How to quickly increase hemoglobin: 4 effective ways

Human health is influenced by many factors, one of them is the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. Activity, well-being and even appearance depend on it. The article collected all the most important things about hemoglobin and ways to raise it, and also asked the hematologist the most important questions about this protein.

How to quickly increase hemoglobin: 4 effective ways

According to the World Health Organization, the following suffer from anemia, that is, a decrease in hemoglobin:

  • 40% of children from six months to five years;
  • 37% of pregnant women;
  • 30% of women from 15 to 49 years old (1).

Together with a hematologist, we figure out what the causes of low hemoglobin are, how to raise it, and whether it can be done on our own. 

What is hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein in red blood cells (erythrocytes). “Heme” is the part that contains the iron atom. “Globin” is a protein, a kind of basis for supporting iron. 

Four hemes and one globin form the hemoglobin molecule – it completely fills red blood cells. Due to the iron in its composition, hemoglobin connects and transports oxygen from the lungs to all organs, and carbon dioxide from the organs to the lungs. This is the essence of the respiratory function of hemoglobin.

Why do women and men need to monitor the level of hemoglobin in their blood?

Cells throughout the body need oxygen to produce energy. If the hemoglobin level is reduced, then red blood cells deliver little oxygen – the functioning of cells and the body is disrupted, and this causes symptoms of anemia.

To find out your hemoglobin level, you need to donate blood for a clinical or general analysis. The result will show various indicators of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, as well as hemoglobin in grams per liter (g/l). Normal content:

  • for men 135-170 g/l; 
  • for women 120-150 g/l; 
  • in children, values ​​vary depending on age and gender. Only by the age of 16-18 do they reach adult standards.

Healthy people do not need to monitor the level of hemoglobin in their blood. It is enough to determine it as part of a medical examination or medical examination at work. But if you belong to a risk group, that is, the likelihood of developing anemia is increased, it is better to monitor the indicator more often.

It is recommended to check hemoglobin once a year:

  • women of reproductive age;
  • vegetarians and vegans;
  • children under five years old; 
  • teenage girls.

Causes of low hemoglobin

According to WHO criteria (2), a decrease in hemoglobin or anemia is confirmed when the protein content is as follows:

  • in women <120 g/l;
  • in men <130 g/l;
  • in pregnant women <110 g/l;
  • in children under five years of age <110 g/l.

Anemia is caused by many reasons, and sometimes a combination of them. Therefore, if after a medical examination or self-monitoring of a general blood test you see low hemoglobin, consult a doctor to find out the reason. 

Blood loss 

A decrease in hemoglobin is an expected consequence of acute blood loss, which occurs during surgery, childbirth, trauma or accidents. In such emergency situations, doctors monitor blood counts, administer transfusions if necessary, or prescribe iron supplements after discharge.

Chronic blood loss causes anemia more often, but it is not easy to find. For its development, a daily blood loss of one teaspoon is sufficient. 

A decrease in hemoglobin is caused by gastrointestinal diseases such as hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, polyps and intestinal cancer .

Many chronic intestinal bleeding may conceal the onset of colorectal cancer, so anemia should not be ignored.

Problems with iron absorption

Iron is the main component of hemoglobin, its absorption is important for normal hematopoiesis. It comes from food and is absorbed during digestion. Therefore, in people with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the absorption and absorption of iron is often reduced and becomes the cause of anemia. Celiac disease, autoimmune gastritis or Helicobacter pylori infection are examples of such conditions.

Surgeries on the stomach, including those for weight loss (bariatric), significantly affect the absorption of iron, as they reduce the space for its absorption. After most bariatric surgeries, regular hemoglobin monitoring is required.

Problems with the absorption of vitamin B12 and folic acid

Vitamin B12 and folate are also involved in the production of red blood cells and other blood cells. When taken with food, these vitamins may be poorly absorbed in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, pernicious anemia, and after bariatric surgery. It may also be due to side effects of certain medications.

Nutritional characteristics and dietary preferences

1. Insufficient iron intake . Despite the overall benefits of vegetarianism in reducing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, this type of diet is associated with an increased risk of iron and vitamin B12 deficiency (3). Iron from plant sources (non-heme) is less absorbed than iron from meat (heme). Therefore, it is better to increase the consumption of foods rich in this microelement.

Iron absorption is reduced due to the action of certain substances. If a person is at risk of developing anemia, it is better not to combine iron-containing foods with the following in the same meal:

  • milk, cheese, kefir, yogurt;
  • tea, coffee, cocoa, wine;
  • spinach, beets, rhubarb;

The effect of the products themselves cannot cause a decrease in hemoglobin, but contributes to iron deficiency if there is a reason for it.

2. Insufficient intake of vitamin B12 . Vitamin B12 is found in meat, eggs and other animal products, but is absent in plant foods. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans are at risk for developing anemia.

3. Excess zinc . Zinc is involved in the absorption of iron and its excessive intake causes a decrease in hemoglobin. Excess is rare and is associated with taking zinc in dietary supplements or using zinc-containing denture adhesives.

Heavy menstrual bleeding

Menstruation is always accompanied by blood loss, but it is heavy discharge that often causes anemia. A woman may underestimate blood loss and not be aware of a decrease in hemoglobin. It is important to contact a gynecologist if, on the “hardest” day of your cycle :

  • you change your pad or tampon every hour;
  • use a pad and tampon at the same time;
  • notice the release of large blood clots;
  • menstruation lasts more than seven days.

Chronic diseases

Chronic and inflammatory diseases – Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic kidney disease, rheumatic diseases, hypothyroidism, etc. – are all reasons for the slow decrease in hemoglobin.

Hereditary causes

Some types of anemia are inherited. Symptoms of decreased hemoglobin appear in childhood, but are sometimes mild, which is why the diagnosis of hereditary anemia is made in adulthood.

Frequent blood donation

Donors donate blood 4-5 times a year (4), but sometimes this is not enough time to restore the number of red blood cells. 14-38% of regular donors suffer from decreased hemoglobin and iron deficiency (5).

Oncological diseases of the blood and metastatic lesions of the bone marrow

Low hemoglobin may result from decreased production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Sometimes this happens when the bone marrow is damaged by a tumor process when:

  • acute leukemia;
  • chronic leukemia;
  • myeloproliferative diseases;
  • lymphoma;
  • metastases of other types of cancer to the bone marrow.

Physiological reasons

In some people, hemoglobin is reduced for no reason, that is, “physiologically,” and treatment in such cases is not required. For example, in professional athletes in endurance sports, in pregnant women and the elderly.

Symptoms of low hemoglobin

Complaints with a decrease in hemoglobin can be of varying degrees of severity, and sometimes symptoms are not felt at all. Typically, anemia develops very slowly, the body has time to adapt to reduced hemoglobin. This is why people do not attach importance to their symptoms and consider them normal.

Many people realize that they had apathy, weakness, and exercise intolerance only after treating anemia, when they begin to feel much better.

Symptoms of low hemoglobin:

  • headache;
  • drowsiness, apathy;
  • fatigue or weakness when playing sports or climbing stairs;
  • dyspnea;
  • brittle nails, hair loss, dry skin;
  • inflammation and cracks in the corners of the lips – “jams” (angular cheilitis) ;
  • craving for eating chalk, clay, ice, raw pasta, coffee grounds;
  • tongue pain, discoloration, dry mouth (atrophic glossitis);
  • discomfort in the legs that causes them to move and is relieved by movement (restless legs syndrome).

Other manifestations:

  • tingling or numbness in the arms or legs;
  • gait disturbances;
  • mood changes.

What to do to increase hemoglobin levels at home

You can maintain your hemoglobin level and prevent its decline at home. But if anemia has already developed, it will not be possible to significantly increase hemoglobin on your own without treatment: nutritional correction alone will not do in this case. The most important thing is to find the cause of anemia, and a doctor: a therapist, pediatrician or hematologist will help restore hemoglobin.

1. Consult a therapist

If anemia is already present, increasing hemoglobin simply by changing your diet or taking vitamins will not work. It is important not to waste time on self-medication, because the indicators continue to slowly decline and your health worsens. There is also a risk of wasting time and causing serious illnesses, such as bleeding or cancer in adults and children.

Consult your physician if you experience symptoms of anemia or have a low hemoglobin result after a blood test. The doctor will help find and eliminate the cause and prescribe treatment to increase hemoglobin. Along with therapy , you can follow the tips described below.

2. Choose foods rich in iron

The richest sources of heme iron—the one that is better absorbed—are lean meats and seafood. Non-heme iron is not as well absorbed and is found in plant foods. 

The daily intake covers the body’s expenditure of iron on various physiological processes. Men need 10 mg/day, women 18 mg/day (6). In Russia, breakfast cereals, crispy corn flakes, instant porridge and confectionery products for children are fortified with iron.

The label always states the iron content in milligrams (mg), sometimes additionally as a percentage (%) of the daily intake. Foods that provide 20% or more of the daily value are considered iron rich.

Animal products

Product, 90 g (7) Iron content, mg 
Beef liver 15
Fried chicken with meat and skin 3
Shellfish 2.4
Ground beef 2.3
Mutton 1.5
Canned anchovies 3.9
Chicken 0.9
Turkey drumstick 0.9
Pork 0.8
Salmon 0.6 
Scallops 0.5
Turkey breast 0.5
Shrimps 0.3

Products of plant origin

Product, 140 ml (8) Iron content, mg
Mixed nuts 2.5
Sunflower seeds 2.4
Walnuts 2
Cooked spinach 1.9
Red beans 2.5
Raisin 1.5
Dried figs 1.5
Chickpeas 1.4

3. Choose foods containing folic acid

Insufficient intake of vitamin B12 and/or folic acid can lead to a decrease in hemoglobin. Therefore, consuming foods rich in these substances can be called the prevention of anemia. 

Many foods are fortified with folic acid during production. High content of this substance is distinguished by:

  • dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli);
  • legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils);
  • peanut;
  • chicken and beef liver;
  • eggs
  • whole grain breads and cereals ;

All animal products contain vitamin B12:

  • meat;
  • fish;
  • eggs;
  • dairy products (milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.). 

4. Drink essential vitamins

Most people do not need to take any additional vitamins other than vitamin D. To maintain hemoglobin levels, it is recommended to take them separately only for people with an increased risk of developing anemia. For example, for diseases that reduce absorption, chronic bleeding and some other conditions.

Vitamin B12

Vegetarians and vegans need to take extra vitamin B12, this is especially important for women who are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant.

People after gastric surgery are also advised to take vitamin B12; the course of treatment is prescribed by a doctor.


It is better not to take iron supplements and vitamin complexes on your own, but to agree on the dosage and regimen with your doctor. Supplements marketed to women often contain 100% of the daily value, while iron-only supplements can contain up to 360% (65 mg) of the daily value. Therefore, their uncontrolled intake can lead to an excess of trace elements and cause health problems.

Some people need iron supplementation for health reasons, lifestyle reasons, or age:

  • after bariatric surgery;
  • regular blood donors;
  • vegetarians;
  • women with heavy menstruation;
  • teenage girls.

What not to do if you have low hemoglobin

1. Do not find out the cause of anemia . Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia, but once it is confirmed, it is not enough to simply undergo medication treatment. It is especially important to find the cause of iron deficiency in the body and eliminate it in order to stop the loss of the microelement, and so that anemia does not return after some time.

2. Take iron supplements without prescription . Low hemoglobin is not always associated with a lack of iron – there may be a lot of it in the body, but anemia is still present. In this case, self-prescription of drugs and supplements with iron will lead to an overload of this microelement, and additional problems will be added to anemia. 

3. Try to increase hemoglobin with the help of foods . Even if you increase your intake of iron-rich foods, anemia cannot be cured. It should not only cover the daily requirement, but also remain as a reserve – it is simply impossible to eat such an amount of food. For example, to obtain 100 mg of iron (this is the standard dosage of tablet preparations), you need to consume several kilograms of cooked beef daily over a long period of time.

Therefore, it is not possible to cure anemia with dietary changes alone.

The absorption of iron is influenced by many factors: concomitant diseases, iron content in foods, absorption, interaction with other substances, etc. The microelement never comes completely from foods. To normalize hemoglobin, it is much more effective to take medications prescribed by a doctor.

4. Ignore your doctor’s recommendations regarding your medication regimen . To quickly increase hemoglobin, it is important not only the correct dose of drugs, but also compliance with the rules of administration: interaction with other drugs and products, duration of treatment and control of hemoglobin levels.

Doctor’s advice and recommendations

What to pay attention to when hemoglobin decreases and how to act to maintain health, said Yana Erdomaeva, a hematologist at the Children’s Republican Clinical Hospital (Ulan-Ude) and the Fomina Clinic network .

1. With regular monitoring of a general blood test and a balanced diet with sufficient iron, the likelihood of developing anemia is much lower. If for some reason a decrease in hemoglobin is detected in a child or adult, it will most likely be minimal. Therefore, it is better to regularly check your hemoglobin level (if you are at risk) and eat adequately.

2. It is important to prevent the development of anemia in children under five years of age. Numerous studies have confirmed its serious negative impact on development at a young age, including irreversible consequences. It is important to have a general blood test every year and discuss preventive iron supplementation with your pediatrician. 

3. Some people have intolerance to iron supplements, which is often associated with exceeding the required dose. If during treatment you notice discomfort in the abdomen, tell your doctor about it, he will reduce the dose of the drug, recommend a different dosage regimen (for example, every other day – Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or change the medicine.

4. The key to successful therapy is timely laboratory monitoring of treatment. The duration of administration is selected individually and depends not only on the level of hemoglobin, but also on the body’s ability to absorb the drugs. Be sure to discuss with your doctor how often and what tests to do during treatment, what numbers need to be achieved, and how to monitor indicators after treatment.

Questions and answers 

Hematologist Yana Erdomaeva answered popular questions about anemia.

How to safely increase hemoglobin during pregnancy in women?

The most common cause of low hemoglobin during pregnancy is iron deficiency, but you need to make sure of this first. For treatment in the first trimester, iron tablets are used. In the second and third, in addition to tablets, intravenous drips are sometimes used. The choice depends on the situation, since sometimes it is necessary to quickly replenish iron deficiency for a successful pregnancy and fetal formation. 

How quickly is hemoglobin restored after blood loss?

The most telling example is donation. On average, during donation, 450 ml of blood is taken at once (about 10% of the total blood volume). With an adequate balanced diet and no health problems, iron reserves are restored after three months.

What are the features of raising hemoglobin levels in cancer?

Oncological diseases is a general term that unites many different diseases. Anemia is very common, and the reasons can be different:

  • blood loss during surgery and the postoperative period;
  • malnutrition due to loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting associated with treatment;
  • bleeding associated with a tumor or chemotherapy;
  • suppression of hemoglobin synthesis in the bone marrow due to tumor metastases or the effects of chemotherapy;
  • disorders of iron absorption and metabolism due to cancer;
  • concomitant diseases and other reasons.

Therefore, different approaches to the treatment of anemia are used in cancer patients.  

Do any folk remedies help raise low hemoglobin without medications?

There are no proven and effective remedies. Most often, this is fraught with loss of time and health problems.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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