Neutropenia - a nutritional and herbal approach
"My wife has neutropenia. Her medical team recommended a bone marrow biopsy, which is painful, invasive and expensive. I am an orthopedic surgeon and know that diet is very important. Are there dietary and/or herbal approaches that could help her? She adheres to a strict diet and has had great success with weight loss on a low fat diet. I’d like to explore dietary and herbal options to see if her neutrophil count can be improved through less invasive measures. Thank you." Great question -- diet and herbs play an important role in supporting immune function. Since neutropenia is defined by an unusually low count of white blood cells (called neutrophils, as you know!) and we know that immune function and food intake are correlated, there are several approaches that can help.
Neutropenia can be a result of poor production of neutrophils in the bone marrow, destruction of neutrophils outside the bone marrow, an infection or nutritional deficiency. I recommend working with a qualified herbalist and nutritionist to better understand the underlying cause(s), creating a protocol that is appropriate for her health status and then tracking her progress. My general advice is a three pronged approach. Since neutrophils are important for fending off infections, the most immediate advice would be to:
1. Unburden the immune system: Reduce or eliminate anything known to suppress immune function. For example, managing stress, getting enough exercise and avoiding sugar and processed foods would be a good place to start. Maintain proper hydration (half her weight (lbs) in ounces is a good general goal) to support every function in the body, including proper elimination.
2. Enhance the immune system: Eating a diet high in quality and nutrient dense organic fruits, vegetables, good fats (olive oil, coconut oil, fats from organic and grass-fed animals) and quality protein, also from organic, grass fed animals, can really help. Mushrooms contain polysaccarides that have shown to increase immune function as well so add those fungal friends to the dinner plate -- shiitakes, oyster mushrooms, etc.! Be sure to consume enough minerals - micro and macro, such as, magnesium (almond, cashews, pumpkin seeds, avocados and spinach are great sources). Consider supplementing extra magnesium as well. This magnesium cream is my favorite way to do that. Two of my favorite herbal products to support immune health are: Echinacea premium and Immunplex by Mediherb.
3. Eradicate pathogens: If the underlying cause appears to be an infection then an herbal anti-microbial protocol that addresses viruses, bacteria and other pathogens would be a great addition to the above. A few of my favorite products for this approach are: Andrographis complex or Artemisinin complex & Myrrh forte or Viranon.