 1500 milligrams three times a day, between meals. Bromelain can also be continued on an ongoing basis as a preventative measure.
Curcumin (tumeric) also plays a role as a blood thinner, stopping platelets from clumping together to form blood clots. Sulfur compounds in onions have also been shown to have significantly more potent “anti-platelet aggregation action” than aspirin at nearly equivalent doses.”
Considerable levels of vitamin E have been linked with a 21 percent decrease in the risk of developing a blood clot, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. In the Women’s Health Study, there was also 21 percent reduction in risk of venous thromboembolism in women receiving vitamin E (400 mg) intervention. Some foods that are good sources of vitamin E include: carrots, spinach and avocados; walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts; and olive, sunflower and safflower oils.
Finally, essential fatty acids are also known to inhibit platelet formation. DPA (docosapentaeonic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid found in corn, as well as safflower and sunflower oils, was found to be a powerful inhibitor of platelet formation in several recent studies. Omega-3 fatty acids rich in alpha-linolenic acid, like flaxseed, were found in other studies to be even more effective at decreasing collagen-induced platelet aggregation.
Many of the above can interact with anticoagulant drugs and affect the bleeding of patients during surgery, so please use caution. As always, all supplements should be used with care and taken under the guidance of a knowledgeable doctor.
Alternative Cures: The Most Effective Natural Home Remedies for 160 Health Problems by Bill Gottlieb. Rodale Books, March 2000.
List of Blood-thinning Foods by Erica Wickham, M.S., R.D., March 9, 2011 http://www.livestrong.com/article/323888-list-of-blood-thinning-foods/
Natural Thrombosis Prevention by Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD, 2002 http://www.naturdoctor.com/Chapters/Research/thrombosis_prevention.html
The Autoimmune Connection by Rita Baron-Faust and Jill P Buyon, M.D. McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Great advice as I am awaiting results for APS check.,, I suffered with Lupus in my 20s and was pretty bad… Worked very hard and got through it, and don’t like to say I have lupus ( call me in denial but I can tell you bed ridden to super healthy I, I had the upper hand )
Recently in my just turned the corner 40, put on a few stones got lazy, no pain no rashes just very lethargic and terrible memory.., with catching colds every time someone passed me had to check myself and go doctors which I rarely do until recently..,
Immune system low obviously…
Anyway I am aware that my lack of exercise, my eating things that don’t agree, and not as positive as I used to be, for me is a fab recipe for going down under without having to catch a plane to get there. So totally working on it and importantly whatever results come back will opt for natural path…
I see that spinach was cited as a vitamin E containing food, and that vitamin E helps with clotting. With Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome, my hematologist advised me to refrain from eating spinach because it contains too much vitamin K, which is not good for me or any patient who takes Coumadin (warfarin) to thin the blood.
I do consume foods high in vitamin K rarely (spinach dip at parties) but I have to take one adult enteric coated aspirin (in addition to Coumadin) when I eat a high vitamin K food.
I think those on other blood thinners will still be able to eat anything they wish, however.
Thank You, Renee, for creating this very informative page for those of us out here who have difficulty finding natural therapies for our disease. ❤️
Hi Sherrie, if you already taking blood thinners, it’s absolutely best to eat leafy greens in limited moderation, if at all, as they naturally help thin the blood too.
This article is more than 5 years old, so it definitely needs updating. Thanks for that reminder and for reading and sharing your knowledge! <3
Hi Renee.Mary here.lived with asthma my life time latter developed sinuses even had a surgery now in late thirties. Have one child aged three.been trying for another but have had several miscarriages.Aps or antiphosfolipid syndrome is suspected and now i am out looking for interventions even fory daughter developing asthma and allergies.
Hi Mary, I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriages. I’d definitely work with your doctors if they suspect APS. Were you specifically looking for allergy and asthma interventions as well? I’ve found diet to be crucial for helping to manage allergies and food sensitivities. Have you identified trigger(s) for your asthmatic and allergic responses?
Im now 34 years old. I was diagnosed with APS when I was 28. The only way I found out I had it was due to clots in my lungs. I almost died. I am now on warfarin but they can’t level my INR at this time. I have tried xaralto but I have come to learn that it is not proven to help people with APS. Is there other possibilities of anything else out there. Please let me know thanks. Angie
Hi Angie, I mostly have issues with the neurological effects from APS–headaches, movement disorder, etc–along with fatigue and pain. So I absolutely don’t want to say that what I’ve done to manage my APS can work for you, with such a high INR and a history of lung clots. Right now, I am managing APS best for me with a real, foods diet low on carbs and higher on quality fats and daily meditation and gentle yoga. (And I really need to update this article to reflect where I am today!!) But please feel free to email me directly if you’d like to discuss more of what you’re dealing with. I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, and I wish you all the very best!
Hello Renee!! Thank you so much for sharing this article. I had often searched for alternative natural supplements to help my APS but never really found any.I’m 25 years old and was diagnosed with APS 2 years ago n can’t really have a normal life since then because I’m very weak get tired very easy n have lots of headaches.but im.very curious and interested as to how you are doing now?which of the herbs have helped you most? Do you babies now already?:) I’m using blood thinners Calcort Plaquenil and some other meds. But we really hope to get my APS more under control n try for pregnancy
Hi Mandy, thanks so much for commenting! I definitely need to update this article to reflect my current experience of life with APS. I too have struggled with fatigue, headaches and neurological effects from APS. However, right now I am managing it best for me with a real foods diet low on carbs and higher on quality fats and daily meditation and gentle yoga. I switched from an estrogen-containing birth control to an estrogen-only, and that has honestly made my periods worse, more frequent and very unpredictable. I have no babies yet, but we haven’t been trying. Feel free to email me directly if you’d like to learn more about my experience. Wishing you all the very best!
Great article thank you a lot please update it dear i would like to read more am 35 yrs old recently was diagnosed with APS after a heart attack.
Thank you for this article, i have aps and was diagnosed after a stroke at a young age. Blood thinners dont seem to help for me because my levels are never corect. I will try these methods.
Hi. I was just diagnosed two months ago, and I hate the idea of taking Warfarin! I cannot believe this is the only medical option out there! It changes everything in my life; activities, diet, ugh. Since this article is a few years old, I would like to know how you are doing and if you are still trying a natural approach. I really want to go natural, but of course, afraid of the possibility of a clot or stroke. I have always been healthy, and then boom..out of nowhere. Doctors have told me the natural approach hasn’t been proven. I guess I didn’t expect them to agree
I am Venkatesh from India. Was looking for a way to get rid of APS and found this article. My wife had 2 ischemic strokes (forgot fine motor skills of right hand, speech impairment and memory loss) and got to know it was because of APS (APLA). She is on warfarin 10mg with regular INR tests to ensure range is between 2 to 3 and she is recovering. Its been 2+ years now. But Forcing her to work on improving her impacted areas after stroke are making her frustrated.
We are looking for alternative treatments as Allopathic says there is no cure for this and warfarin just prevents clots and doesn’t heal APS.
Doctors say natural blood thinning herbs might disturb the effect of warfarin and is not advisable.
Wondering how you are managing without medicines to maintain the INR.. Your suggestions would surely help. Is it possible to completely recover from APS or reduce the APS?
Hi Venkatesh, Thank you much for commenting. I am sorry that your wife is going through all the trauma of APS and strokes. If she is taking a prescription blood thinner like warfarin, absolutely heed doctors advise not to play around with natural blood thinning herbs or consuming too much foods high in vitamin K. My APS has not been as severe as many others with this condition, so what has worked for me in managing this condition naturally in previous years may not work for others who absolutely need to be on medication. Due to the cyclical nature of APS, there have been long periods where food and lifestyle modification have helped me to largely keep APS in check, but there are other periods where my antibodies rise and blood clot risk increases again, and I need to treat more aggressively myself. I would be happy to share what has helped me in managing my condition, if you are still interested, bearing in mind that I still urge you to communicate what you are trying with your wife’s physicians. Please feel free to contact me.
Lisa Burchill says
I just wanted to comment because I treat my APS with natural supplements instead of Warfarin. I was officially diagnosed in May 2021 and had been taking prescription blood thinners since November 2020. I sought out an integrative doctor for a second opinion on treatment in July 2021. I did not want to take Warfarin for the rest of my life and be forced to do INR tests all the time. My new doctor recommended that I take a combination of daily Vitamin E, Fish Oil, and Nattokinase. All 3 are important and work together to smooth the lining of blood vessels, break up the blood, and prevent the clots from forming at all. My doctor said it has been very effective for most of his APS patients. He also said that this treatment isn’t for everyone. He told me he has had one or 2 APS patients in the last 25 years that had to go back on coumadin. But, with my medical history, my level of physical activity, and good health, he thought I was a good candidate. I have now been off Warfarin for almost 2 months, and I feel great. I need to be very self-aware going forward and should I experience any unknown pain, I would probably consider it an emergency and seek care in case it’s a clot. I understand that by using an alternative treatment I am going against what my primary doctor and hematologist recommend. I am confident I am making the best choice for me.