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How to Increase Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is one of those words that all of us have heard at least some point in our life, but few of us really understand what it is and what it does. It's something that is essential for most living beings, including us, and understanding what it is and its purpose in our body is crucial to living a healthy life. So, what can you do to have healthy levels of hemoglobin and what the heck is it anyway?
Published: November 3, 2021
Categories: Health & Wellness

In this article, we will obviously be going over what hemoglobin is but also things that can affect levels of hemoglobin in your body and how to increase hemoglobin if you find yourself with low levels. The good news is even if you have low levels, this is very much something that can be controlled by a healthy lifestyle.

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What Is Hemoglobin?

​As common as hemoglobin is in our bodies, it’s an extremely complex molecule that we won’t delve into too much because, in the long run, it probably doesn’t matter all that much anyway. Essentially, hemoglobin is a protein that’s found primarily within your red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body and, to an extent, returning other gases to be expelled from the body, such as carbon dioxide carbon, carbon monoxide and nitric oxide.

 

If you know anything about hemoglobin, you probably know about its connection with iron. In fact, iron is the reason that hemoglobin is red and therefore the reason that your red blood cells have that color. Your body produces quite a bit of it, with hemoglobin making up about 30 to 35% of the total mass of your blood (including water) and about 90% of the dry weight.

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Other than transporting gases throughout your body, hemoglobin does have some other uses. The main use outside of gas transport is that of helping blood cells to maintain their shape. However, you can find hemoglobin in smaller amounts throughout different parts of the body serving various purposes such as pigmentation up certain parts of the body and other minor uses.

Once a red blood cell reaches the end of its life, either by damage or age, the iron portion of the hemoglobin is salvage by the body to be recycled and the rest is turned into what is known as bilirubin. that bilirubin is then converted into bile by the liver, used briefly and then excreted by the body.

Although hemoglobin does have multiple purposes, just remember that for the vast majority of people, it will only be brought up in our health in relation to our red blood cells. But what happens if we don’t have enough hemoglobin in our bodies?

 

 

Too Much Hemoglobin

Since our bodies are pretty efficient machines, it’s not all that common for them to overproduce certain substances. Because of that, it’s extremely rare that somebody would have too much hemoglobin in their body. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to have high levels and they can’t be caused by any of the following:

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  • Certain types of cancer
  • Polycythemia (a type of bone marrow disorder)
  • Lung disease (such as emphysema)
  • Blood doping (generally done with athletes are trying to get an edge on the competition by using drugs such as erythropoietin)

 

 

Just like with too much hemoglobin, a shortage of hemoglobin in the body can have symptoms that mimic many other types of diseases, so a blood test is necessary to know for sure. That being said, the biggest disease associated with low levels of hemoglobin is anemia.

While some people say that anemia is a lack of blood cells in the body, it technically is a lack of hemoglobin in the body, which is oftentimes connected to that. This is an important differentiation because while you can have too few blood cells in the body that leads to a low amount of hemoglobin, you could also have other issues.

For example, perhaps your body doesn’t produce a high enough quality of hemoglobin, like what we see with sickle cell anemia or thalassemia. Also, the issue might be that your body is disposing of red blood cells too quickly and therefore not having enough floating in the bloodstream at any given time.

Anemia is a broad category of disease and can be caused by a wide variety of issues, as we mentioned in the earlier part of the section. Of all of these causes, the one that is the easiest one to address and one that you can change immediately is that of a nutritional deficiency. So, what can you include in your diet or in your supplement regimen to help you if you have low hemoglobin?

 

How can you know if you have abnormally high levels of hemoglobin? Generally speaking, you will find out from a blood test. However, there are some symptoms that are associated with high levels of hemoglobin, and they include:

 

  • Flushing of the skin (especially in the face)
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Chronic headaches
  • Cognitive problems
  • Bleeding problems
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Again, the chances that you would be experiencing high levels of hemoglobin are quite low and the only reason we include this is just for the sake of being complete. The other thing to realize is that these symptoms can easily be caused by a wide variety of other pathologies. If you’re experiencing any of them, you should definitely get it checked out by a physician but don’t automatically assume that they are caused by high levels of hemoglobin. Just don’t be surprised if that’s the results from the blood work.

Hemoglobin Deficiency

If anything, the vast majority of people who have some sort of hemoglobin imbalance have too little and their bodies. So, what does that mean and what sort of symptoms would that show? Below are some of the more common reasons for hemoglobin deficiencies in a person.

  • Bone marrow problems
  • Effects of certain medications
  • Bleeding (either due to an injury or some form of internal bleeding)
  • Kidney failure
  • Nutritional deficiency (generally iron but could be something else such as folate or vitamin B12)
  • Diseases such as Sickle Cell Anemia or Thalassemia

If you have low hemoglobin levels because of blood loss, obviously that’s going to be a major issue that you’re going to want to address immediately. Whether you mend a wound or find the cause of internal bleeding, this would be considered an emergency situation that should not wait to be treated.

Of course, with most of the other causes of hemoglobin deficiency, this ends up being more of a symptom than an actual cause. Whether you need to adjust your medications or receive treatment for a particular disease, your levels of hemoglobin are going to be more of a marker of how well your body is doing versus being a cause for concern itself.

It should be noted that people with sickle cell anemia or thalassemia may not technically have a shortage of hemoglobin, but it’s more the quality of the hemoglobin itself. Remember that hemoglobin is a very complex protein and if it’s not in the exact form it needs to be, it’s not going to do much for your blood cells. That’s the reason that they will become deformed and form a sickle shape Instead of a vaguely donut one, hence the name sickle cell anemia.

What are the consequences of having low levels of hemoglobin? according to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms may include the following:

  • Feeling cold or tired
  • Trouble breathing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Overall weakness of the body

Just like with too much hemoglobin, a shortage of hemoglobin in the body can have symptoms that mimic many other types of diseases, so a blood test is necessary to know for sure. That being said, the biggest disease associated with low levels of hemoglobin is anemia.

While some people say that anemia is a lack of blood cells in the body, it technically is a lack of hemoglobin in the body, which is oftentimes connected to that. This is an important differentiation because while you can have too few blood cells in the body that leads to a low amount of hemoglobin, you could also have other issues.

For example, perhaps your body doesn’t produce a high enough quality of hemoglobin, like what we see with sickle cell anemia or thalassemia. Also, the issue might be that your body is disposing of red blood cells too quickly and therefore not having enough floating in the bloodstream at any given time.

Anemia is a broad category of disease and can be caused by a wide variety of issues, as we mentioned in the earlier part of the section. Of all of these causes, the one that is the easiest one to address and one that you can change immediately is that of a nutritional deficiency. So, what can you include in your diet or in your supplement regimen to help you if you have low hemoglobin?

 

Food and Supplements

Food

When we talk about things that you can consume, what exactly does that mean? Are there just hemoglobin supplements or hemoglobin foods out there? Absolutely! Well, maybe not specifically for hemoglobin itself but certainly to help with anemia, in general, and for raising red blood cell count, which implies hemoglobin.

So, how can you raise your hemoglobin count through your diet? There are many options for food for low hemoglobin — and they’re usually quite delicious as well! Here are some of the best examples:

 

  • Red meats (such as beef and lamb)
  • Eggs
  • Seafood (particularly shellfish)
  • Dark leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, or swiss chard)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts

While very different from each other, the one thing that all of these items have in common is high amounts of iron and B vitamins, especially folate and vitamin B12. This makes sense because these are some of the major building blocks of hemoglobin and the nutrients needed to build it.

Supplements

Of course, it may be necessary to take specific supplements for anemia, as these can be how to raise Hemoglobin in groups that perhaps cannot consume many of the items We listed. This could be due to a variety of factors such as eating disorders, a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle or if the body is just unable to efficiently process these foods.

In general, these supplements are going to contain iron but can also include B vitamins, Which, as we already discussed, are both the building blocks and necessary nutrients for hemoglobin. one of the main problems with taking these sorts of supplements, however, is with timing since iron can oftentimes affect the stomach.

The question arises of when to take iron supplements? The problem is that iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach so as to allow for maximum absorption. However, since iron supplements can cause stomach issues, it might be recommended for you to have a light snack such as a few crackers before taking iron at night.

There’s another option for some people (though this would have to be for very specific situations, such as somebody with advanced sickle cell anemia or thalassemia), and that would be blood transfusions. Some people take blood transfusions after an accident or during surgery, but some people who have advanced anemia may require regular blood transfusions to be given.

This is not an ideal situation in general because of all the complications involved with blood transfusions. First of all, there isn’t always a large amount of available blood, so blood banks would rather give priority to people who are in desperate need of it due to accidents or surgery. There may be other issues such as religious objections, like those of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who object to blood transfusions on moral grounds. Finally, blood transfusions are generally a last resort and there are multiple complications involved with them.

If you don’t have to have a blood transfusion, it’s usually better to find alternatives whenever possible, such as supplements, a change in diet or even some medications. Of course, make sure to consult with the physician at any point if you feel that you may need an adjustment in your body’s levels of hemoglobin. Remember that both high and low levels of hemoglobin can be as simple as being dehydrated or not eating enough but could also be a sign of a much more serious condition.

Without a doubt, hemoglobin is something that all of us need to survive. By understanding more about it, we can understand how to maintain healthy levels and therefore have a healthier life overall. As always, if you have an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, hemoglobin levels probably shouldn’t be something you need to worry about. But if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re experiencing some of the symptoms that we mentioned and can’t seem to find another cause for it, speak with your physician and see if they recommend blood work to be done to see exactly where you stand.

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