Have you ever wondered why you sometimes get a fever after a bad cold or flu? The short answer is that your white blood cells are in overdrive. The main function of white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, is to protect the body from disease and infection. When you develop a fever, this is a sign that your WBCs are fighting infectious microbes.
White blood cells protect the body from infections and produce antibodies that work to eliminate infectious agents and cancer cells. A significant drop in your white blood cell count is a telltale sign that your body is fighting an infection. Your white blood cell count is a key indicator of disease or infection in the body, so learning how to increase the number of leukocytes in your blood naturally is vital for staying healthy.
Stay tuned to learn more about white blood cells and how you can boost your white blood cell count at home. Let's take a closer look.
What Are The White Blood Cell Counts?
A white blood cell count between 3,500-10,500 white blood cells per microliter of blood.
A white blood cell count of under 4,500 white blood cells per microliter of blood.
A white blood cell count above 11,000 white blood cells per microliter of blood.
Causes of a Low White Blood Cell Count
When your white blood cell count is low, this is due to a condition known as leukopenia. There's no need to panic if your white blood cell levels are slightly low. This could be due to stress or fatigue, and your body will recuperate relatively quickly. Usually, a repeat blood test will confirm that your body has resolved the issue on its own.
If your white blood cell count is very low or low for an extended period of time, this could be a sign of a more serious issue such as:
- Alcohol abuse
- Autoimmune disorders
- Congenital disorders
- Medications such as antibiotics
- Nutrition deficiencies
- Radiation therapy
- Severe infection
- Viral infections
There are several warning signs that indicate you may be suffering from a low white blood cell count.
Signs and Symptoms that Could Indicate a Low White Blood Cell Count
There are 3 common warning signs that indicate a low white blood cell count. These are:
- A high fever
- Profuse sweating
If your white blood cell count has dipped due to infection, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Swelling and redness
- Mouth sores
- A sore throat
- Severe cough
- Shortness of breath
While it's important to look out for signs of a low white blood cell count, it doesn't always mean there is a serious issue. If your white blood cell count is not critically low, there are plenty of natural remedies that can help to increase it.
How to Increase High White Blood Cell Count Through Diet
White blood cells defend your body from infection by keeping your immune system strong. One of the best ways to boost your immune system and maintain healthy numbers of white blood cells is through diet and lifestyle choices.
Eat More Vitamin C
Consuming vitamin C helps regulate the levels of white blood cells in the body. Vitamin C boosts immune function by fighting infection and protecting white blood cells from harmful molecules like free radicals.
There are plenty of natural sources of vitamin C available. Citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and limes are packed with vitamin C, and other fruits like berries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, guavas, kiwifruit, papayas, and pineapples are also rich in vitamin C. Raw fruits offer the highest levels of vitamin C.
Vegetables are another great source of vitamin C. Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, red and green bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, and spinach all contain high levels of immune-boosting vitamin C.
Up Your Intake of Antioxidants
A diet rich in antioxidants is a healthy one. Antioxidants are chemicals found in the body that counteract the harmful effects caused by free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to cells, DNA, and protein in the body, but antioxidants can neutralize the harm caused.
Up your intake of antioxidants by eating more of the following:
Most fruits are packed full of antioxidants and vitamins, including:
Although fruit is a powerful antioxidant, always make sure you wash fruits before eating them to get rid of any bacteria or other harmful substances.
Dried fruit actually contains a higher amount of antioxidants than fresh fruit. However, it's best to avoid dried fruits that contain processed sugars. Look out for packets of dried apples, dates, figs, plums, and raisins to keep on hand.
Vegetables are a fantastic source of antioxidants. In particular, try to incorporate plenty of the following vegetables into your diet:
- Broccoli (contains sulforaphane (SFN) which helps regulate your white blood cell count)
- Dark leafy greens eg. spinach
- Russet and sweet potato
Spices and Herbs
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants doesn't have to be dull. Lots of spices and herbs are loaded with antioxidants. Try adding a dash of these herbs and spices to your meals for a powerful punch of antioxidants:
- Chili powder
Cereals and Nuts
Cereals and nuts are both good sources of antioxidants. Fortified cereals, oatmeal, granola bars, nuts, and nut spreads such as peanut butter all contain immune-boosting properties when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
You can increase your antioxidant intake by choosing the right beverage. Apple juice, black tea, beer and cider, grapefruit juice, red wine, green tea, and tomato juice have high levels of white blood cell boosting antioxidants.
When it comes to coffee and alcohol, remember the golden rule: everything in moderation. Adding milk to tea or coffee blocks the effectiveness of the antioxidants, so you may want to switch to black tea or coffee to get the full health benefits.
Adding a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables (especially orange, yellow, or red foods, and citrus fruits) to your diet will provide your body with antioxidants that support a healthy immune system.
Get Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Healthy fats are a key ingredient in a balanced diet. Essential fatty acids not only improve cardiovascular health, but elevate phagocytes activity.
Phagocytes are a specific type of white blood cell known to fend off foreign bacteria. Since the body isn't able to make essential fatty acids, eating a diet rich in polyunsaturated fat is necessary. Regularly eat food rich in omega-3 fatty acids including:
- Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and trout
- Nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts
- Plant oils like flax oil, soybean oil, and canola oil
- Some fortified foods such as dairy products, juices, soy drinks, and infant formulas
Taking a daily supplement of omega-3 can ensure you get the right amount in your diet. Speak to your doctor about incorporating a supplement of 1000 mg of omega-3 into your daily regime.
Eat a Diet Rich in Zinc
Zinc restores white blood cells, helping them to function normally. This boosts immunity and increases a low white blood count.
Consume foods with high quantities of zinc, such as beans, oysters, nuts, and red meat. If you still aren't getting your daily requirement of zinc, speak to a medical professional about taking a daily supplement of 8-11 mg of zinc.
Incorporate Foods High in Selenium
Selenium positively impacts the production of white blood cells in the body, especially lymphocytes and neutrophils. This keeps your immune system strong and helps ward off colds, flus, and other infections. Foods that are high in selenium are:
Have a Daily Bowl of Probiotic Yogurt
Foods that are rich in probiotics can balance the PH in the stomach, aiding digestion and keeping the immune system strong. Foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt, contain live and active cultures that promote gut health and positively affect the regulation of white blood cells. Go for plain yogurt that is low in sugar for best results.
If you don't like yogurt, alternatives like kimchi, kefir, and tempeh are all healthy probiotic-rich foods that can be picked up at the grocery store. You could also consider dietary supplements to increase your consumption of probiotics, although it's recommended to seek professional medical advice first.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods cause inflammation in the body, therefore reducing white blood cell count. Avoid foods high in fat salt, and sugar, as these could affect the production of white blood cells in the body. Processed and canned foods often contain high levels of sodium, increasing inflammation and putting extra pressure on the immune system.
Other Ways To Increase White Blood Cell Count Naturally
Eating the right diet isn't the only way to maintain healthy white blood cells. There are other natural alternatives that have anti-inflammatory effects to strengthen your body's natural defenses.
Below, you can find the best ways to naturally lower white blood cell count to enhance immune system function and help your body fight infections.
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil is a popular natural remedy to reduce stress and promote sleep. Lavender oil also boosts your white blood cell count, enhancing your overall immune system function.
If you don't have lavender oil on hand, other essential oils such as tea tree oil, cypress oil, and sweet almond oil also improve the body's production of white blood cells. To get the benefits, simply mix your essential oil of choice with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil and massage it into the body.
2. Papaya Leaves
Papaya leaves contain a compound called acetogenins. This compound increases white blood cell count and helps the body to fight infection by strengthening the immune system.
To make your own papaya leaf juice, wash and blend papaya leaves with a small amount of water, then strain the mixture and drink 1 tablespoon of the juice. If the juice is too bitter, add a natural sweetener such as honey or agave.
3. Supplementary Vitamins
If you have a low white blood count, adding some oral supplementation could help. Speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin supplement.
In particular, vitamins A, C, E, and B9 play a significant role in increasing white blood cell count. Both vitamin A and vitamin E are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning they are absorbed into the bloodstream much better when eaten with foods containing healthy fats.
4. Drink More Water
Drinking water keeps your body hydrated and flushes out harmful toxins. This promotes a healthy immune system, regulating white blood cell production.
5. Sleep More
A lack of sleep and high stress levels can both negatively impact your body's production of white blood cells. Getting plenty of rest and managing stress plays a major role in naturally increasing white blood cells.
6. Lose Excess Weight
Being overweight can cause a wide range of health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. To keep the body functioning properly, lose a few pounds (if you are overweight) by cutting down on unhealthy foods and increasing your intake of immune-boosting foods.
Low levels of white blood cells in the body can, over time, reduce your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. Maintaining a healthy immune system helps your body to fight infection and stay healthy.
A weakened immune system can cause serious issues, especially in cancer patients who may have to delay cancer treatment as a result. The good news is that there are plenty of natural ways to increase your white blood cell count and heighten your body's defenses again colds, flus, and other illnesses. Maintaining a healthy diet packed full of antioxidants can enhance immune function and regulate white blood cell numbers.