Along with transporting oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body so that the cells can perform properly, hemoglobin also helps carry carbon dioxide away from the cells and transport it back to the lungs for reoxygenation. As is quite clear from its role, hemoglobin is quite crucial for life.
Normal Values of Hemoglobin
Hemoglobin level in body is expressed as grams of hemoglobin per 100 milliliters (or 1 deciliter) of whole blood.
Normal hemoglobin levels in the blood are*-
*These values may vary slightly among different laboratories due to the different methods and measurements used in each facility.
Symptoms of Low levels of Hemoglobin
Decreased level of hemoglobin in your body is indicated by fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, pale skin, pale nail beds and gums, spooning nails, rapid heartbeat, and poor appetite.
“If you have low hemoglobin levels you can have low oxygen levels. This can make you feel weak, fatigued, no energy, tired, short of breath,” says Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, MD.
A significant decline in the level of hemoglobin may result in a condition known as anemia. Symptoms of anemia are similar to the ones noticed in the case of low level of hemoglobin in your body, only more severe, like- pale complexion (pallor), pale nail beds and gums, heart arrhythmias, indentations in the fingernails (spooning), bright, red tongue (glossitis), and an enlarged liver or spleen.
Causes of Low Levels of Hemoglobin
It is common for women to experience low hemoglobin levels during pregnancy or menstrual cycles. However, there can be many other reasons behind it as well.
“Many different things can cause a low hemoglobin level- it can be from a bad diet, from cancer, it can be low iron levels. It could be from bleeding after surgery, after giving birth, heavy periods, from a slowly bleeding ulcer in your stomach/GI tract, or even a blood disorder like sickle cell anemia. Kidney or spleen problems can also cause a low hemoglobin/low red blood cell count,” says Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, MD.
The most common causes of low hemoglobin levels are nutritional deficiencies. For example, iron, folic acid, and vitamin C and B12 deficiencies.
Low hemoglobin levels can also occur due to blood loss from surgery, trauma, medication side effects, frequent blood donations, bone marrow disorders, cancer, kidney problems, arthritis, diabetes, stomach ulcers, and other diseases of the digestive tract.
Low hemoglobin is usually associated with conditions that cause or may contribute to fewer red blood cells in your body. Depending on the reason for the decrease in hemoglobin level, there are natural ways of restoring levels to within the normal limits.
The length of time you’ll need to continue using these remedies depends on your hemoglobin level and how often your doctor orders tests to check for improvements.
According to Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, MD, “the best way to increase hemoglobin levels is to increase amount of green leafy vegetables, B12/folate, eat meat, eggs, fish, green beans, broccoli, etc. Sometimes iron supplements are needed. And in severe situations sometimes blood transfusions are necessary. The first step is determining the cause of the low hemoglobin level to know how to properly treat it. i.e., you can eat all the green vegetables you want but it will not stop a bleeding ulcer.”
Here are some ways to increase your hemoglobin naturally.
1. Eat Iron-Rich Foods
One of the most common causes of low hemoglobin levels is iron deficiency. One easy way to ensure that your body gets the required amount of iron regularly is by fortification of food products with iron.
Some good iron-based foods include liver, red meat, shrimp, tofu, green leafy vegetables, nuts, dates, lentils, fortified breakfast cereals, oysters, and asparagus. You can also take an iron supplement, but please consult your doctor for the correct dosage as high doses of iron can be harmful.
2. Increase Vitamin C Intake
Low hemoglobin levels due to a deficiency of vitamin C can be corrected by eating foods rich in vitamin C. The body cannot fully absorb iron without the help of vitamin C. Foods that are rich in vitamin C are papaya, oranges, lemon, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, grapefruit, tomatoes, and spinach.
You can also take vitamin C supplements, but again, you must consult with your health care provider for proper dosage before implementing.
3. Take Folic Acid
Folic acid is a B-complex vitamin, which is required to make the red blood cells. Therefore, if you have a folic acid deficiency, you are also at a higher risk of having a low hemoglobin level.
Food sources rich in folic acid, that you can include in your diet are green leafy vegetables, liver, rice, sprouts, dried beans, wheat germ, fortified cereals, peanuts, bananas, and broccoli. You can also take 200-400 milligrams of a folate supplement daily after consulting your health care provider.
Beetroot is highly recommended to increase the hemoglobin levels. Beetroot is high in iron, folic acid, fiber, and potassium. Its nutritional value helps increase the body’s red blood cell count.
- Cook 1-2 beetroots along with their peels in a microwave or roast them on the stove. Allow them to cool and then peel them before eating.
- Alternatively, make a healthy juice with one medium-sized beetroot, three carrots, and ½ of a sweet potato and drink it once daily.
5. Blackstrap Molasses
A folk remedy used to fight anemia and increase your hemoglobin level is blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses contains iron, folate and many B vitamins that can help increase the production of red blood cells in your body.
- Take 1 cup of water.
- Mix 2 teaspoons each of blackstrap molasses and raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to it.
- Optionally add honey to taste.
- Drink once daily.
- Try eating a medium-sized pomegranate or drink a glass of pomegranate juice daily.
- Another option is to take two teaspoons of dried pomegranate seed powder mixed with a glass of warm milk. Drink once daily.
7. Avoid Iron Blockers
If you have a low hemoglobin level, familiarize yourself with foods that you need to avoid, i.e., the food that can block your body’s ability to absorb iron. Some examples of iron-blocking foods are:
- Over-the-counter antacids
- Calcium-rich foods like dairy products and calcium supplements
- Avoid foods containing gluten.
- If you are a vegetarian, eat more cereals, beans, tofu, dried fruits, and spinach.
- Consume more iron-rich food after your menstrual period and during pregnancy.
- Avoid taking over-the-counter stimulants if your energy levels are low.
- You can also include some type of exercise in your daily routine, after consulting your doctor, because when you exercise, the body produces more hemoglobin to meet the body’s increased demand of the of the oxygen.
When to See a Doctor
You need to visit your doctor from time to time in order to regularly measure your hemoglobin level.
Further, you might need medical intervention if in case, you do not notice any improvement from these remedies in a month, or if your symptoms become worse or severe.
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