There are 2 main gases which our bodies need in order to function properly. These gases are oxygen and carbon dioxide. Oxygen is required by our body cells in order to produce energy. It has to be inhaled from the outside environment.
When cells use up this oxygen, carbon dioxide is produced as a by-product. Carbon-dioxide needs to be released from the body and that is done when we exhale. These gases travel throughout the body with the help of our connective tissue known as blood. Our blood is composed of various elements. These include red blood cells.
Haemoglobin is present on the red blood cells. It helps to bind the oxygen molecules onto the RBCs (red blood cell) and enables its transportation throughout the body. Hence, it is also referred to as the “oxygen carrier” of the blood. Hemoglobin levels play a major role in the proper functioning of the body.
NORMAL HEMOGLOBIN LEVELS
The hemoglobin levels are expressed by mentioning the hemoglobin in grams per decilitre. (1 decilitre = 100 millilitres)
The range of haemoglobin levels is different for different age groups:
|Adult men||14-18 gm/dl|
|Adult women||12-16 gm/dl|
|Senior/aged men||12.4-14.9 gm/dl|
|Senior/aged women||11.7-13.8 gm/dl|
REASONS FOR CHANGES IN HAEMOGLOBIN LEVELS
Reasons for high haemoglobin
- Aplastic anaemia: in this condition, the bone marrows fail to produce a sufficient number of red blood cells. This, in turn, results in an increase in the levels of fetal haemoglobin in the blood. This condition, if present will also produce other severe symptoms.
- Type 1 diabetes: when a person is suffering from diabetes, there occurs increased stress upon the kidneys of the person. The kidneys are stimulated to produce more erythropoietin in order to increase the levels of haemoglobin in the body. Hence, high levels of haemoglobin could also be due to kidney disorders.
- Dehydration: dehydration or lack of water in the body can have an effect upon the haemoglobin levels of the blood. Dehydration tends to lower the plasma volume and cause an increase in the haemoglobin levels.
- Environmental conditions: a slight increase in the haemoglobin level is noticed during the cold season.
- In some cases, an extremely high level of haemoglobin could also indicate cancer.
Reasons for low haemoglobin
- Decreased production of RBCs: haemoglobin is present on the red blood cells and helps to bind oxygen molecules to the cells. Hence if the red blood cells count in the body is low, then the haemoglobin levels will drop as well. Nutritional deficiencies specifically, of these vitamins, can lead to lower red blood cells production.
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Bone marrow conditions: if the bone marrow is unable to produce enough number of RBCs, this could result in anaemia and hence lead to a lowered haemoglobin levels.
- Heart valve conditions: people who tend to suffer from mechanical heart valve conditions can have a significantly lower haemoglobin count because such a condition tends to damage the red blood cells as the blood flows through the heart.
- Liver cirrhosis: damage to the liver causes the spleen to get enlarged. When this happens, the red blood cells are removed from the blood earlier than they should be. Hence the condition results in an overall decrease in the RBC count within the circulatory system. This, in turn, causes low haemoglobin levels.
- Sudden blood loss: sudden blood loss due to medical injuries or rupturing of certain blood vessels can lower the haemoglobin levels. In case of severe blood loss, the haemoglobin level and the RBC level can be restored by blood transfusions. In case of menstruating women, the level is restored on its own, in a few days, given that the overall health is intact.
- Sometimes, the haemoglobin level may drop during pregnancy as well.
- Constant fatigue
- Pale skin
- Pale and sore gums
- Excessive sweating
- Confusion and Brian fog
- Reduced attention span
- Sudden appearance of dark spots on lips
- Memory loss
- Numbness in the fingers and toes
- Hair loss
- Breathing difficulties
FOODS TO EAT
Iron plays a major role in reducing the symptoms of anaemia. Hence consuming natural foods which are rich in iron can prove to be very beneficial for regulating haemoglobin levels. Green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli are not only rich in iron but also in vitamin A, B, and E. The best way to consume such vegetables is to have them raw or without cooking them in too much heat.
You can add these vegetables to salads and sandwiches.
You may also make spinach and kale juice and add natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.
Beetroot contains several vitamins as well as folate and potassium. Beetroot can be highly beneficial for patients with anaemia. It has a very earthy taste and could be slightly hard to chew, hence it is best consumed in juice form.
Juice a beetroot and add the following ingredients to it:
- ½ teaspoon of rock salt
- 1 cup of any fruit juice.
- 1 tablespoon of honey
Add these ingredients to a ½ cup of fresh beetroot juice.
Never consume concentrated beetroot juice as it could lead to an upset stomach and temporary paralysis of the vocal cords. When diluted with other fruit juices, it is safe and very beneficial to drink.
Broccoli contains plenty of folic acids which helps in regulating haemoglobin levels. It also contains vitamin A, C, and minerals like potassium and magnesium. Broccoli can be consumed raw or can be made into a stir fries salad with just a few ingredients:
You will need:
- 10-15 florets of broccoli
- 6-7 slices of ginger
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
- 4 tablespoons of coconut oil (virgin and organic variety)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 cups of water
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water in a bowl. Mix until the salt is dissolved.
- Add the broccoli florets to the water. Make sure the florets are not completely immersed. If so, remove a little water.
- Now place the bowl on heat and allow the water to boil for 5 minutes.
- Check if the florets are cooked with the help of a fork. Prick one floret, if it seems soft then it is cooked.
- Turn off the heat and cover the bowl with a lid.
- Place a frying pan over the flame and add let it heat.
- Now add oil to it. Once the oil is heated, add garlic and ginger slices to the oil and let them turn slightly brown.
- Strain the broccoli florets and add them to the pan.
- Stir-fry for a little while with the oil. After 5-6 minutes, remove from the pan and eat while still hot.
Pomegranates and apples
Pomegranate is a rich source of iron as well as fiber. It also contains a good amount of calcium. To regulate the haemoglobin level, one pomegranate should be consumed every day.
The enzymes present in apples help the body to absorb iron from other foods we consume.
Fenugreek, also known as methi is very beneficial for the regulation of haemoglobin level in the body. Fenugreek, when consumed daily, helps to reduce inflammation in the body. This, in turn, decreases the chances of RBCs getting damaged in the blood.
Fenugreek leaves are a rich source of fiber as well as folate. To include them in your diet, simply wash a bunch of methi leaves and remove the tender stem. Add these leaves, to your salads or to the dough used for making chapattis.
To make fenugreek tea, you will need:
- 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
- 1 and a half cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- Boil the water for 1 minute.
- Turn off the heat and add the fenugreek seeds to it.
- Cover the vessel with a lid.
- Allow the tea to brew for 5 minutes.
- Strain the tea and add honey to it.
- Mix well and consume hot.
- This tea (1 cup) can be consumed every morning to regulate haemoglobin level and improve digestion.
- Concentrate on your diet. It is important to include healthy foods instead to junk food. Consume more green vegetables and plenty of water in order to stay hydrated. Having a good diet will also reduce inflammation within the body.
- Avoid consuming too much coffee or any other beverages with caffeine as they can reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron.
- Include mild exercise into your daily routine. Simply walking for 30 minutes every day can help to improve the haemoglobin level. Exercising tends to improve the circulation within the body. A daily workout enables the body to produce more haemoglobin.
- Consume anti-oxidant rich foods like berries and capsicums to detoxify the blood and reduce the levels of free radicals in the body.
- If you are experiencing the symptoms for more than 2 weeks then definitely visit your doctor.
- Anaemia can be an indicator of other serious conditions. Hence consult your doctor about the same.
- When doing home remedies and improving the diet, make sure you are being consistent. It can take several days for the levels to be normal again. Hence be patient and consistent.
- Keep having regular check-ups in order to determine your progress.
- For women, if any changes are noticed in the menstrual cycle (irregularities, excessive bleeding, reduced blood flow), then visit the doctor immediately.
- If you have a low haemoglobin level and suffer from anaemia then you may opt for iron supplements. However, the dosage can vary depending upon your present condition, age group, and overall health.
MYTHS AND FACTS
|High or low level of haemoglobin is a disease.||The level of haemoglobin in one’s blood is a condition and not a disease. However, there could be changes in the level because of the presence of some other disease.|
|Vegetarians tend to have low levels of haemoglobin.||This is not necessary. An improper and deficient diet can lower the haemoglobin levels. There are several vegetarian food options to regulate and maintain the same. Hence having a vegetarian diet is not directly linked to low haemoglobin levels.|
|People with low haemoglobin cannot be involved in sports.||Low haemoglobin could be a result of anaemia. One of its symptoms is tiredness. This could interfere with the stamina. However, this does not mean that such people cannot be involved in sports.|
|Problems with haemoglobin levels are always due to a poor diet.||While nutritional deficiencies can lead to haemoglobin issues, some hereditary diseases like sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia are genetic.|
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can the haemoglobin level be tested at home?
Although there are kits which allow you to do that, it is not recommended to conduct the test at home. If you need to get checked out more often, then get the results from a lab in order to avoid false diagnosis.
What increases the chances of abnormal haemoglobin levels?
Medical conditions like kidney diseases, cancer, AIDS, arthritis and diabetes can put a person at a greater risk.
Is smoking related to this?
Excessive smoking or consumption of alcohol can lead to increased haemoglobin levels.
What are the symptoms in children?
Children may experience concentration difficulties and shortness of breath.
What is the range for low haemoglobin count?
- For men – a count lower than 13.5 gm/dl
- For women – a count lower than 12 gm/dl
- In children – a count lower than 10 gm/dl
What are some supplements one can take?
Iron supplements can be taken to overcome anaemia. However, the dosage must be discussed with the doctor. Having sudden dark spots on the lips can be a side effect of taking iron supplements.
The following supplements can be taken as well:
- Vitamin B12
- Folate supplements
- Vitamin B6
However, it is important to note that these supplements will only work if the abnormal haemoglobin level is due to nutritional deficiencies. In case of any other underlying condition, taking these supplements may hinder their detection. Do not take more than two supplements at one time.