Low levels of hemoglobin may be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as anemia or cancer. Some dietary measures and supplements may help boost hemoglobin levels at home.

Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein found in the red blood cells. These are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body.

Low levels of hemoglobin may be a sign of anemia. This occurs when a person does not have enough red blood cells or they stop functioning properly. Anemia leads to a lack of oxygen in the body, which may be dangerous.

Nearly 3 million people in the United States have some type of anemia.

In this article, we discuss hemoglobin levels, how to increase them naturally, and the causes of anemia.

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There are several ways that people with low levels of hemoglobin may increase and manage their levels at home.

Increase iron intake

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia.

Iron works to boost the production of hemoglobin, which also helps to form more red blood cells. Low iron levels can result in low levels of red blood cells, which means not enough oxygen will be transported throughout the body.

A person with low levels of hemoglobin may benefit from eating more iron-rich foods, such as:

Increase folate intake

Folate is a type of B vitamin that plays an essential part in hemoglobin production. The body uses folate to produce heme, a component of hemoglobin that helps carry oxygen.

Red blood cells will not be able to mature if a person does not get enough folate. This may lead to folate-deficiency anemia and low hemoglobin levels.

Good sources of folate include:

A person can also speak with a qualified healthcare professional about folate acid supplementation, which is better absorbed by the body. The body absorbs 85% of the vitamin when it is taken as a supplement, compared to 50% in foods.

Maximize iron absorption

Consuming certain vitamins and minerals may help the body absorb iron better, such as:

Below is a list of some foods that are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene.

Vitamin CVitamin ABeta-carotene
sweet red pepper
• liver
sweet potatoes
• squash

Vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene supplements may also help boost iron absorption.

It is important to note that excess vitamin A may lead to a condition known as hypervitaminosis A. This may cause symptoms like bone and joint pain, severe headaches, and increased pressure within the brain.

Take iron supplements

A doctor may advise a person with extremely low hemoglobin levels to take iron supplements.

These work by gradually increasing the body’s iron levels over a few weeks. A doctor may also recommend taking them for several months to increase the body’s iron stores.

It is important to note that too much iron can be dangerous. It may cause hemochromatosis, which can lead to liver disease and cause side effects like:

The dosage will depend on a person’s current iron levels.

A qualified healthcare professional will check a person’s hemoglobin levels with a blood test, which is measured in grams per deciliter (g/dL).

Low hemoglobin is diagnosed when people fall below the normal ranges of hemoglobin levels.

Normal (g/dL)Low (g/dL)
Male13.5-18lower than 13.5
Female12-15lower than 12
Children11-16 lower than 11

It is important to note that appropriate hemoglobin levels for children may vary depending on age. Anyone concerned about a child’s hemoglobin levels should speak with a doctor.

People with low levels of hemoglobin may have anemia, which may cause symptoms like:

A person may have low hemoglobin levels and anemia for a variety of reasons.

Some causes include:

How do hospitals treat low hemoglobin?

People with severe cases of low hemoglobin or anemia may need hospital treatment to help them quickly increase their red blood cell levels. Treatment options may include:

What happens if hemoglobin gets too low?

If hemoglobin levels get too low, a person may develop anemia. This is when the body does not have enough red blood cells, which may deplete the amount of oxygen circulating.

Low hemoglobin may cause symptoms like:

  • shortness of breath
  • a fast or irregular heartbeat
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • headaches

Many people can boost their hemoglobin levels with dietary changes and supplements. Speak with a qualified healthcare professional to determine the correct supplement dosage.

If hemoglobin levels remain low, a person may need further treatment, such as a blood transfusion.