Physiology 101

Soft tissue injuries cause the capillaries at the surface of the body to tear; when blood leaks out beneath the skin, this causes a bruise. It should take a decent amount of force to do this, though. If you notice that you’re forming bruises even when you can’t remember what happened, there might be an underlying problem.

Problems with the Blood

Any sort of clotting disorder can cause this, most commonly low platelets (thrombocytopenia), which can be secondary to a number of possible conditions, or it can be idiopathic (meaning nobody knows why you have it. In my experience, usually idiopathic thrombocytopenia goes back to solvent exposure). It can also derive from liver problems, which is why sometimes heavy alcohol drinkers can experience easy bruising.

Some medications can have blood thinning effects as well, including aspirin, coumadin, and NSAIDs (like ibuprofen).

The primary vitamin deficiency that may cause clotting issues is Vitamin K. The version of Vitamin K used for producing clotting factors is K1, found in cabbage, spinach, broccoli, turnips, and cauliflower (so you can see why a lot of Americans might be low.)

Problems with the Skin

Thinner skin, of course, has a tendency to bruise easier, and deeper layers of skin thin with age. Skin also thins as a result of steroid usage, like prednisone or hydrocortisone.

Other potential causes of thinner skin include low levels of the nutrients required to produce collagen, including Vitamin C, Vitamin A, zinc, and copper.

Vitamin K also plays a role here, but it’s K2, not K1. Vitamin K1 (the form most commonly found in food, and also the version most directly involved in producing clotting factors) gets converted into Vitamin K2 (the most useful version) via the good bacteria in your gut. If they’re hindered in the process, you end up low in Vitamin K2. For this reason, a recent round of antibiotics or birth control (also sometimes responsible for dysbiosis) might be to blame for easy bruising, too. Some foods do directly contain Vitamin K2, though, including natto (fermented soy–this is the highest), cheese, egg yolks, butter, chicken, and ground beef.

Problems with the Blood Vessels

If the blood vessel integrity is poor, then the capillaries can tear more easily. Often this is due to low bioflavinoids,  or antioxidants found in colorful fruits and veggies as well as garlic and onions.

The Upshot

If you bruise easily, treatment depends on the cause.

  • Are there any abnormalities in your CBC (complete blood count) that suggest a clotting issue?
  • Are you on meds that thin the blood, thin the skin, or deplete good gut bacteria?
  • Are you getting enough cruciferous veggies?
  • Are you getting enough colorful fruits and veggies, onions, and garlic?