Hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells, carries oxygen from your lungs through your bloodstream to all of your cells. Red blood cells are red because of hemoglobin.The amount of hemoglobin you need is based on age and gender. Men need between 14 and 18 gm/dL and women need 12 to 16 gm/dL. Your needs decrease with age. If your hemoglobin levels are too low, you may have anemia, which can leave your feeling fatigued or short of breath. Once your doctor determines the cause of your anemia, you'll be able to develop a treatment plan to raise hemoglobin levels.
Determine the cause of your anemia. According to the National Anemia Action Council, the most common cause of low hemoglobin levels is an iron deficiency. Raise your red blood cell count by adding foods rich in iron to your diet. Include clams, meat, tofu, lentils, peas, spinach, broccoli, zucchini and grains products that have been fortified with iron, such as breakfast cereals. Your doctor may also suggest an iron supplement, depending on the severity of your anemia. It will take your body a week to start manufacturing more red blood cells and hemoglobin levels should rise within three weeks.
Check for sources of bleeding. Low hemoglobin levels may be one of the first signs of internal bleeding or other serious illness, such as sickle cell anemia. Stomach ulcers and heavy menstrual bleeding can also cause low hemoglobin levels. Treat the underlying cause of your low hemoglobin to stabilize hemoglobin levels. Treat severe anemia with a blood transfusion.
Take a daily multivitamin. Although an iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia, a B-12 deficiency or B-9 deficiency, also called folic acid, may cause low hemoglobin levels. Vegetarians who don't eat dairy products and vegans are prone to B-12 deficiencies because the best sources of dietary B-12 are animal proteins. To boost your B-12 levels, get injections or sublingual pills. Folic acid, much like iron, is often found in fortified grains and vegetables.
Anemia is common in children during growth spurts and in pregnant women and may be prevented with a healthy diet. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron better. Consider taking your iron supplement with a glass of orange juice.
Iron supplements can upset your stomach and cause constipation. You may need a stool softener to ease constipation; taking your iron supplement with food will help prevent an upset stomach but does affect how much iron your body will absorb. You could absorb up to 60 percent less iron if you take your supplements with food.