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Carlos, Doctor (MD)
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Experience:  M.D.
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What causes RBCs to become sticky in the first place?

Customer Question

What causes RBCs to become sticky in the first place?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Health
Expert:  Carlos replied 6 years ago.

Dear JACUSTOMER 9avzrh26:Agglutination (clumping) of type A red blood cells (RBCs) by anti-A antibodies. The antibodies have two combining sites and are able to attach to the A antigens on adjacent RBCs, thus causing the RBCs to bond together.

Stickiness of red blood cells or the clumping of the red blood cells together is called autoagglutination.

The presence of antibodies (usually IgM) on the surface of red blood cells is responsible for the phenomenon of autoagglutination. Agglutination can be observed during immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, but also during 'cryoglobulinemia' ( a far more rare condition).

If your red blood cells are sticky or your blood is thick the cells begin to stick together. This eventually can lead to your blood pressure being elevated secondary to the heart working harder to pump more blood to compensate for tissues which have not received enough oxygen secondary to less red blood cells which carry the oxygen because of them not being able to transit through certain smaller blood vessels in route to those tissues as described further below:

This not only decreases the amount of surface area through which your red blood cell can release oxygen but two, three or more red blood cells clumped together prevents the single cell from bending over to pass through the smaller arterioles. The result is that certain tissues do not get enough oxygen.

When this occurs the body through a complex process of chemical and neurologic messages signals the heart to pump harder. Perhaps if the pressure is higher the cells can be forced through. And perhaps they can for a time but eventually the heart muscle is overworked. It enlarges, becoming ineffective and damage is done in many areas of your body. The most frequently discussed damage is that which occurs to the blood vessels. This can result in ruptures in the vessels in your brain causing a stroke(Cerebral Vascular Attacks).

But the sluggish, sticky, thick blood can also cause damage over time because the tissues, at large, are simply not receiving the oxygen they need to survive and be healthy.

Things that can be eliminated or helped by natural lifestyle changes:

Smoking- This is because your body seems to prefer to take in toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, over the oxygen. The body then signals its need for more oxygen. Part of the bodies compensation to fix the problem is to make more red blood cells to carry the oxygen to the needed places.

Sleep Apnea- Because sleep apnea results in a lack of oxygen (the person frequently stops breathing for a period of time while asleep) the body signals for more oxygen and again the body compensates by making more oxygen carriers, red blood cells.

Dehydration- Simply put, if the "water portion" of your blood is not replaced adequately the red blood cells are more concentrated in a given amount of blood.

A diet high in fat and cholesterol- Studies show the flow of blood is slowed considerably by a high fat diet. Simply put the fat clogs the system. It coats the red blood cells, and gets in the way of good clean circulation. This is only briefly mentioned here but it is actually a huge issue, especially for those living in "developed" countries were our diets are refined and "rich". This is likely why the majority of high blood pressure cases can be reversed by lifestyle changes which promote natural, more healthful diets.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Found primarily in fish, Omega-3 fats are associated with lower cholesterol levels and possess compounds which help make blood less sticky. Anchovies, albacore tuna, trout, salmon, anchovies, mackerel and herring, fish oil and flaxseed oil capsules are all high in Omega-3s.

Read more: Natural Blood Thinners |


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your response. It was all useful information that I'm pretty much aware of already, and I have experienced first hand how wonderfully light and buoyant one feels when one's blood is thinner due to a short term nutrient rich juice fast or vegan diet. . . .But my question still stands: If one does not have an autoimmune disorder such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, what actually causes the Anti-A antibodies to attach to the A-antigens on adjacent RBCs? Is there any more specific information available?
Expert:  Carlos replied 6 years ago.

Dear JACUSTOMER 9avzrh26: If one does not have an automimmune disorder such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, then there may be a mutation of some kind which has caused this problem to occur.

The only other information I ran across was below: