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White blood cells are types of immune cells that helps fight against infections and other diseases. Read more below to learn why high white blood cell counts are bad and ways to increase or decrease your white blood cell count.

Always know your optimal white blood cell ranges. Click here to download our free Blood Test Reference Guide.


White Blood Cells

White blood cells, or leukocytes, help the body fight against infections. The different types of white blood cells are basophils, neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes [R].

There are associations between white blood cell (WBC) count and the proteins in red blood cells, heart rate, weight, cholesterol, uric acid, creatinine, sex, ethnic origin, blood pressure, height, and blood sugar in both men and women [R].

Having a high level of white blood cells is bad, but for some people having too low of a level means that they won’t be able to effectively fight infections. Some people may want to increase their number, while others want to decrease it.

Why Are Higher Levels of White Blood Cells Bad?

White blood cells are immune cells capable of causing oxidative stress.

White blood cells get stuck in the arteries and harden, which causes plaque to build up and can lead to heart attacks.

Leukocytes participate in the inflammation process, are recruited at the site of endothelial injury, and form foam cells in the plaque [R].

Interleukins and tumor necrosis factor-α are released from activated leukocytes and cause endothelial dysfunction [R].

Besides a hardening of the arteries, a higher number of white blood cells cause problems with circulation, thicker blood, and the increase of proinflammatory cytokines.

Why Is Having Low White Blood Cells Bad?

Having too low of white blood cells can be a sign of an immune system that is not capable of handling infections.

Also, low white blood cells tend to be an indicator of other issues in the body. For example, in some autoimmune conditions, white blood cells can be lower.

A low white blood cell count can be caused by the following (not an exhaustive list):

  1. Infections, including viral infections (especially HIV/AIDS)
  2. Chronic inflammation, which can use up white blood cells faster than they are produced
  3. Certain disorders present at birth that involve diminished bone marrow function
  4. Cancer or other diseases that damage bone marrow, such as leukemia; also, chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  5. Drugs, such as antibiotics, which destroy white blood cells
  6. Autoimmune disorders such as sarcoidosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
  7. Nutrient deficiencies

Optimal Reference Range for White Blood Cells

F1.medium (1)[R]

Participants with baseline WBC <3,500 and WBC >6,000 had higher mortality than those with 3,500 to 6,000 (WBC/mm^3) [R, R].

In an independent study that covered 7 countries, results concluded each point increase in WBC was associated with a 21% higher 5-year heart disease mortality (after adjustment for risk factors)[R].

Having a WBC count between 3.5 and 6.0 is ideal in terms of optimal health.

WBC counts of 9,000 to 10,000 had a 3.2-fold elevated risk for cardiovascular disease death compared to those with WBC counts of 4,000 to 4,900 [R].

WBC can vary from person to person based on a multitude of factors. We created SelfDecode so you can analyze your health at a genetic level, allowing you to skip past all of the guesswork and know exactly what works best for you.

White Blood Cells and Disease

1) High WBCs Increase the Risk of Dying

Repeatedly, studies show that the WBCs are a clinical marker of inflammation and a strong predictor of the risk of dying (mortality) from all causes [RRR].

The total WBC count is an independent predictor of mortality in older adults, but the monocyte subtype provides greater predictive ability [R].

2) High WBCs Cause Heart Disease

The white blood count was almost linearly associated with cardiovascular mortality [R].

White blood cell count within 24 hours of admission for a heart attack is a strong and independent predictor of in-hospital and 30-day risk of dying. Relative to those patients in the lowest 20%, patients in the highest 20% of white blood cell counts were 3 times more likely to die at 30 days [R].

Circulating white blood cells amplifies oxidative stress in heart failure [R].

3) High WBCs Contribute to Cancer

A high WBC count was also significantly associated with cancer death [R].

4) High WBCs and Diabetes

A high WBC value predicted diabetes when adjusted for age, sex, body fat, and other established predictors of diabetes [R].

Also, a high WBC count at baseline was associated with a subsequent worsening of insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes in Pima Indians [R].

These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that a chronic activation of the immune system may play a role in causing type 2 diabetes [R].

5) High WBCs Are Bad for Dialysis

An increased neutrophil count and reduced lymphocyte count are independent predictors of increased mortality risk in dialysis patients [R].

Inhibiting White Blood Cells

If you have high white blood cells, you might want to look into some ways to reduce them. Here are some methods that may decrease white blood cell counts.

1) Testosterone and SHBG

Higher sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and testosterone levels are associated with lower WBC counts in middle-aged men [R].

2) Alcohol


Alcohol is inversely proportional to WBC. In both smokers and nonsmokers, alcohol consumption decreased white blood cells in a dose-dependent manner [R].

This could be one reason why moderate alcohol intake is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

3) High Selenium Diet (300mcg)

WBCs decreased in men who ate a high-selenium diet. The decrease is mostly due to the changes in granulocytes [R].

Increasing White Blood Cells

If you have low white blood cell levels, you first want to try to fix the underlying cause of it. If there is no underlying cause, then you can experiment with some healthy behaviors that may increase white blood cell count.

Lifestyle to Increase White Blood Cells

1) Sauna


Sauna bathing increased the number of different types of white blood cells (lymphocyte, neutrophil, and basophil) in athletes. The total white blood cell count increases after dehydration caused by passive overheating [R].

The heat exposure from the sauna has a similar effect on the WBC profile compared to physical exercise. Athletes have a faster mobilization of immune system cells compared to untrained subjects [R].

2) Cold

Exercising in the cold leads to an increase of the total number of white blood cells as well as the number of neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes [R].

However, the increase in the numbers of total WBCs during recovery after exercise is a mild and temporary deviation from regular immune system function. The increase in total WBCs was mostly due to an increase in neutrophils [R].

3) Heavy Resistance Exercise

During and after exercise in male weight trainers, WBC count increased. This shows that leukocyte counts can significantly increase in response to heavy-resistance exercise [R].

During the recovery phase after submaximal exercise, there were an increase in the numbers of total leukocytes, neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes [R].

4) Smoking

WBC in male smokers was significantly higher than ex-smokers and non-smokers. In current cigarette smokers, WBC were related to the number of cigarettes smoked, amount of inhalation, and duration of smoking [R].

Obviously, smoking is not recommended as a means to increase WBCs if that’s what you want.

Nutritional Factors That Increase WBCs

5) Vitamin B12


In rats who ate a low-protein diet, vitamin B12 helps increase WBC. However, this effect was only seen in rats with protein deficiency; rats who ate a normal level of protein had an unchanged WBC [R].

6) Zinc Deficiency

Zinc plays an important role in immune functions. Zinc deficiency increased the number of total white blood cells, granulocytes (neutrophil, eosinophil, and basophil), and monocytes in mice without changing the amount of lymphocytes.

Zinc deficiency induces stress responses which may have increased the WBC [R].

7) Fish Oil


Birds fed with 5.5% fish oil had higher total white blood cell count. A balance of moderate level of fish oil and methionine level might enhance the immune response in broiler chickens [R].

8) Folic Acid

Folic acid supplementation can also increase WBC [R].

9) Selenium and Vitamin E Injection

Adult male rats were injected with vitamin E, selenium, or a combination of vitamin E and selenium. The number of WBC in the blood was significantly higher in the vitamin E, selenium, and combined group than in the controls [R].

On the other hand, men who had a diet very low in selenium (15mcg) had an increased WBC [R].

So, it could be that having an increased or decreased level of selenium can increase WBCs.

10) Garlic

Garlic treatment significantly increases the total white blood cell count in rats. Garlic-fed rats had a significantly higher amounts of neutrophil, lymphocytes, and monocytes than in the control.

11) Noni Fruit

Tahitian Noni Juice increased WBC, as well as other blood and platelet counts, in male rats [R].

12) Shark Liver Oil

Shark liver oil has a lot of alkylglycerols, which are fats that stimulate the production of white blood cells. Shark liver oil supplementation can increase WBC in humans.

Hormones/Pathways That Increase WBCs

13) Cortisol/Glucocorticoids


Glucocorticoids/cortisol can increase the number of white blood cells in the body [R].

Glucocorticoids (includes cortisol) increase leukocytes/WBCs in blood but decrease the number of lymphocytes, eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils [R].

A single dose of cortisol results in a 70% decrease in lymphocytes and a 90% decrease in monocytes, occurring 4 to 6 hours after treatment and persisting for about 24 hours. Cell numbers then rise 24 to 72 hours after treatment [R].

14) Leptin

The WBC is correlated to the amount of body fat in humans.

Leptin stimulates myeloid production, which is a precursor of white blood cells [R].

Leptin, a protein found in fat cells, circulates in humans in direct proportion to the amount and percentage of body fat. Leptin and the leptin receptor are part of a pathway that stimulates blood cell production [R].

In Pima Indians, the WBC is positively correlated with the percentage of body fat. The more fat the subjects had, the more WBC they had in their body [R].

Weight loss can reduce the white blood cell count [R].

After controlling for age and gender, percent body fat accounted for 23% of the variance in the WBC count [R].

15) Adrenaline and Noradrenaline

Adrenaline and noradrenaline were infused into 5 healthy subjects. Total WBC counts increased in response to adrenaline and noradrenaline. Both alpha and beta-receptors are involved in the mobilization of lymphocytes [R].

16) MSH

MSH is capable of increasing WBCs in diabetic rats, who had lower levels [R].

17) Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid hormones may slightly increase white blood cells. People who are hypothyroid have slightly lower white blood cell counts and it increases when they normalize their levels [R].


18) IGF-1

IGF-I stimulates the rapid increase of immune cells, including white blood cells, and helps increase the effectiveness of the immune system [R].

IGF-1 has an antiapoptotic effect on WBC count and may increase its number [R].

19) Growth Hormone

Growth hormone stimulates the rapid increase of immune cells, including white blood cells, and helps increase the effectiveness of the immune system [R].

Growth hormone injection alone increased the WBC count due to an increase in the number of lymphocytes and monocytes [R].

20) Prolactin

Prolactin has a variety of immune stimulatory effects [R].

Injection of prolactin in mice increases WBCs [R].

Prolactin goes up after people have a seizure – and so do white blood cells (but the authors didn’t connect the two) [R].

21) Insulin

The white blood cell (WBC) count is related to blood insulin concentrations and insulin resistance in healthy individuals of Pima Indian descent. Higher insulin concentrations meant higher WBC count [R].

However, this could simply be because white blood cells increase insulin resistance, and insulin levels are higher in insulin-resistant states [R].

Using liver and fat cells from mice and humans as well as live mouse models, scientists discovered that an enzyme secreted by neutrophils called neutrophil elastase (NE) impaired insulin signaling and boosted resistance. Conversely, deletion of NE in obese mice fed a high-fat diet improved insulin sensitivity [R].

Your genes have a lot to say about your hormone levels. SelfDecode lets you in on that conversation. It’s like having your own private geneticist on your computer.


Joe spent years helping clients finally overcome their chronic illnesses and disorders and get back to living the life they deserve. He compiled what he learned over the years into this book, SelfHacked Secrets as a resource so anyone battling illnesses can find a way out. As a thank you to our readers, for a limited time we’re giving away a free preview of SelfHacked Secrets so everyone can see the difference it can make in their lives. Click Here to download your free preview today.

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  • S V R Sravana Lakshmi

    My white blood cells count is 9840 how should I get into control!!

  • Ange

    Hi Craig, (I think my reply to your post showed up as a separate post, so I’ll repost it here)
    I’m wondering the same thing about whether the reference range is just out of whack. My wbc and neutrophils are low, but I also eat very clean and am very healthy. I’m the one who never gets sick when colds and flu go around.

  • Nabin

    How can I control wbc in our normal lifestyle and I have a wbc problems

  • Umair Khan

    I have more than 21 ratio WBC
    Kindly tell me how can i decrease

  • N Narayana Swamy


    My mom’s WBC is 39000 how to control this. Is this can be controlled from food habits or with any medication. Pls advise

    1. Helen

      Hi, you can ask Joe inside of VIP: or over at

  • Hitesh

    My mom have 17500 WBC HOW TO DECREASE IT

  • Magda Torres

    What Kind of food can I eat to lower my white blood cells they too high

    1. Helen

      Hi, you can ask Joe inside of VIP: or over at

  • dalal mrad

    how to increase my white cells?

  • deepak

    What to do when white blood cells increase?What kind of food help to decrease white blood cells ?

  • Shubham kamble

    What to do when white blood cells increase?
    What kind of food help to decrease white blood cells ?

  • Juniko

    No, I am currently waiting on a second opinion. All of my blood tests came back negative for an auto immune disease but my biopsy came back abnormal.

  • Yoon Sul

    Was just curious to see if you found out what was causing your low counts?

  • Juniko

    Hello Emma, I am currently under going different tests because of low white blood cells (1.6). I feel healthy, I exercise regularly and have started eating healthier. Just wondering if you ever found out why your count was low? Appreciate any advice.

  • Leslie Stephens

    Hi neha mine is 12000 and I’m worried about leukaemia. What did your doctor say about your white blood count???

  • Neha Singh

    My white blood cells is 12,500 how should I get into control and I am conceive..

  • Shailesh

    Hi.. I m Shailesh

    My WBC Count shows 34900 where Biological Ref Range is 4000-10000/cmm so it shows higher range -Elect.Impedance
    What should I do for it control?

  • Linda B

    I was under the impression you needed white blood cells to increase immunity therefore fighting cancer?? If you lower this won’t your cancer increase?

  • Sandeep Gupta

    Interesting to note there was some studies in the 1960s which suggested even eating any type of cooked food vs raw food increased the WBC count. It was termed “digestive leucocytosis”. This research hasn’t been able to be replicated however.

    1. Nattha Wannissorn

      So you mean eating any food increase WBC count?

  • Craig Slater

    Nice article. My WBC is low and below the reference range. This is a bit of a puzzle but I wonder about the validity of the reference range for someone on a clean/anti-inflammatory diet and someone optimised/self-hacked from various angles (e.g. cold thermogenesis) 🙂 I am never sick, plenty of energy etc. Or does it mean there is somethiing underlying. Further investigation ongoing.

    1. Emma Donovan

      Hi Craig – I too on very clean diet and have low WBC. investigations also ongoing. Happy to share thoughts

      1. Lesley rowe

        Me too low neutrophils my diet is really really good lots of exercise etc

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