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. Dr. Bob Rountree, a practicing physician in Boulder, Colorado, and medical editor for Delicious Living magazine, says patients may wish to increase the 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, or consider taking a flavonoid supplement, as pycnogenol or grape seed extract.
"Some elderly patients also have less subcutaneous fat, which may result from poor nutrition overall. For that reason I recommend increasing healthy plant oils from nuts, olive oil and avocados," Rountree said.
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 experience a sudden onset of bruising, especially if it is widespread, Rountree advises that it could be a sign of platelet deficiency or leukemia.
"A simple and cheap blood test (CBC) would rule this out," Roundtree said. " We may also want to distinguish easy bruisability from a noticeable increase in bleeding, since the latter may be more suggestive of a bleeding disorder or liver condition."
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.
Heather Jones is a registered dietitian, freelance writer and nutrition professional based in Washington, D.C.