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White blood cells, also referred to as leukocytes, are important components of the human immune system. Normal white blood cell count in adults is in the range of 4×109 and 1.1×1010 per liter of blood (4000 to 10,000 WBCs per microliter of blood), and any alteration in the same is usually an indication of some problem in the body.

When the white blood cell count in the body falls below 3,500 WBCs per microliter of blood, it is referred to as Leukopenia. Symptoms of this condition include fever, cramps, diarrhea, sore gums, sneezing, sore throat, headache, etc. Leukopenia is basically the sign of a weak immune system, which is vulnerable to various infectious diseases. Not just a person suffering from this condition, but anybody whose WBC count is less than 4000 WBCs per microliter of blood has to take some steps to increase the white blood cells in their body. The simplest way to bring the WBC count back to normal is to make some changes to one's lifestyle and daily diet.

Importance of White Blood Cells

WBCs play a vital role in defending us against infections and foreign particles. They are produced from hematopoietic stem cells, i.e., the multipotent cells located in the bone marrow, and are found all over the body. White blood cells are grouped into different types, each of which is assigned a particular task -
  • Neutrophils - Defend our body against bacteria
  • Eosinophils - Defend our body against parasites
  • Basophils - Function in allergic reactions
  • Monocytes - Kill bacteria and destroy damaged cells
  • Lymphocytes - Play an important role in producing antibodies
Even common cold can lead to fatal diseases, like pneumonia, if the person's white blood cell count is extremely low, and that in itself highlights their importance in our body.

How to Increase White Blood Cell Count?

Eat Healthy Foods
The best method to increase leukocytes is to include certain foods -- vegetables, like broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, beet, asparagus, cauliflower, etc., and fruits, like oranges, melons, strawberries, figs, etc., -- in your daily diet. These foods are known to help in increasing white blood cells naturally. Other than fruits and vegetables, even dairy products, lean meat, and fish contribute in production of white blood cells in the body.

Other recommended foods include garlic, yogurt, almonds, green tea, ginseng, etc. All these foods provide certain nutrients which contribute to the well-being of your immune system. Garlic, for instance, contains a substance known as allicin, which doesn't just boost the production of white blood cells, but also flushes out various microorganisms from the body.

Foods containing beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, etc., also help in increasing white blood cells. In fact, zinc is widely considered one of the essential nutrients for proper functioning of the immune system as it acts as a catalyst and stimulates the production of WBCs in the body.

Eating healthy foods is one part, while restricting unhealthy foods is other. You should restrict the intake of, or avoid, foods which do more harm than good to your body. Sugar-rich foods and vegetable oils with polyunsaturated fats, for instance, hinder the growth of white blood cells and weaken your immune system, and therefore, are best avoided.

Ideally, your diet should not just include all the essential nutrients required by the body, but should also ensure a proper ratio of these nutrients. A 2:1 ratio, with 2 parts of fruits and vegetables and 1 part of meat and fish, is your best bet.

Keep Yourself Active
Other than a proper diet, an active lifestyle is the key to normal WBC count. Exercising doesn't just help you increase your WBC count, but also strengthens the existing cells and boosts your immune system. Full-fledged workout is definitely the best, but if you can't devote enough time for that, you should at least make it a point to indulge in moderate physical activity for half an hour a day. Walking is a convenient option as it can be incorporated in your daily routine without much difficulty. Other options include biking, swimming, physical sport, hiking, etc.

Spending hours in front of the computer and television is a strict no for some obvious reasons. On the other hand, simple activities -- such as gardening, or taking your dog for a walk -- are a definite yes. Stress is believed to be one of the major threats for the immune system. If such cases, simple activities, like gardening, are bound to help you relax and contribute to the overall well-being of your immune system.

Consult an Expert
You can also consult a dietitian, or a doctor, and resort to white blood cell boosters and supplements. While these supplements would definitely help you increase WBCs, there are chances that they might interfere with some existing medical condition and cause more harm to your overall health.

Certain medications are also responsible for decline of white blood cells in the body. If you are using some prescribed medication, like diuretics or antihistamines, discontinuing the use of these medications will also show a significant rise in the WBC count. That, however, should only be done after consulting a doctor.

A person undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer treatment can also suffer from leukopenia. In such cases, the doctors usually recommend delaying treatment until the WBC count is back to normal. As for white blood cell transfusion, it is possible, but the risks involved are high and therefore, it is used only in rare cases.

Other than the aforementioned measures to increase the WBC count, you will also have to take some precautionary measures, like maintaining personal hygiene and being cautious in the company of people suffering from contagious diseases, so that you don't contract any infectious diseases. A vulnerable immune system is a very serious condition. If not treated in time, there are high chances that it may lead to further complications, and even turn out to be life threatening at times.

Disclaimer: This article is purely for the purpose of providing information, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.