Low Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is a very important part of our blood cells. This protein-based works by binding to the oxygen we breathe in and then transporting it to the rest of the body. When it takes in oxygen, it becomes unstable, creating a compound called oxyhemoglobin. This compound then travels through the body until it encounters carbon dioxide. There, it releases the oxygen, replacing the carbon dioxide.

When hemoglobin is low, it means that your body doesn't have the ability to carry oxygen as efficiently as it should. The normal hemoglobin range, which can be tested with a simple blood test, is listed below.

Table: Normal Hemoglobin Range

Adult males

14 to 18 gm/dl

Adult females

12 to 16 gm/dl

Middle-aged men

12.5 to 15 gm/dl

Middle-aged women

11.5 to 14 gm/dl

Pregnant women

11 to 12 gm/dl


11 to 16 gm/dl

One-month-old baby

11 to 15 gm/dl

Symptoms of Low Hemoglobin Counts

There are many symptoms that can alert you to low hemoglobin. The following symptoms should be mentioned to your doctor.

  1. General symptoms. In general, the signs of low hemoglobin include dizziness, headache, fatigue and a general feeling or tiredness. It might be tough to concentrate. You can experience an irregular heartbeat or notice that your skin, gums or nail beds are very pale in color. In addition, you might experience shortness of breath, palpitations and chest pain with more severe cases of low hemoglobin.
  2. Rare symptoms. Other symptoms that might occur but are relatively rare include excessive sweating, vomiting, and persistent heartburn. You might experience swelling in your arms or legs, and could even notice bloody stool when you go to the bathroom.
  3. Symptoms in children. The symptoms in children can be more severe, as low hemoglobin can lead to long-term consequences. Look for paleness, a rapid heartbeat, a lowered ability to concentrate, poor neurological development and disturbed behavior patterns.

Causes of Low Hemoglobin Counts

For some people, low hemoglobin is normal. For others, it can be a sign of a serious problem. It's important to know why the hemoglobin counts get low.

  1. Normal low hemoglobin counts. It is quite common for women to experience low hemoglobin counts during pregnancy. Some people might also experience this as a natural way of life - it is simply how their body works. Low counts in these cases shouldn't be alarming.
  2. Conditions and diseases that cause fewer than normal red blood cells. Some conditions can cause lower numbers of red blood cells, which can lead to a low hemoglobin count. Anemia, cancer, cirrhosis, kidney disease and lead poisoning are just a few of the reasons.
  3. Conditions and diseases that destroy red blood cells. Sometimes your body can't produce red blood cells fast enough. Conditions like sickle cell anemia, vasculitis and an enlarged spleen can all destroy red blood cells quickly which leads to low hemoglobin.
  4. Blood loss. Losing large amounts of blood can easily lead to low hemoglobin. This can also be a warning sign of internal blood loss.
  5. Iron deficiency. Iron is required to create hemoglobin, so if your body needs more iron, your hemoglobin counts are probably low. In fact, this is the most common cause of anemia.
  6. Vitamin deficiency. Vitamins such as B12 or foliate help your body create red blood cells. If you aren't getting enough, your hemoglobin levels can drop.
  7. Blood disorders. Some conditions, such as some cancers, can lead to low hemoglobin. These blood disorders mean that your bone marrow isn't producing red blood cells fast enough.

How to Increase Hemoglobin Counts

There are several ways to increase your hemoglobin, including natural remedies such as vegetables, certain vitamins and herbs. Here is a list of the things that are excellent remedies for increasing hemoglobin counts as well as the things you should avoid.

Things to Recommend

  1. Fruits and vegetables. Look for fruits of all kinds and vegetables that are bursting with leafy green color. Cabbage, peas, beans, lettuce, broccoli and tomatoes are good places to start. You can opt for all kinds of fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, bananas, raspberries, kiwi and mango.
  2. Vitamin C. This is a vitamin that helps your body absorb iron, which is essential to hemoglobin production. Eat foods that contain Vitamin C and take a supplement that helps your body get even more of it.
  3. Other foods. The staples of a healthy diet can keep your hemoglobin high. Nuts of all kinds, fish and lean meats, poultry, eggs, organ meats, and even fortified cereals can help.
  4. Herbs. There are many herbs that up your hemoglobin counts, including fenugreek seeds, rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, nettle leaf and yellow dock root, among others.

Things to avoid

But just as there are things you can eat that will increase your hemoglobin, there are also things to avoid. Here are some of the things you should cut out of your diet:

  1. Iron blockers. Anything that blocks iron absorption is bad. Avoid things like coffee, foods with high levels of calcium, very high levels of fiber, tea, and some antacids and medications.
  2. Foods with oxalic acid. This can prevent absorption, and should be avoided. Spinach is the biggest culprit among foods with oxalic acid.
  3. Foods with gluten. Wheat products, such as breads or pasta, can cause trouble for those who have gluten allergies. But they can also lead to problems with iron, and that can lead to low hemoglobin. Reduce your intake of foods that contain gluten.

When to See a Doctor

Only your doctor can determine if you have low hemoglobin counts. If you are showing signs of low hemoglobin, such as feeling very tired, a faster than usual heartbeat during activity, lack of energy or pale skin and gums, it's time to see a doctor. Also look out for shortness of breath, and if it becomes severe, don't wait for an appointment - go to the emergency room instead.

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