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What Drugs or Vitamins Help Increase Red Blood Cells?

author image Erica Kannall
Erica Kannall is a registered dietitian and certified health/fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine. She has worked in clinical nutrition, community health, fitness, health coaching, counseling and food service. She holds a Bachelor of Science in clinical dietetics and nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
What Drugs or Vitamins Help Increase Red Blood Cells?
Dark green leafy vegetables provide B vitamins, vitamin E and iron needed to produce red blood cells. Photo Credit: Sharon Foelz/iStock/Getty Images

A body that lacks an adequate number of healthy red blood cells experiences a condition called anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your cells. Without enough, you may feel tired, weak, dizzy or short of breath and may experience headaches. To treat and prevent anemia, you need to correct nutritional deficiencies of certain nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron and vitamin E. In some cases, your doctor may also prescribe a medication to stimulate red blood cell production.

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B Vitamins

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, your body needs vitamins B-12 and folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells. An adequate intake of vitamin B-6 also plays a part in the proper formation of hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that transports oxygen. You get B-12 from meat, seafood, dairy products, eggs and breakfast cereals or vegetarian foods fortified with B-12. Folic acid is found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, eggs, bananas, oranges, broccoli and some fortified bread, pasta and cereal. You get more B-6 by increasing your intake of meat, seafood, whole grains, eggs, soybeans, peanuts, potatoes and fortified cereals.

Vitamin C and E

Vitamins C and E are also essential for proper red blood cell production. Vitamin C helps your body absorb the mineral iron, which is essential for red blood cell production. It comes from eating fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes. Vitamin E, a type of fat-soluble vitamin, comes from eating wheat germ; liver; eggs; nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts; sunflower seeds; vegetable oils, such as olive oil, safflower oil and soybean oil; dark green leafy vegetables; and avocados.

Essential Iron

Iron, while technically a mineral and not a vitamin, is another nutrient needed to increase red blood cell production. Iron is an essential component of the hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells, which transports oxygen to cells. You can get more iron by eating protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, beef, seafood, shellfish, beans and tofu. Dark green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals and molasses also contain iron. If you're unable to meet your daily need for iron from diet alone, your health care provider may suggest an iron supplement.

Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents

Erythropoietin is a compound made by your kidneys that signals your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. Normally, when oxygen levels are low in your body, your kidneys release more erythropoietin so more red blood cells will be produced to transport oxygen to your cells. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, have kidney disease or are being treated for AIDS, your kidneys may be unable to produce enough erythropoietin. In this case, your doctor may prescribe an injected erythropoiesis-stimulating agent, which is a synthetic compound that acts like erthropoietin in your body, causing more red blood cells to be produced.

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