Q. I bruise easily. Does this mean I’m deficient in some nutrient?
A. Bruising easily is rarely a sign of nutrient deficiency. Bruises are created when the tissue just under the skin gets injured, resulting in a buildup of blood that causes the skin to turn black-and-blue. Sometimes easy bruising runs in families. And, if you are a woman, you are more likely to bruise from a minor injury, especially on the thighs, buttocks, and upper arms. It is also common for older adults to bruise easily as capillaries age and the skin’s protective layers become thinner. Though uncommon, vitamin C deficiency can sometimes result in a heightened susceptibility to bruising.
Increased bruising can also be the side effect of taking certain medications that thin the skin or interfere with the blood’s ability to clot, such as steroids, cortisone drugs, aspirin, or ibuprofen. It is also thought that some dietary supplements including vitamin E, fish oil, ginger, garlic, or ginkgo—which can have similar effects on the blood and skin—may also augment bruising. However, the health benefits of these medications or supplements are probably worth a little extra bruising, so consult with your health care practitioner before discontinuing them.
If you are concerned about how easily you bruise, you may wish to increase your intake of the bioflavonoid compounds found in plant foods such as citrus fruits and berries, which can potentially reduce bruising by improving the health of capillary walls and the surrounding connective tissue. If bruises don't seem to be healing normally, visit your health care practitioner to evaluate the cause of your bruises and to discuss treatment.
This Q&A was written by Heather Jones, a registered dietitian, freelance writer, and nutrition professional based in Washington, D.C.