Building Your Hemoglobin Level Without Blood
How to Increase Hemoglobin Levels
Hemoglobin is a protein that exists in your red blood cells and is used to transport oxygen throughout your body.Many people with slightly low hemoglobin levels do not experience any symptoms. If you have severely low hemoglobin levels (below 13.8 grams per deciliter in men or 12.1 grams per deciliter in women), you will probably experience the symptoms of anemia, such as fatigue and a rapid or pounding heartbeat.There are many potential causes of low hemoglobin levels, ranging from poor dietary intake of iron to more serious and difficult to treat disorders. Because of this, a doctor needs to evaluate anyone with low hemoglobin levels. Talk to your doctor about what your blood tests mean and how you can manage your health.
Changing Your Diet to Increase Hemoglobin Levels
Eat more foods with heme (organic) iron.Sources of heme iron (aka organic iron) are generally the easiest for your body to absorb. About 20% of heme iron is absorbed during digestion, and that absorption level is not affected by any other dietary elements.Heme iron sources can also help your body absorb more iron from non-heme foods. Red meat tends to have the highest absorbable iron levels, but other forms of meat and seafood are also highly absorbable.To increase your hemoglobin levels, try consuming the following foods:
Add more non-heme (inorganic) iron food sources to your diet.Non-heme (or inorganic) iron is typically found in plants and plant-based foods. These iron sources are absorbed at much lower rates than heme iron sources. Generally speaking, you will only absorb 2% or less of the iron in non-heme foods;however, with proper planning (by pairing non-heme foods with other iron sources), inorganic/non-heme foods can and should be a part of any balanced diet.Common sources of non-heme iron include:
- Green beans
- Whole wheat bread/cereal/pasta
- Any bread that has been fortified with additional iron
Increase your iron absorption from non-heme iron foods.Non-heme foods may have lower absorption rates than heme foods, but there are a number of things you can do to increase the amount of iron absorbed from non-heme foods. Non-heme foods are still an important part of a well-balanced diet, and with some very minor modifications, you can significantly increase the amount of iron you get from them.
- Combine heme and non-heme foods to increase the absorption of iron. Heme foods help your body extract and absorb more iron from non-heme foods when paired together.
- Cook non-heme foods in an iron pot/pan/skillet. The food will absorb some additional organic iron from the cookware, which will help increase your absorption of the non-heme food's iron.
- Pair non-heme foods with vitamin C. Eat oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli with your regular non-heme food items.
- In addition to vitamin C, you can pair any acidic food product with non-heme iron sources to increase the iron absorption. Even vinegar will help you absorb more iron from your plant-based foods.
Avoid foods/drinks that decrease your ability to absorb non-heme iron.Just as certain foods help increase your absorption of non-heme iron, some foods/beverages can actually decrease your absorption.If you're struggling to increase your hemoglobin levels, try avoiding these foods/drinks/supplements and see if your hemoglobin levels improve:
- Dairy products
- Leafy greens
- Bran and other high-fiber foods
- Cola beverages
- Calcium supplements
Taking Vitamins/Supplements to Increase Iron Absorption
Take iron supplements.Iron supplements are an excellent and direct way to increase the amount of iron you consume; however, if your body is having difficulty absorbing iron, you may need to take other precautions.
- There are a number of different types of OTC iron supplements (such heme iron polypeptide, carbonyl iron, ferric citrate, ferrous ascorbate, and ferrous succinate). Studies suggest that they are all equally effective — the most important thing is that they are taken properly and regularly.
- Taking iron tablets on an empty stomach can help increase the absorption of iron from those tablets; however, it can also cause an upset stomach, so you may prefer to take iron with a little food.
- Never take iron tablets with an antacid. Fast-relief heartburn medications tend to hinder your ability to absorb iron.
- If you must take an antacid, take your iron tablets either two hours before you take the antacids or four hours after.
Try getting more folic acid.Folic acid is necessary for your body to make new cells, including red blood cells. If your body is unable to make enough red blood cells, this may lead to low hemoglobin levels.You can get folic acid through vitamins/supplements, or through dietary changes.
- Most multi-vitamins available in the United States contain the recommended daily dose of folic acid you need to stay healthy.
- If your breakfast cereal is labeled as having 100% of your daily value of folic acid, a bowl each day can also help get your hemoglobin levels higher.
- Not all breakfast cereal has 100% of the daily recommended value of folic acid. Consider replacing your usual cereal with one that provides more folic acid.
Use vitamin B6 supplements.Vitamin B6 helps your body make more hemoglobin. If you're experiencing low hemoglobin levels, vitamin B6 may be able to help.
- Vitamin B6 is naturally found in certain foods like avocados, bananas, nuts, beans/legumes, whole grains, and certain meats.
- You can also purchase vitamin B6 supplements at most pharmacies and health food stores.
- Most adults under age 50 need 1.2 to 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 each day.
- Adults over age 50 should consume 1.5 to 1.7 milligrams of vitamin B6 every day.
Take vitamin B12 supplements.Vitamin B12 helps your body make red blood cells.This can help reduce the symptoms of low hemoglobin levels and/or anemia that you may be experiencing.
- Vitamin B12 is only derived naturally from animal proteins. Plants do not have any natural vitamin B12, though some plants are fortified to include this vitamin.
- Taking 2 to 10 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day with iron and/or folic acid supplements can help reduce the symptoms of anemia in up to 16 weeks.
- Increase your vitamin B12 intake if you adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Many vegetarians/vegans do not get enough vitamin B12, and often experience anemia as a result.
- If you're over age 50, talk to your doctor about your vitamin B12 needs. Many adults over 50 have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food.
- Anyone with digestive disorders or a previous gastrointestinal surgery should consider taking vitamin B12 supplements.
Treating Common Causes of Iron Deficiency
Try taking oral contraceptives to reduce menstrual bleeding.Some women with heavy menstrual flow experience anemia. This can result in lower hemoglobin levels. There is no guarantee that oral contraceptives will work for everyone, but many women have found that oral contraceptives do help reduce menstrual flow.
- Oral contraceptives will not provide immediate relief of your low hemoglobin levels, but they may help reduce iron deficiency anemia caused by heavy menstruation.
Use antibiotics to manage peptic ulcers.Peptic ulcers are frequently associated with low hemoglobin levels because they can cause slow GI bleeding. Most peptic ulcers are treatable with a "triple therapy" regimen of two antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor, which your doctor can prescribe to you.
- Peptic ulcers are almost always caused by theH. pyloribacteria.
- TreatingH. pyloribacterial infections with antibiotics can help reduce the anemia that was brought on by that infection.
Identify celiac disease.Iron deficiency is a lesser known symptom of celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by gluten and causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. If you are unable to determine the cause of your anemia, there is a good chance you may have celiac disease — even if you don't have any other symptoms. Ask your doctor to test you for celiac.
- The damage to the lining of the small intestine means it can't absorb nutrients properly, including iron.
- If you are found to have celiac disease, you will need to switch to a gluten-free diet. After some time, your small intestines will heal and will be able to absorb iron.
Check your medications.Certain medications can cause iron deficiency — talk to your doctor about any medications you may be taking. If these are affecting your ability to absorb iron, then discuss the possibility of switching to a different medication.
- Some drugs that may impair iron absorption include some antibiotics, some antiseizure medications (phenytoin), immunosuppressive drugs (methotrexate, azathioprine), antiarrhythmic drugs (procainamide, quinidine), and anti-clotting drugs (aspirin, warfarin, clopidogrel, heparin).
Consider surgery if you suffer from occult blood loss.Low hemoglobin levels are frequently caused by low red blood cell counts. A low red blood cell count is often associated with persistent bleeding — "occult" bleeding refers to gastrointestinal bleeding that the patient is not aware of — or any condition/ailment that either lowers your red blood cell production or destroys red blood cells at a rapid rate.
- A tumor/fibroid/polyp that bleeds, reduces your ability to produce red blood cells, or causes bone marrow to fail can cause anemia and low hemoglobin levels in some individuals.
- Having the polyp, tumor, or fibroid surgically removed can help reduce or eliminate the bleeding and/or low red blood cell problem that caused the anemia and subsequent low hemoglobin levels.
Getting Medical Help
Identify the symptoms of low hemoglobin levels.Only a doctor can diagnose low hemoglobin levels. Your doctor will need to test your blood in order to give a proper diagnosis, and then potentially do other studies to determine the cause of your low hemoglobin. If you're experiencing severe symptoms of low hemoglobin, however, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.Common symptoms of severely low hemoglobin levels include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fast/irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Paleness of the skin and/or gums
Have your hemoglobin levels tested.The only way to confirm that you have a low hemoglobin level is by having your blood tested by a doctor. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of low hemoglobin levels on a regular basis, see your doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan.
- Your doctor will most likely run a complete blood count test to confirm that you have a low hemoglobin count.
- To run the blood test, your doctor will need to collect a small sample of blood. You will be stuck with a needle, but it is not particularly painful, and any pain is very short-lived.
- Normal hemoglobin levels for adult men are between 13.8 and 17.2 grams per deciliter (g/dL).
- Normal hemoglobin levels for adult women are between 12.1 and 15.1 g/dL.
- If the blood tests do not indicate low hemoglobin levels, your doctor will need to run further tests to determine what other medical issues could be causing your symptoms.
Know the other medical conditions that could cause low hemoglobin.Low hemoglobin levels can be caused by a number of underlying conditions. Any disease or condition that reduces your red blood cell count can result in low hemoglobin levels.Common conditions that cause low hemoglobin levels include:
- Anemia (aplastic, iron deficiency, vitamin deficiency, and sickle cell)
- Cancer and certain non-cancerous tumors
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Enlarged spleen
- Lymphoma (both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's)
- Internal bleeding
- Lead poisoning
- Multiple myeloma
- Reactions to HIV or chemotherapy medications
QuestionInto what part of the body is iron injected?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIron supplements are generally taken as oral tablets. You can also consume iron through many everyday food sources.Thanks!
QuestionMy hemoglobin level is 3.8. I did blood transfusions twice. What are some home remedies to increase my hemoglobin level naturally?wikiHow ContributorCommunity Answer3.8 is severely low for hemoglobin. You should talk to your doctor as soon as possible and develop a comprehensive medical plan (with your primary care physician) to increase your hemoglobin levels.Thanks!
I've tried to reduce my coffee/tea intake in order to help iron absorption, but it is proving to be very difficult. Is consuming these substances at times other than with a meal considered to be at all helpful for absorption?
What causes someone's nose to bleed?
How can I increase my hemoglobin levels naturally in preparation for fibroid surgery?
Doses maximum for iron tablets?
My hemoglobin is very low. I am always feeling weak, and my D3 and B12 levels are also level. What can I do?
- If you drink large quantities of tea or coffee with a meal, the polyphenols in these drinks bind with the iron, thus making the absorption of iron more difficult. Try reducing your caffeine intake and see if your levels improve.
- Only your doctor will be able to test your blood and confirm that your hemoglobin levels are low. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you're experiencing. Your doctor can also help you put together a comprehensive plan to increase your hemoglobin levels safely and effectively.
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