How to increase hemoglobin levels is a common question among medical travelers, especially those having plastic or weight loss surgery.
Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen through the body. When the level of hemoglobin drops, it can cause weakness, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, poor appetite, and rapid heartbeat.
“In addition to transporting oxygen, hemoglobin carries carbon dioxide out of the cells and into the lungs. Carbon dioxide is then released as a person exhales. Having low hemoglobin can make it difficult for the body to perform these functions,” as noted on Medical News Today, on an article written by Bethany Cadman.
Your healthcare provider may deny your surgery request because of the low levels of hemoglobin.
A certified surgeon will not perform if you do not have a proper hemoglobin level, likely 12.0 or above.
Blood loss from heavy periods or not having the chance to recover iron stores after multiple pregnancies, and a low intake of iron-rich foods are the most common causes of low hemoglobin levels.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, affiliated to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, one in five women of reproductive age in the United States has iron deficiency anemia.
How to increase hemoglobin levels
To increase hemoglobin levels requires a combination of nutrition, supplementation, maximizing absorption, and minimizing iron blockers.
- Nutrition involves a higher intake of iron and folic acid-rich foods.
- The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends up to 8 mg of iron per day for men, while women may get up to 18 mg per day.
- Foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables, are suggested to maximize the amount of iron absorbed by your body.
- Coffee, tea, milk, and red wine are generally considered iron blockers, especially if you already have low hemoglobin levels.
Iron helps you produce red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin, thanks to a protein called transferrin that binds to iron and transports it throughout the body.
According to healthline.com, one of the most trusted health sources, there are several options for foods that are high in iron.
- Green beans
- Baked potatoes
- Liver and organ meats
The highest iron-rich foods, with 3.5 milligrams or more per serving of 3 ounces, are beef or chicken liver, clams or mussels, and oysters.
If you want to expand your options, cooked beef canned sardines, in oil, gives you 2.1 mg or more per serving. Shellfish, kale, lentils, and fortified cereals are also in the mix.
Likewise, folic acid, also known as folate, is an essential part of hemoglobin production.
A vitamin B by nature, the body uses folic acid to produce heme, a component of hemoglobin that helps to carry oxygen.
Insufficient folate inhibits the blood cells to mature. Folate-Deficiency anemia and low hemoglobin levels are highly probable if your diet does not contain good sources of folate.
Spinach, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and avocados are one of the best sources of folic acid.
A supplement may help you get to the levels you are expecting. Now, take into consideration that too much iron can cause hemochromatosis, a condition that can cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation, thus also leading to liver diseases such as cirrhosis.
The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends up to 8 mg of iron per day for men, while women may get up to 18 mg per day. If you’re pregnant, you should aim for up to 27 mg a day, according to the source.
Regardless, speak to your surgeon about your specific iron intake per day, if he recommends supplementation.
There is nothing like naturally increasing your iron levels by working with your body.
For example, foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and leafy green vegetables, are suggested to play on your favor and maximize the amount of iron absorbed by your body.
One type of anemia, called vitamin-deficient anemia, occurs when you have low levels of vitamin B-12 and folate, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Lean meat and seafood are healthy sources of vitamin B-12. Focus on animal foods to get enough vitamin B12, as plant sources may not be sufficient. Eggs are also good sources.
In some cases, anemia because of low vitamin B-12 is called pernicious anemia. If this is the case, your doctor will prescribe vitamin B-12 shots or pills to help keep your normal levels.
Not all anemias are caused by vitamin deficiency. Talk to your doctor to better diagnose and treat your anemia, if applicable. A proper diet and supplementation are key to correct vitamin deficiency anemia.
Avoid iron blockers
Coffee, tea, milk, and red wine are generally considered iron blockers, especially if you already have low hemoglobin levels.
These beverages offer minimal iron and inhibit your absorption of iron in foods you eat in the same meal.
Take breakfast cereal for example: notice that many manufacturers pack your cereal with fortified iron because the milk you pour over it will inhibit some.