Haemoglobin is an iron-rich protein present in red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. It is necessary to maintain normal levels of haemoglobin in your blood for your body to function properly i.e. 14 to 18 g/dl for adult men and 12 to 16 g/dl for adult women. When the level of haemoglobin drops, it can cause weakness, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, poor appetite and rapid heartbeat. If the level of hemoglobin decreases significantly, the condition may be diagnosed as anemia and symptoms can become severe, says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital.
According to UNICEF’s report released in the 2011, close to 56% teenage Indian girls could be anaemic. The report further states that, “issues like malnutrition and anemia affect large sections of the Indian population”.
While iron deficiency anemia is one of the major reasons for low hemoglobin count, there are other factors that can put you at risk of low levels of hemoglobin. Some of the common health conditions that can lead to low hemoglobin count include pregnancy, menstruation, liver disease, recent surgical intervention or urinary tract infection.
The production of haemoglobin is important for your body, and iron and B vitamins, as well as vitamin C play an important role. It is imperative to have a proper diet to maintain an optimum level of haemoglobin. For that to happen, you need to boost your intake of foods that help in the synthesis of haemoglobin. Having said that, let’s learn how to increase haemoglobin.
What is low hemoglobin count?
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) for the year 2015-16, iron deficiency in India is rampant. It was reported that around 55.9% children in the age group of six months to less than a year are anemic (hemoglobin count less than 11.00 g/dl) and almost 50.8% women in the age group of 15 years to 49 years has hemoglobin count less than 13.0 g/dl.
Many things can cause low hemoglobin levels, such as:
- iron deficiency anemia
- liver problems
- urinary tract infections
In addition, some people have naturally low hemoglobin counts without any underlying cause. Others have low hemoglobin, but never have any symptoms.
If the level of hemoglobin is less than the normal hemoglobin range, the person is known to have low hemoglobin levels and hence, needs to consult a doctor. Here is the normal range of hemoglobin in blood for women, men and children:
Women: 12.1 – 15.1 gm/l
Men: 13.8 – 17.2 gm/l
Children: 11.0 – 16.0 gm/l
Undergoing a blood test can help you know if the hemoglobin levels are normal or not. Also, there are certain symptoms that can indicate low hemoglobin count in blood.
An Hb value less than 5.0 g/dL (50 g/L) can lead to heart failure and death. A value greater than 20 g/dL (200 g/L) can lead to obstruction of the capillaries as a result of hemoconcentration.
Low hemoglobin is diagnosed when a man has less than 13.5 grams per deciliter (g/dL) of hemoglobin in the blood, or when a woman has less than 12 g/dL.
A person may have a low hemoglobin level for a variety of reasons, including:
- iron-deficiency anemia
- problems with the liver or kidneys
- chronic disease
It is possible to have naturally reduced hemoglobin levels without an underlying cause. Some may even have low hemoglobin and experience no symptoms or indications.
With a doctor’s guidance, a person can boost their levels of hemoglobin to fall within a normal range. Normal ranges are:
- 13.5 to 17.5 g/dL for men
- 12 to 15.5 g/dL for women
Appropriate hemoglobin levels for children vary depending on age. Anyone concerned about a child’s hemoglobin levels should speak with a doctor.
People with very low hemoglobin levels may need additional treatment if taking supplements and changing the diet do not show sufficient results.
Symptoms of extremely low levels of hemoglobin include:
- a fast or irregular heartbeat
- pale skin and gums
- muscle weakness
- frequent or unexplained bruising
- reoccurring headaches
What are the symptoms of low hemoglobin in blood?
Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. In most cases, a slight decrease in the hemoglobin level does not cause any symptoms, which is the reason, most people do not consult a doctor. Despite remaining unnoticed and untreated most of the time, low hemoglobin has its own peculiar symptoms that would help a practitioner identify the underlying cause. Some of the key symptoms of low hemoglobin count are —
- General weakness with fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness accompanied by frequent nausea
- Pale skin and brittle nails
- Rapid heartbeat
- Poor appetite
- Effortless bruising and lack of clotting
- Weak bones and joint pain
- Sore tongue
- Inability to focus and concentrate
How Does Haemoglobin In Our Body Works?
The key function of red blood cells is the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the body’s cells. RBCs contain a protein known as haemoglobin that is responsible for carrying oxygen in order to ensure that the living cells are performing well. It is said that 97 percent of the oxygen carried by the blood from the lungs is carried through haemoglobin and the other three percent is dissolved by the plasma.
How to improve blood hemoglobin count?
Most cases of low hemoglobin count can be treated with simple lifestyle changes like eating a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise. In some cases, iron supplements and medications might be needed. Here are a few simple tips and home remedies to increase hemoglobin level in blood.
1. Increasing iron intake
A person with reduced levels of hemoglobin may benefit from eating more iron-rich foods. Iron works to boost the production of hemoglobin, which also helps to form more red blood cells.
Iron-rich foods include:
- meat and fish
- soy products, including tofu and edamame
- dried fruits, such as dates and figs
- green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
- green beans
- nuts and seeds
- peanut butter
2. Increasing folate intake
Folate is a type of vitamin B that plays an essential part in hemoglobin production. The body uses folate to produce heme, a component of hemoglobin that helps to carry oxygen.
If a person does not get enough folate their red blood cells will not be able to mature, which could lead to folate-deficiency anemia and low hemoglobin levels.
Good sources of folate include:
- black-eyed peas
- kidney beans
Folate supplements are available for purchase online.
3. Maximizing iron absorption
Consuming iron in foods or supplements is important, but a person should also help their body to absorb that iron.
Foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables, can boost the amount of iron absorbed. Taking a vitamin C supplement may also help.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene can aid the body in absorbing and using iron.
Foods rich in vitamin A include:
- sweet potatoes
- kale and collards
Foods high in beta-carotene include yellow, red, and orange fruits and vegetables, such as:
- sweet potatoes
While vitamin A supplements can help the body to process iron, the vitamin is dangerous if too much is consumed.
Excess vitamin A may lead to a condition known as hypervitaminosis A. This can cause symptoms such as bone and joint pain, severe headaches, and increased pressure within the brain.
4. Taking iron supplements
A doctor may advise a person with extremely low levels of hemoglobin to take iron supplements. The dosage will depend on a person’s levels.
It is important to note that too much iron can be dangerous. It may cause hemochromatosis, which can lead to liver disease and side effects such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
Supplements will cause levels of iron to increase gradually over a few weeks. A doctor may recommend taking the supplements for several months, to increase the body’s iron stores.
Listed below are the food items that help you increase your hemoglobin levels:
Beetroot is enriched with natural iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and C. The wealth of nutrients in this wondrous vegetable helps in increasing the hemoglobin count and regeneration of red blood cells. It can be consumed raw as salad or in the cooked form. Alternatively, you can even blend it and prepare a glass of beetroot juice.
2. Moringa Leaves:
Moringa leaves are rich in minerals like zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, vitamin A, B and C. Take a few finely chopped moringa leaves and make a paste, add a teaspoon of jaggery powder and blend well. Consume this churna regularly along with the breakfast to improve your hemoglobin level and red blood cells count.
3. Green Leafy Vegetables:
Green vegetables like spinach, mustard greens, celery, and broccoli are rich vegetarian sources of iron. It is advised to have cooked spinach as raw leaves contain oxalic acid which may prevent the absorption of iron in the body. This leafy green vegetable is a natural source of vitamin B12, folic acid, and other vital nutrients, and you should make it a staple part of your daily platter if you want to increase your hemoglobin.
Broccoli is a rich source of iron and B-complex vitamin folic acid, and also contains a healthy amount of other essential nutrients like magnesium, vitamin A and C. Moreover, green veggies are low in calories and are good sources of dietary fiber. Hence, they can also help you in weight loss and improve digestion.
4. Dates, Raisins & Figs:
Dates and raisins offer a combination of iron and Vitamin C. Figs, on the other hand, are packed with the goodness of iron, magnesium, vitamin A and folate. Consuming a handful of dried figs and raisins and two or three dates in the morning can provide you with instant energy and improve your hemoglobin levels. It is also recommended to have fig milk at bedtime twice a week to increase hemoglobin levels. Diabetics should take such dry fruits in moderation only.
5. Sesame Seeds:
Eating black sesame seeds is another great way of increasing your iron intake as they are loaded with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin B6, E and folate. You can soak them in some water and leave it overnight before consuming it the next morning. Mix about 1 tablespoon of dry roasted black sesame seeds with a teaspoon of honey and roll into a ball. Consume this nutritious ladoo regularly to boost your iron levels. You can sprinkle some over your cereal or oatmeal or even yogurts and fruit salads.
Natural Ways to Increase Hemoglobin
- Eat Iron-Rich FoodsIron deficiency is the most common cause of low haemoglobin levels, according to the National Anemia Action Council. “The top iron rich foods include green leafy vegetables like spinach, beetroot, tofu, asparagus, chicken liver, whole egg, oysters, apple, pomegranate, apricot, watermelon, prunes, pumpkin seeds, dates, almonds, raisins, amlaand jaggery”, adds Dr. Anshul Jaibharat.
|Vegetarian||spinach, tofu, asparagus, broccoli, green peas, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, potatoes, fenugreek leaves, beans,|
|Fruits||Beetroot, pomegranate, watermelon, apple, apricot, oranges, strawberries, papaya, grape fruit, banana, peach, persimmons, mulberries, guava, litchis, kiwi|
|Non vegetarian||Whole egg, chicken liver, oysters, meat, seafood, red lean meat, clams|
|Other foods||dates, almonds, amla, raisins, prunes, pumpkin seeds, dried beans, Nettle, wheat germ, sprouts, peanuts, colocasia leaves, soyabeans, currants, legumes( soya nuts, red kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, lentils, fava beans) starch and grains, brown rice, dark chocolates, whole grains, yogurt, daal , rajma, sesame seeds|
Though this may vary according to the age, weight, nutrition level and gender, generally speaking, experts believe that an adult male needs upto 8mg/day and women in the age range of 18 to 50 need around 19mg/day.
Increase Vitamin C Intake
“It is important to have a combination of both iron and vitamin C as the latter is a carrier rich molecule that can be used for better absorption of iron”, says Dr. Anju Sood, Bangalore-based Nutritionist. Eat foods rich in vitamin C such as oranges, lemon, strawberries, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli,
Increase Folic Acid Intake
“Folic acid, a B-complex vitamin, is required to make red blood cells and a folic acid deficiency automatically leads to a low level of haemoglobin”, says Dr. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital. Some good food sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, sprouts, dried beans, wheat germ, peanuts, bananas, broccoli and chicken liver. “Beetroot is also highly recommended to increase the body’s red blood cell count as it is high in folic acid as well as iron, potassium and fiber”, says Nutritionist and Dietician Sheela Krishnaswamy.
An Apple (or Pomegranate) a Day Keeps The Doctor Away
An apple a day can help maintain a normal level of haemoglobin, since apples are rich in iron plus other health-friendly components that are required for a healthy haemoglobin count. You can either eat 1 apple a day, or drink juice made with ½ cup each of apple and beetroot juice twice a day. Add a dash of ginger or lemon juice for extra flavour. “Pomegranate is also rich in iron, calcium, fiber and protein. Its nutritional value can help increase haemoglobin and promote healthy blood flow”, says Dr. Jaibharat.
Drink Nettle Tea
“Nettle is a herb that is a good source of B vitamins, iron, vitamin C and can play a key role in raising your hemoglobin level”, says Dr. Adarsh Kumar, Internal Medicine, National Heart Institute. All you need to do, is add 2 teaspoons of dried nettle leaves to a cup of hot water and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Then strain, and add a little honey. Drink this twice daily.
Avoid Iron Blockers
Avoid eating foods that can block your body’s ability to absorb iron, especially if you have a low haemoglobin count i.e. coffee, tea, cola drinks, wine, beer, etc.
Moderate to high intensity workouts are highly recommended, because when you exercise – your body produces more haemoglobin to meet the increasing demand for oxygen throughout the body.Eating a balanced diet is the best way to ensure you get a daily supply of all essential nutrients. Get your health expert to suggest ways to improve your diet for increase your haemoglobin count.
Note to readers: Remember that hemoglobin acts as the oxygen carrying protein in the body. Hence, it is important to maintain the blood levels of hemoglobin within the permissible limits of 12-14 mg/dl. Any changes in the hemoglobin count (value below or above it) is not only detrimental to the health but must be treated immediately to avoid complications like iron deficiency anemia and liver disease.