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.