Can I stop my Coumadin?

Here I go again.

While I will try to keep this blog on topic, i.e., coronary heart disease prevention and reversal using nutritional and other natural strategies, I believe that a "critical mass" of frequently asked, though off topic, questions keep cropping up.

One such question revolves around Coumadin, or warfarin.

Somehow, my Nattokinase scam blog post draws traffic about Coumadin. I tried to make the point that a conventional blood thinning agent like Coumadin that undoubtedly has undesirable side-effects cannot be replaced by an agent that has an uncertain track record. In the case of nattokinase, no track record.

To illustrate how far wrong the "nattokinase as replacement for Coumadin" idea can go, here is a question from Anna:


I came across your blog while perusing.

I am a bit bummed because I have been on Coumadin (warfarin) for around 22 years since I was 6 years old. I have a mechanical heart valve (St. Jude's), as I have heart-related issues, including hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.

Well, it is just that the warfarin seems to interact with nearly everything. I feel like I can not get the nutrients my body requires. I desire to consume more raw foods and vegan foods, though I do not want anything to damage my heart valve or risk a stroke/heart attack or internal bleeding.

I have been underweight the majority of my life, malnourished , currently am still somewhat underweight, though enjoying food again, as I had what mimicked Crohn's Disease for several years (horrendous pain), from which I am in remission now. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, which may or may not be caused from consuming warfarin.

Is it possible to get off of warfarin and effectively keep my blood thinned ? I currently take 1.5 mg to 2 mg dosage. Does the warfarin destroy Vitamin K and if so does that mean while on warfarin I never get the Vitamin K nutrients even if I did consume foods with it in it?

Thank you
Anna


No, sorry, Anna. Stopping Coumadin with your unique issues, i.e., a prosthetic mechanical heart valve (likely mitral, judging by your history of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, in which the patterns of blood flow ejected from the heart disrupt the natural mitral valve function) and cardiomyopathy, can be fatal. Without blood thinning, the mechanical heart valve can trigger blood clot formation, since it is a foreign object implanted into the bloodstream.

There are no natural alternatives available with track records confident enough to bet your life on. Aspirin nor Plavix are blood thinners, but platelet inhibitors. These two agents, while they work for other forms of arterial (but not venous) blood clot inhibition, will not work for your unique situation.

Likewise, a purported oral lytic agent like nattokinase should not be substituted for Coumadin. Even if there was plausible science behind it, you should demand substantial evidence that it provides at least blood thinning equivalent to Coumadin. Should a blood clot, even a small one, form in or around the prosthetic valve, the valve can stop working within seconds. This can lead to death within minutes.

I believe it would be foolhardy to bet your life based on the marketing--let me repeat: MARKETING--of a "nutritional supplement" by supplement manufacturers eager to make a buck.

Nor are there any other nutritional supplements that can safely replace the Coumadin. I wish that were NOT true, as I am no stranger to the long-term dangers of Coumadin and I am a big believer, in general, in nutritional supplements. I am a BIGGER believer, however, in the truth. Weighing the options available to us today, there really is no rational choice but to remain on Coumadin.

By the way, I tell my patients to eat a substantial amount of green vegetables while they take Coumadin. I know that conventional advice is to reduce or eliminate green vegetables due to their content of Coumadin-antagonizing vitamin K. I think this is wrong, also. Green vegetables are the best foods on earth. They reduce risk for cancer, diabetes, bone disease, and coronary heart disease.

To obtain the benefits of green vegetables without mucking up your blood thinning (your "protime" or International Normalized Ratio, INR), I advise my patients who take Coumadin to eat green vegetables--but do so every day in relatively consistent quantities, so that the protime or INR is not disrupted and remains reasonably constant. It may mean that your total dose of Coumadin may be somewhat higher, e.g., 3 or 4 mg instead of 2 mg, but the dose is immaterial outside of blood thinning. That way, you obtain all the wonderful health benefits of green vegetables while maintaining fairly consistent blood thinning/protime/INR. Coumadin does not block all the health benefits of vegetables, only those related to vitamins K1 and K2.

With regards to protecting yourself from the osteoporosis promoting effects of Coumadin, I would be sure to follow a program of natural bone health, such as the one I discussed in Homegrown osteoporosis prevention and reversal. You will have to be extra careful, however, with the vitamin K2. Ideally, you have a doctor knowledgeable about vitamin K2 who can assist you in managing K2 intake while on Coumadin. This is something you can definitely NOT manage on your own. (I am a big believer in self-managed care, but this is way beyond the limit.)

Lastly, it is my belief that anyone with an inflammatory bowel condition, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, should absolutely, positively, and meticulously AVOID WHEAT and all other gluten sources (such as rye, barley, and oats). Even if you test negative for celiac markers (e.g., anti-gliadin antibodies, emdomysium and transglutaminase antibodies), the enhanced intestinal permeability will allow wheat proteins, such as gluten, to gain ready entry into the bloodstream. Not to mention that wheat should have no place in the human diet anyway, in my view.

Comments (20) -

  • Myron

    9/5/2010 7:09:35 AM |

    Coumadin is considered a Natural Medicine having been derived from mold acting on Sweet Clover.

    Most Pharmaceutical Drugs have a Natural Basis.

  • Anonymous

    9/5/2010 8:32:30 AM |

    What about using heparin derivatives as a replacement of Marevan / Coumarin?

  • Anonymous

    9/5/2010 8:38:52 AM |

    As mentioned in Wikipedia, low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) is used in pregnancy. It should be possible to change Marevan / Coumarin with LMWH.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marevan#Pregnancy

    Heparin can not be taken orally, so you have to get injections if you decide to change medication.

  • Dr. William Davis

    9/5/2010 9:54:16 AM |

    Yes, indeed.

    But anyone who has taken low-molecular weight heparin injections will tell you it's no picnic. The injections can be painful and leave a bruise. After a few weeks, you can feel like a pincushion and be riddled with bruises. Not a happy alternative.

  • Chris Masterjohn

    9/5/2010 4:56:00 PM |

    Hi Dr. Davis,

    Great, although somewhat depressing, post.

    What is the point of taking the K2 when K2 interferes with the therapy (as Vermeer's group showed) and the dose will have to be adjusted?  The drug interferes with the recycling of vitamin K so it should affect both forms equally.  Are you hoping it may shift the balance of residual vitamin K activity towards the bones and blood vessels?  That seems to make some sense if there is substantial residual vitamin K activity.

    Chris

  • Anonymous

    9/5/2010 6:13:38 PM |

    Chris, I think you are going down the right path with your thinking.  Some K2 survives warfarin therapy as evidenced here:


    "In conclusion, our study indicates that in a rat model
    arterial media calcification is prevented by a high dose of
    MK-4."

    http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowPDF&ProduktNr=224160&Ausgabe=229786&ArtikelNr=75344

    The question then becomes how high a dose is therapeutic in humans and can you get it from diet alone?

    I'm a prisoner of life long warfarin therapy and have consciously shifted my K intake to K2 by eating lots of eggs, cheese and grass fed/finished beef instead of green leafy vegetables because of the way warfarin hammers conversion of K1 to K2.  Sure green leafy vegetables have health properties but they won't help with warfarin driven arterial calcification and osteoporosis.  So far I have avoided taking a K2 supplement and adjusting warfarin dosage because I don't have confidence in the consistency of the K2 in a supplement form.  It becomes another wildcard.  But the bottom line is I really don't know if there is enough K2 to make a difference from food alone.

  • Anonymous

    9/5/2010 6:19:24 PM |

    Dr. Davis, do you have any thoughts on arginine supplementation as a driver of nitric oxide production for the purpose of blood vessel dilation?  I am showing signs of venous insufficiency from a blood clot in my leg suffered over a decade ago.  You mention aspirin and Plavix as platelet inhibitors that don't impact venous clotting.  Arginine also affects platelet activity and I can't find anything definitive about whether or not that is an issue with warfarin.  Arginine is also associated with mitigating atherosclerosis which would seem to make it a good choice for people on warfarin.

  • Anonymous

    9/5/2010 8:04:38 PM |

    Dr davis

    after reading your blog two things have stuck in my mind. one about the role of vaccines in development of disease. and two role of GM foods in destroying health.

    kindly shed light on it. im splitting my hair over it

    Smile

  • Anonymous

    9/5/2010 8:37:04 PM |

    This topic has to be of great interest to the many people on Warfarin for atrial fibrillation,  particularly the issue of warfarin-induced calcification and osteoporosis.  This article http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/full/109/8/3607 suggests that levels of 45mcg of K2 supplementation would be safe, but what is a therapeutic dose and how does it work with Warfarin? (One of the authors has ties with Natto Pharma, seller of K2; they also suggest it is a safe dose.) Until specific studies are done, we will not know how it works.

    Will one of the newer anticoagulants in the pipeline, such as Dabigatran, which I understand is not a vitamin K agonist, be approved soon and will it be effective?

  • Anonymous

    9/6/2010 3:16:19 PM |

    Dear Dr. Davis:

    This topic is really distressing.  My father has been on Warfarin for 10 years due to atrial fib. I can't help but wonder if his increasingly worsening calcium scores were due in part to Warfarin. It seems to be an extremely nasty - but necessary - drug.

    Over the past year he has been increasingly tired and two months ago had a triple bypass. He has been on a low carb diet, lost 25lbs and started taking fish oil and 5,000 i.u Vitamin D3. He is not taking any K2, but he does eat green vegetables every day. He recently started taking 10,000 i.u. of D3.  Should anyone taking larger D3 doses who is also on Warfarin be worried about arterial calcification? How does one find a doctor in Milw. or elsewhere who has knowledge about K2 and Warfarin? What else can Warfarin users do about their heart disease?

  • Dr. William Davis

    9/7/2010 1:45:50 AM |

    Sadly, there are no data--none, zero, zip--that address the end result of taking vit K2 in any dose or any form while on warfarin.

    No doubt: It will drive INR down, driving warfarin need up. But there are no data on what effects will result at the bone or artery level.

    I wish that weren't true, but we cannot invent data where it doesn't exist. It also cannot be extrapolated from existing data or experiences without incurring substantial risk.

    Sometimes, we just need the data.

  • Anand Srivastava

    9/7/2010 7:14:21 AM |

    How does Omega3 supplementation help?
    I have read that Omega6 is one of the agents that triggers blood clotting.
    Also I read that coumadin actually works by inhibiting action of K1/K2.
    So adding K1/K2 will actually be against the coumadin therapy.

    But since Omega6 is required for the signalling that causes blood clots. If you reduce the Omega6 and increase the Omega3 then the blood clots should not happen naturally.
    It will be like the Inuits.
    Their arteries are in a bad shape but they never get a heart problem, because they do not get blood clots in their blood.
    The only problem is that they don't get blood clots while bleeding also.
    So if you use excess Omega3 with very little Omega6 you will be doing the same. But the side effect is that you have to be careful about bleeds.
    I would think that the same problem will be there for coumadin

  • Anonymous

    9/7/2010 5:20:15 PM |

    Dear Dr. Davis:

    The FDA Advisory Council is meeting regarding Dabigatran on September 20th and word is that its approval is expected by the end of the year or early 2011. I have even seen Boehringer-Ingelheim ads on the online JACC to the effect of "Coming Soon - Pradaxa" (the brand name).

    Will this be the paradigm-shifting Warfarin alternative for AF patients?  As Dabigatran is not a Vitamin K agonist, will its users be able to also use food and supplemental sources of Vitamin K2?

    Apart from the supposed reduction in bleeding risk, will Dabigatran be a preferable anticoagulant for long-term Warfarin users?

  • Chris Masterjohn

    9/8/2010 7:07:28 PM |

    Dear Dr. Davis,

    Did you mean that there are no data on whether K2 will protect against the heart valve calcification that occurs on these drugs, or that there are no data showing its effect on INR?

    Vermeer's group compared vitamin K2 as MK-7 to K1 and showed that it is much more potent at driving down the INR value:

    http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/full/109/8/3279

    By the way, since you are a fan of K2, if you haven't already seen it, you might enjoy the large review I wrote on it back in 2007, which argued that it was the "Activator X" discovered by Weston Price:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/175-x-factor-is-vitamin-k2.html

    Love your blog!

    Chris

  • Chris Masterjohn

    9/8/2010 7:12:27 PM |

    Anonymous, I have seen that study but I don't think it shows how much residual activity of K2 there is, or to what extent it can protect against calcification for someone on warfarin.

    The reason is that K2 potently interferes with these drugs.  In the study, they used a massive dose without cranking up the warfarin proportionately.  However, if you take K2 and you actually need to be on these drugs, your doctor will have to adjust the dose of the drug according to the dose of K2 you are taking.  So it is not very apparent that it is actually possible to obtain the beneficial effects of K2 while taking these drugs.

    (As a side point, the massive dose of K2 could provide enough K2 in these studies to allow each molecule to act once and then get converted to the epoxide form without being recycled, and actually exert a meaningful effect.  Off memory, I don't remember whether they did calculations to show whether there was residual reductase activity (i.e. activity of the enzyme that recycles vitamin K, which is the target of warfarin), but the principle that high dose K2 protects against calcification does not show that the dose of warfarin used allowed residual activity of the enzyme, necessariliy.)

    Chris

  • Anonymous

    9/8/2010 9:03:01 PM |

    Sounds as if AF patients should ask their physicians to change them to Dabigatran as soon as it comes out. Less bleeding risk, no constant monitoring and, importantly, the ability to avail oneself of good nutrition without worrying about INR's. The British Heart Foundation is campaigning for the drug to replace Warfarin.  

    Used widely to get rid of rat infestations in post-Katrina New Orleans, maybe Warfarin will soon be relegated to only killing rats.

  • Chris Masterjohn

    9/8/2010 10:10:20 PM |

    Anonymous,

    Good points -- warfarin was actually developed specifically as a rat poison, so if it came back into fashion post-Katrina, that's nothing new.

    Chris

  • Lacie

    9/10/2010 10:21:24 PM |

    I spent 18 unhappy months on Warfarin after a DVT/pulmonary embolism episode due to oral contraceptive use (I have Factor V leiden).  Happily, my physician took me off blood thinners last year after a doppler scan to confirm all of my clots were gone.

    If you really need a blood thinner (artificial heart valve, active blood clot, severe prolonged a-fib, homozygous Factor V leiden), there's just no good alternative to Warfarin at the moment.  Several alternatives have been tested and rejected due to severe side effects.

    A lower-risk propensity to blood clotting (hterozygous Factor V leiden, mild, short-duration a-fib, etc.) might respond to vitamin E.  I started taking it while on Warfarin and my INR readings shot up from 2 to 4.5.  See study by Harvard researcher Robert Glynn, published in September 25, 2007, issue of Circulation journal

  • Holistic health Blog

    6/29/2011 1:07:21 PM |

    Surely the answer is to take the nattokinase, keep a close watch on the INR & if it goes up significantly titrate the warfarin down.

  • Sal P

    5/15/2013 6:40:08 PM |

    Hello Doc,

    I have the same conflict as many here. I take Coumadin for my mechanical heart valve but I do eat green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, or a small salad everyday. I also take Omega 3 daily. My PT INR is usually around the required goal of 2.0. As long as I have this consistent INR reading, is it safe to continue to to have all the above mentioned in my body? I am hoping that my Coumadin dosage can be lowered with the same INR results.

    Please Advise

Loading
Does fish oil cause blood thinning?

Does fish oil cause blood thinning?

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil have the capacity to "thin the blood." In reality, omega-3s exert a mild platelet-blocking effect (platelet activation and "clumping" are part of clot formation), while also inhibiting arachidonic acid formation and thromboxane.

But can fish oil cause excessive bleeding?

This question comes up frequently in the office, particularly when my colleagues see the doses of fish oil we use for cardiovascular protection. "Why so much fish oil? That's too much blood thinning!"

The most recent addition to the conversation comes from a Philadelphia experience reported in the American Journal of Cardiology:

Comparison of bleeding complications with omega-3 fatty acids + aspirin + clopidogrel--versus--aspirin + clopidogrel in patients with cardiovascular disease.(Watson et al; Am J Cardiol 2009 Oct 15;104(8):1052-4).

All 364 subjects in the study took aspirin and Plavix (a platelet-inhibiting drug), mostly for coronary disease. Mean dose aspirin = 161 mg/day; mean dose Plavix = 75 mg/day. 182 of the subjects were also taking fish oil, mean dose 3000 mg with unspecified omega-3 content.

During nearly 3 years of observation, there was no excess of bleeding events in the group taking fish oil. (In fact, the group not taking fish oil had more bleeding events, though the difference fell short of achieving statistical significance.) Thus, 3000 mg per day of fish oil appeared to exert no observable increase in risk for bleeding. This is consistent with several other studies, including that including Coumadin (warfarin), with no increased bleeding risk when fish oil is added.

Rather than causing blood thinning, I prefer to think that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil restore protection from abnormal clotting. Taking omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil simply restores a normal level of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood sufficient to strike a healthy balance between blood "thinning" and healthy blood clotting.

Comments (20) -

  • Marc

    10/26/2009 9:46:32 PM |

    Long time reader, first comment.
    Thank you for so freely sharing all the information.

    Marc

  • Daniel

    10/26/2009 11:02:46 PM |

    Thank you for this!  I have had this question for a long time given the number of things I take that "thin the blood."

  • Kevin

    10/26/2009 11:44:45 PM |

    As a veterinarian I've dispensed fish oil capsules for several years.  Some owners give so many that the dogs smell 'fishy' when seen for routine care.  The owner doesn't smell it since they're with the dog a lot.  The coats are gorgeous, something that doesn't often happen in Wyoming at 7000ft altitude.

  • Dr. William Davis

    10/26/2009 11:47:45 PM |

    Hi, Kevin--

    My two Boston terriers jump for their fish oil capsules, two every day!

    I'm glad to hear from a veterinarian that the coat sheen is indeed from the fish oil.

  • Rich

    10/27/2009 1:27:09 AM |

    Due to an afib episode a couple of years ago, I was taking 20 mg of warfarin per day, plus around 5000 mg of EPA+DHA, and never had bleeding issues.  

    My INR was always a stable 2.0.

    As I've not had an afib reoccurrence, I've replaced the 20mg coumadin with 325mg aspirin daily, and still take around 5000 mg EPA+DHA.  No bleeding issues with that combo either.

  • Catherine

    10/27/2009 3:55:32 AM |

    Glad this topic came up.
    Over the last 5 years, I've had to periodically eliminate my fish oil intake as I would start to bruise badly. My internist said she has seen this occasionally with fish oil and called it "capillary fragility." I bruise easily anyway, but it would really get bad with fish oil. So there must be some quality in fish oil that influences this.

    Then about 6 months ago I started a strong supplement change to help with my low bone density--already taking magnesium and calcium but added:
    Boron, K2, silica,pomegrantate juice, and BIG increase in vitamin D.
    I also increased omegas to 3,000 a day which I was not able to tolerate before.

    It has been over 4 months since I have had ANY bruise---which is just unheard of for me. I usually have 3-4 different bruises on arms/legs. So something in these supplements  strengthened my capillaries I guess, and I can now take high fish oil doses!
    Anyone else had a bruising problem with fish oil?

  • Dr. William Davis

    10/27/2009 11:04:59 AM |

    Hi, Catherine--

    Fascinating observation!

    I'll bet it has something to do with the vitamin D, more than anything else. Vitamin D seems to strengthen structural tissues in bones, muscle, heart valves, and perhaps capillaries and other small blood vessels.

  • trix

    10/27/2009 11:59:37 AM |

    Several years ago I bruised easily for a while and attributed it to taking garlic supplements daily.  I started taking Vit C and the bruising stopped.  I don't think it had to do with fish oil (in my case); I don't think I was taking fish oil at the time.

  • Daniel

    10/27/2009 9:37:33 PM |

    I too achieve rapid blood thinning when taking 2400mg of EPA/DHA per day. That's only 4 pharmaceutical grade capsules. Even after my vitamin d levels were normalized I still got bruising.

    I now take Vitamin K2 (MK-7 natto extract) twice a week and it's allowed me to bump my EPA/DHA up to 3600mg with no ill effects or bruising.

    It was either supplement or eat a lot of aged cheese, they both seemed to do the trick in my particular case.

  • Healthy Oil Guy

    10/27/2009 9:53:51 PM |

    Thank you for sharing this study with us.  It helps clarify whether there is a risk for blood thinning from taking fish oils.  This information may help individuals who are taking blood thinning medications and considering adding fish oils to their daily diet.

  • Dave

    10/28/2009 2:22:01 AM |

    Catherine,

    Without a doubt, your cessation of bruising was due to vitamin k2. I routinely take nattokinase, large doses of fish oil, curcumin, and other blood thinning agents, and if I don't take vitamin K2, I will begin bruising. (I also take high doses of Vitamin D). When I take K2, I have absolutely no bruising.

    Vitamin K2 has many clinical trials showing that it helps endothelium  integrity and elasticity.

    Also, grapeseed extract and pine bark extract (specifically oligomeric proanthcyanins) has the same beneficial effect.

  • Catherine

    10/28/2009 4:41:41 PM |

    Daniel,

    That's really interesting! There is a lot of research on K2's effect on strengthening weak bones. Bone fractures go down considerably when high doses of K2 are used (Japan is using K2 as osteoporosis treatment) BUT studies show it needs to be in conjunction with adequate calcium and Vitamin D---they work synergistically for bone strength.  So it makes sense that K2 and D could do the same with strengthening fragile capillaries. I am also taking the M7 natto form.

  • Catherine

    10/29/2009 12:01:36 AM |

    Dave,

    Thanks for sharing your experience with this, you've really confirmed it now for me.  I can't believe I have suffered with this for most of my life with no answers (tried high dose Vit C, grape seed, etc) and now within months on K2, there's no bruising and I can tolerate fish oil. Hope my bones are responding this well!
    This blog is so helpful....

  • Mina

    10/29/2009 12:21:31 PM |

    Thanks for posting this. The question recently came up in our office. I like your assertion that omega-3s restore the blood to normal and remove abnormal clotting. And to comment on a post above, our dog has a beautifully shiny coat and takes 2 pure EPA capsules each day!

  • Term papers

    1/26/2010 3:40:08 PM |

    I have enjoyed reading That During nearly 3 years of observation, there was no excess of bleeding events in the group taking fish oil. (In fact, the group not taking fish oil had more bleeding events, though the difference fell short of achieving statistical significance.

  • Viagra Online

    8/23/2010 6:41:39 PM |

    I've been drinking fish oil for many year and I don't have any chance in my body people use to said me that but I think it is just a rumor.

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 10:19:55 PM |

    I'm also especially gratified that a woman now holds our record. I'm uncertain why, but the ladies have been shy and the men remain the dominant and vocal participants in our program. Speak up, ladies!

  • moseley2010

    12/7/2010 2:37:16 AM |

    I haven't heard of this problem
    fish oil supplements. But now we know what to tell them when this sort of concern comes up. Fish oil or Omega-3 is really beneficial to health. It's just important that it comes from clean waters.

  • Jack

    3/12/2013 7:03:38 PM |

    What is an appropriate dose of fish oil for someone taking coumadin?

  • dorange

    6/15/2014 3:53:03 PM |

    Dr. Davis, when  person is taking Tamoxifen...
    (1) is it safe to take vitamin k2 or K1?
    (2) will fish oil have a role in preventing blood clots?

Loading