Dengue recovery diet: Foods to improve platelet count and speed up recovery


Dengue fever cases are rising across the country and while most of the cases are mild, many of the people may experience severe symptoms and complications like haemorrhagic fever and a sudden deterioration in platelet count. Platelets or thrombocytes are small cell fragments in our blood that form clots and stop bleeding. They are produced in our bone marrow, the sponge-like tissue inside our bones. In case of dengue fever, the normal platelet count of 1.5 lakh or 4 lakhs can come down to 20,000-40,000 platelets. In some cases, platelet count is raised via blood transfusion. However, one can also add necessary nutrients to their diet like iron, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B12, among others. (Also read: Dengue outbreaks: 9 reasons why dengue cases are getting more severe; what role does global warming play)

Dengue fever, a viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes, can lead to a critical drop in platelet count—a condition known as thrombocytopenia(Freepik)

“Dengue fever, a viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes, can lead to a critical drop in platelet count—a condition known as thrombocytopenia—which in turn can result in bleeding complications. While there isn’t a direct link between specific foods and an immediate increase in platelet levels, maintaining a carefully balanced diet can play a significant role in supporting overall health and recovery during and after the ordeal,” says Dr G Sushma – Consultant – Clinical Dietician, CARE Hospitals, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.

“One can add papaya leaves, mixed herbs, pomegranate, coconut water, turmeric, fenugreek, orange, citrus fruits in the diet for speedy recovery. Papaya leaves play a crucial role in fighting this dangerous disease. They help elevate the platelet counts which can fall to dangerously low levels in dengue patient. To consume it, take a medium sized papaya and chop it into small pieces and drink the papaya water. Add the papaya juice with honey and fresh lemon and drink it twice a day. Also you can take Giloy, ashwagandha, Tulsi or aloe vera juice,” says Dr Neeti Sharma, Sr. Consultant – Nutrition & Dietetics at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Gurugram.

“Turmeric is an antiseptic and metabolism booster and many doctors and dieticians recommend it. Turmeric with milk is best remedy for faster recovery. Citrus fruits play an important role for dengue patients and it help in recovery. So, rich mix of antioxidants and vitamin C like orange, strawberries, lemon, papaya etc should be included in a diet twice a day,” says Dr Sharma.

Dr G Sushma shares dietary tips for improving platelets in dengue

1. Hydration

Adequate hydration is paramount. The fever, sweating, and potential vomiting during dengue fever can lead to dehydration, which further exacerbates the stress on the body. Consuming ample fluids is essential to maintain the body’s fluid equilibrium, promote optimal organ function, and facilitate the elimination of toxins. Water, coconut water, and clear broths are particularly recommended, as they provide hydration along with electrolytes, helping to alleviate symptoms and assist in the healing process.

2. Nutrient-rich foods

Embrace a diet rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. By doing so, you bolster your immune system and provide your body with the building blocks necessary for recovery. A diverse array of fruits and vegetables, particularly those abundant in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers) and vitamin K (like leafy greens such as spinach and kale), can foster healing and support platelet function indirectly.

3. Protein sources

Incorporating lean protein sources is crucial for tissue repair and overall healing. Poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes are excellent choices. These protein-rich foods deliver amino acids that contribute to cellular repair, immune function, and the production of blood cells, all of which are vital during recovery.

4. Omega-3 fatty acids

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines) and flaxseeds, offer anti-inflammatory properties that could aid the body in recuperation. By mitigating inflammation, these foods might potentially facilitate the healing process and contribute to better overall health.

5. Iron-rich foods

Foods abundant in iron play a role in maintaining energy levels, which are crucial when battling an illness. Lean meats, poultry, beans, lentils, and spinach are noteworthy sources of iron. Adequate iron intake supports oxygen transport within the body and overall vitality.

6. Avoid processed foods

Minimizing your consumption of processed and junk foods is essential. These items are typically devoid of the essential nutrients your body requires for healing and can even exacerbate inflammation. Prioritize whole, unprocessed foods to provide your body with the necessary tools for recovery.

7. Papaya

Papaya stands out as a potentially beneficial addition to your recovery diet. It is rich in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that bolsters the immune system and aids in wound healing. Additionally, the fibre content in papaya supports digestive health, helping to prevent constipation and ensure regular bowel movements. Beyond that, papaya offers an array of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, folate, and potassium, which collectively contribute to overall health and recovery.

Dr. Charu Dua, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad shares additional dietary guidelines for dengue recovery:

Fluids: Dehydration and electrolytes disturbances both can be handled effectively if plenty of fluids are added in diet. Plain water, detox water, soups, lemon water, coconut water are some of the options.

Eat 5 -6 small frequent meals: As appetite is low, reduce eating gaps can help ease symptoms like nausea and may improve appetite. Eat meals more frequently as compared to three large meals.

Easy to digest food: It is advised to consume easy-to-digest simple food, especially in presence of symptoms like food intolerance, vomiting and diarrhoea. Incorporate plenty of fluids like soups, juices, chaach, detox water, lemon water, fresh coconut water etc. and eat food like steam rice, khichri, dalia, gruels, porridges, upma, custards, soft dal, stews, easy to digest soft vegetables etc.

Give preference to fruits and foods: Rich in Vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc, some evidence reports fruits like guava, pomegranate, kiwi, papaya etc. support improved iron absorption and it is also a chelator. Dates, have an effect of improving the reduction in the number of platelets the blood. Apricots contains a lot of iron that works to increase the number of platelets in the body.

Pomegranate is a food rich in flavonoid polyphenols has antimicrobial effects, contains large amount of Vitamin C which helps strengthen immune system. Kiwi loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, folate and potassium too have an impact on immunity, help increase platelets and electrolytes in body. Papaya has many beneficial components that increase platelet count such as folate, papain, chymopapain and potassium, Vitamin C and fibre.

Guava rich in Vitamin C can also help increase immunity and increase platelet count.

Eat food which has anti- inflammatory effect: These are homemade Indian foods and whole grains. Avoid highly processed foods and instant foods. Include seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and curd in your diet.

Goat milk/papaya leaf extract: Some research mention about consuming goat milk and papaya leaf juice extract to increase platelet count.


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