Granulocytes are immune cells that fight pathogens and heal damaged cells. High levels occur in infections, inflammation, cancer, and many other underlying health issues. Read about natural approaches that may help lower inflammation (and thus, decrease granulocytes).
Granulocytes & Inflammation
What Starts Off Inflammation?
The main function of granulocytes is to engulf and destroy invading pathogens and parasites. They are responsible for starting the process of inflammation as well as resolving it. Granulocytes are also involved in wound healing [1, 2].
After a threat has been eliminated, granulocytes destroy themselves by programmed cell death (apoptosis). However, in many inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, granulocytes last longer than they should .
In some cases, inflammatory or infectious diseases may be accompanied by low granulocytes.
Neutrophils are an abundant type of granulocyte. In autoimmune neutropenia, antibodies attack and destroy neutrophils, which results in low granulocyte levels. Other medical conditions or treatments (such as chemotherapy) may also underlie low granulocytes [3, 4].
When to See a Doctor
If your goal is to normalize your granulocytes because you have high or low granulocytes and inflammatory problems – including autoimmunity and constant fatigue or pain – it’s important to talk to your doctor, especially your symptoms are significantly impacting your daily life.
The same is true if your neutrophils are low and you are looking for ways to increase them. Your doctor should diagnose and treat any underlying conditions causing your symptoms.
Complex inflammatory disorders always involve multiple possible factors – including biochemistry, environment, health status, and genetics – that may vary from one person to another.
Therefore, you may try the strategies listed below if you and your doctor determine that they could be appropriate.
Read through the approaches we bring up and discuss them with your doctor before trying them out. This is particularly important if you plan to take any dietary supplements.
Most of the lifestyle, dietary, and supplement factors listed below rely on animal and cellular data. These findings can’t be applied to humans. Clinical research is needed before the safety and effectiveness of the supplements listed below are determined.
A Note About Supplements
Have in mind that supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective.
Lastly, supplement-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. That’s why it’s so important to consult your doctor before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.
Natural Approaches that May Reduce Inflammation (& Lower Granulocytes)
1) Stop Smoking
Smoking can contribute to inflammation and many chronic diseases, including lung cancer. Smoking was strongly linked to high granulocytes in a study of 38K people. In a study of 1,730 people, granulocytes levels decreased after the participants stopped smoking .
2) Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for the function of your immune system. In a pilot of study eight people, sleeping only four hours a night for three nights increased neutrophil levels by 34% .
Neutrophil levels increased by 30% after a single night of no sleep in 16 people .
Getting enough sleep, therefore, may help prevent your neutrophil levels from increasing. More importantly, it supports healthy immune balance, while sleep deprivation may trigger or worsen inflammation [6, 7].
3) Reducing Stress
Stress can contribute to a number of chronic diseases and it’s also linked to various types of inflammatory disorders. Research suggests it may also increase neutrophil levels, which means that avoiding or managing stress may help prevent your neutrophil levels from increasing .
4) Avoid Toxin Exposure
Heavy metals such as lead and mercury can cause high granulocyte levels.
Luckily, most people don’t have to worry about it. Heavy metal poisoning is extremely rare in the United States. It happens only when people are exposed to exceptionally high amounts of heavy metals in their environment, typically due to work-related conditions.
Other compounds that have been hypothesized to increase granulocyte levels include :
- Insect venom
The vast majority of people are unlikely to be exposed to significant amounts of these compounds, but rare cases have been reported.
Vegans have lower granulocytes levels than non-vegetarians. A low calorie, vegan diet reduced neutrophil and eosinophil levels in a pilot study of 14 people [10, 11, 12].
In 52 people, eating a ketogenic diet for 12 months decreased neutrophil levels .
On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet has been well researched for preventing heart disease. It’s packed with anti-inflammatory foods, healthy fats like olive oil, nutritious vegetables, seafood, and healthy whole foods.
The MIND diet is a modified version of the standard Meditteranean protocol that emphasizes brain-healthy foods.
More research on these diets is needed.
Ramadan is a religious practice in Islam that involves a month of intermittent fasts for most of the day (sunrise to sunset). In a study of 28 Muslims, Ramadan decreased neutrophils by 18% .
Ramadan reduced neutrophils by 7% in 90 Muslims .
While fasting seems to decrease neutrophils, it might also improve their ability to engulf and destroy pathogens. This hasn’t been clinically confirmed, though .
Fasting is not an option for everyone, however. If you take medication after meals, are underweight, have electrolyte imbalances, or suffer from a serious medical condition, fasting may do more harm than good. Consult your doctor to see if this approach is safe for you.
7) Boswellia serrata
Boswellia serrata (Indian frankincense) is traditionally used for inflammatory problems, but the research is sparse. The herb’s gum resin decreased eosinophils in a study of 80 people. Larger trials are needed .
8) Garlic (Allicin)
In folk medicine around the world, garlic is often viewed as an anti-inflammatory spice. According to the NCCIH: “A great deal of research has been done on garlic, but much of it consists of small, preliminary, or low-quality studies” .
In one animal study, neutrophil levels increased in rabbits infected with P. multocida bacteria. Allicin, the main active component of garlic, decreased neutrophil levels .
Factors that May Increase Neutrophils (& Inflammation)
Most people are better off avoiding the following factors, based on the existing evidence. The factors listed below can all trigger or worsen inflammation in excess, which is likely why the increase neutrophils.
Caffeine increased both neutrophils and eosinophils in mice .
In a study of 22 people, caffeine increased neutrophil levels by 9%. In the group that exercised and supplemented with caffeine, neutrophil levels were increased by 58% .
Caffeine can worsen inflammation and many people don’t tolerate it well.
2) Intense Exercise
Studies of 141 total people suggest that intense exercise, including endurance exercise and strength training, can increase neutrophil levels. Exercise releases neutrophils from the bone marrow at a higher rate [22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29].
Intense exercise may worsen immune health and inflammation and strain the body in the long run. It’s not recommended for most people. Don’t start a strenuous, new exercise routine without talking to your doctor.
3) Dark Chocolate?
A pilot study of 18 people found that fifty grams of dark chocolate (90% cocoa) increased neutrophil levels by 15%. Cocoa might have some benefits, though, but the clinical research on it is weak. People with food sensitivities or inflammation can have negative reactions to cocoa .