Low hemoglobin levels can be caused by anemia, which can cause symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin that appears pale or yellow
- Cold hands and feet
- Tiredness or weakness
- Increased heartbeat
- Pain in the bones, chest, stomach, and joints
What are normal hemoglobin levels?
Hemoglobin levels are measured as the amount of hemoglobin in grams (gm) per deciliter (dL) in the entire blood (1 dL = 100 mL).
Normal ranges for hemoglobin depend on the age, ethnicity, and sex:
- Babies: 17-22 gm/dL
- Age 1 week: 15-20 gm/dL
- Age 1 month: 11-15 gm/dL
- Young children: 11-13 gm/dL
- Adult men: 14-18 gm/dL
- Adult women: 12-16 gm/dL
- Older men: 12.4-14.9 gm/dL
- Older women: 11.7-13.8 gm/dL
What causes low hemoglobin levels?
Different types of anemia have different causes:
- Iron deficiency
- Vitamin deficiency
- Sickle cell
- Anemias associated with bone marrow disease
Other common causes for anemia include:
9 ways to increase hemoglobin levels
1. Increase iron intake
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of low hemoglobin levels. Eating more iron-rich foods can help support the production of hemoglobin, which additionally helps maintain the structure of the red blood cells. Examples of iron-rich food 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
Although the daily recommended iron intake may vary by age, weight, nutrition level, and sex, generally adult men require up to 8 mg/day of iron, and women in the age group of 18-50 need about 19 mg/day of iron.
2. Increase vitamin C intake
Vitamin C is a transporter-rich atom that can help with better absorption of iron. Vitamin A and beta-carotene also help the body absorb and use iron effectively. Examples of foods high in vitamin C such as:
- Bell pepper
- Black currant
- Brussels sprouts
Adults between ages 19-64 need 40 mg of vitamin C daily. You should be able to get all the vitamin C you need from your daily diet.
3. Increase folate consumption
Folate is a type of vitamin B that is required for hemoglobin production. Your body uses folate to create heme, a part of hemoglobin that assists with delivering oxygen. Increasing folate consumption can therefore help increase hemoglobin levels. Some great sources of folate include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Black-eyed peas
- Kidney beans
- Wheat germ
- Chicken liver
4. Eat an apple (or pomegranate) every day
Apples are rich in iron and other nutrients that are needed for a healthy hemoglobin count. You can either eat an apple daily or drink juice made with half a cup of apple and beetroot juice twice a day. Pomegranate is additionally rich in iron, calcium, fiber, and protein, which can help increase hemoglobin levels and promote healthy blood flow.
5. Switch to brown rice
Brown rice is a superfood that can help prevent various diseases including cholesterol problems and stomach-related issues. It is also rich in iron and can further help produce hemoglobin in the blood. Brown rice contains 0.52 mg of iron for every 100 grams.
6. Eat dark chocolate
Dark chocolate with more than 80% cacao is known to naturally improve the levels of hemoglobin in the blood. Other than being loaded with nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants, dark chocolate is also rich in iron, with one medium-sized bar containing as much as 6.9% of the daily recommended iron intake.
7. Drink nettle tea
8. Avoid iron blockers
Try not to eat foods that can obstruct your body's capacity to retain iron, particularly if you have a low hemoglobin count. Some examples of iron blockers include:
- Cola drinks
9. Take iron supplements
Your doctor may prescribe iron supplements depending on your hemoglobin levels. Iron supplements will help increase iron levels gradually over a few weeks to months. People with extremely low hemoglobin levels may need iron injections or blood transfusion.
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