I had the opportunity to talk about Nutrition and Multiple Sclerosis at a JUMPSTART Program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin earlier this month. JUMPSTART is a one day multidisciplinary education program developed by the folks at CAN DO MS. I can’t say enough about what an amazing organization this is and if you get a chance to participate in one of their programs, I highly recommend it!
The MIND Diet, Leafy Greens and Coumadin (Warfarin). Your questions answered.
While in Milwaukee, I met some wonderful people, learned a lot from other presenters and was presented with some really great questions from program participants. One of the questions is one that I get asked a lot in my office as well as through email — especially from folks who would like to adopt the MIND Dietary guidelines which I wrote about here. The MIND Diet recommends eating dark green leafy vegetables every day. Several people have asked about how this would be possible since they are taking Warfarin (Coumadin) a medication that interacts with these foods.
Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, kale, spinach, collard greens and others contain vitamin K. In fact, the greener the vegetable, the higher the vitamin K content. Leafy greens and vitamin K are very good for you but they can impact the way Warfarin (Coumadin) works in your body. The more vitamin k rich foods you consume, the lower the level of warfarin is in your body which means that your INR (a laboratory measurement of how fast your blood clots) will be lower and you will be more likely to form a blood clot.
I should avoid these foods if I am taking warfarin (Coumadin), right? Well, not exactly. This is a common misunderstanding of the dietary recommendations surrounding this medication. Avoiding these foods would remove the interaction but it would also remove some very healthy and beneficial nutrients from your diet.
Consistency is key. It is not necessary to eliminate these foods from your diet but it is important to be consistent in how you eat them. In other words, it is necessary eat the same amount every week. If you are currently taking Warfarin (Coumadin), and have been avoiding these foods for any reason, but would like to begin eating more leafy greens to get the health benefits they provide it is very important to speak with your doctor before making any dietary changes so that your INR can be monitored.
Vitamin K rich foods are very important for the role they play in blood clotting but that is not all that they bring to the table. Vitamin K is also an important nutrient for maintaining strong bones. Leafy greens provide other nutrients including fiber, folic acid and other B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium as well as important phytochemicals like lutein and beta-carotene. And the researchers who studied the benefits of the MIND dietary guidelines on cognitive function found that leafy greens had a significant benefit on brain health. So, don’t miss out on all of this good nutrition! Once you have discussed it with your doctor, a registered dietitian in your area can help you plan how to safely and consistently include these healthy foods in your diet.
Takeaway message: It is possible to get all of the brain health benefits of the MIND Diet while taking Warfarin (Coumadin) but it is very important to speak with your healthcare team before making any changes to your diet.