Coagulation denotes the complex blood clot formation process. It is vital to your health because coagulating stops excessive loss of blood from a damaged vessel. And it’s blood platelets that form a hemostatic occlusion at the site of any open vessel injury.
However, coagulation can be a health detriment because this process can also cause blood clots, or embolism, to form within a blood vessel. And clots within a vessel can cut off the flow of blood to vital organs, i.e brain, heart and lungs. All vital organs require a steady flow of oxygenated blood for maintenance of your life.
A blood thinner is a substance that retards coagulation. In other words, it interrupts your blood clotting process in some way. A blood thinner may be prescribed to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, or if you have:
- heart failure
- heart disease
- atrial fibrillation
- pulmonary embolism
- congenital heart defect
- cerebrovascular disease
There are two types of blood thinners: antiplatelet and anticoagulant.
Antiplatelet drugs prevent blood platelets from clumping or aggregating together. This reduction in aggregation means less opportunity for harmful clots to form. Probably the most widely recognizable ones are clopidegrel (Plavix) and aspirin.
Anticoagulants are drugs that prevent your blood from clotting as well. They’re action on the coagulation process is different from that of antiplatelet.
Warfarin and heparin are two anticoagulant drugs that are commonly prescribed. Warfarin acts by inhibiting vitamin K dependent coagulation factors. And heparin acts by making anti-clotting protein, a naturally produced substance, work better.
Blood thinners may cause side effects and you need to notify your health care provider immediately upon experiencing any of them. Some common side effects associated with taking an antiplatelet or anticoagulant are:
Also, you may experience unusual bleeding related side effects whenever you’re taking a blood thinner, such as:
- bloody stools
- easy bruising
- bleeding gums
- black tarry stools
- inordinate cut bleeding
- heavy menstrual bleeding
- between period vaginal bleeding
Side effects you might experience that may indicate internal bleeding include:
- dark urine
- chest pain
- eye bleeding
- blurred vision
- bloody stools
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- stomach swelling
- sudden weakness
- black, tarry stools
- dizziness, fainting
- coughing up blood
- nausea & vomiting
- back pain, backache
- sudden & severe diarrhea
- joint pain, stiffness, swelling
- hands, feet, face paresthesias
- headache ~ continuous or severe
- blood in vomit, vomit looks like coffee grounds
There are a number of foods that have natural blood thinning properties. These foods include those with high amounts of salicylates, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Some food and spices naturally high in salicylates are:
- curry powder
- cayenne pepper
Omega-3 is naturally present in fish oil and have been shown to prevent platelets from sticking together. Fish high in natural blood thinning omega-3 are:
Onions and garlic are natural blood thinners since they’ve been shown to keep blood platelets from sticking together as well.
Although these foods may have anticoagulant activity, that doesn’t mean you should substitute them for your prescribed antiplatelet or anticoagulant. Their effectiveness as replacement blood thinners has no science backing, not yet anyway.