Coumadin Diet

Patient Expert

The heat wave across the nation is definitely being felt here in West Virginia. It's a time of year I dread since I have to work outdoors a lot reporting the news. I try to stay cool in the air conditioning when I can and drink plenty of water. When it comes to eating though, I typically can't eat in the heat. But, when I do cool off to have lunch or dinner, I crave salads. I love salads, which isn't a good thing if you are like me, on Coumadin.

Coumadin is an anticoagulant taken by millions of Americans to treat blood clots. These clots may be in the legs or lungs or may be associated with an irregular heartbeat (known as "atrial fibrillation") or heart-valve replacement. Coumadin also can be prescribed after a heart attack to reduce the risk of death, stroke, blood clots, and subsequent heart attacks.

The effectiveness of Coumadin must be monitored by your doctor through blood tests. I go once a month. It's called a PT Test, or prothrombin time. It measures the tendency of your blood to clot. The INR, or International Normalized Ratio, shows the speed at which the blood clots.

Many things can alter the effectiveness of warfarin, or Coumadin, like eating foods high in Vitamin K. Those foods include leafy vegetables, broccoli, liver, kale and lettuce. I figured I would be okay, though, since I have had good luck with my PT tests in the past. So, I ate several salads one week and sure enough, after my blood test, my medication was increased. I'm back to my salads every once in a while.

It's hard to know when too much is too much. The best rule of thumb is to eat in moderation, as long as it follows the advice of your doctor. In fact, your doctor can give you a diet to follow, if needed. I actually found a good resource on the Dr. Gourmet website.

The website now includes a six-week diet plan for Coumadin users. It shows you can eat a healthy diet, while effectively managing your intake of Vitamin K.

Dr. Gourmet is actually Timothy S. Harlan, M.D., a practicing internist and a chef. He is also the author of cookbooks and patient education materials, as well as the creator of Emmy-winning television programming that helps people understand how to eat healthy. The website offers information about heart healthy diets as well as menu plans for a sensible healthy diet and weight loss. There are hundreds of recipes for low sodium diets, lactose intolerance and for patients who use warfarin or Coumadin.

It shows for people like me, we can still eat healthy and many of the foods we love, and at the same time, avoid having another stroke.

Coumadin and Vitamin K Facts