Red Blood Cells – Image Courtesy: Jon McGovern
Waking up tired and feeling out of breath are two of the first signs of many disorders, but if you’re persistently feeling them, you should get your blood checked as you may be anemic. Anemia occurs when your hemoglobin levels dip down below normal; since hemoglobin carries oxygen, this leads to hypoxia, or lack of oxygen in the organs, and is the reason for the feeling of shortness of breath.
If you have found that your hemoglobin is low, and your case isn’t due to traumatic blood loss, you can probably manage it without a transfusion; in that case, here are a number of ways to begin to address the problem of low hemoglobin.
First, if you’ve found your blood to be normal otherwise, you might want to consider your iron intake and absorption since your anemia may be iron-related – and your body needs iron to make red blood cells. Do you get enough iron in your diet? I don’t recommend an iron supplement, since they often contain doses too large for us to absorb. Instead, look to your diet.
If you’re a vegetarian like me, then do you eat sufficient nuts, leafy greens and beans? Caffeinated drinks can also interfere with iron absorption. Soy products, so often a part of our diets, can also affect our iron levels. Try to cut out these foods for a few days, and increase your intake of dark green vegetables (or drink them: many “green” drinks out there include spinach and other leafy greens). In many cases this helps.
Otherwise, here are a few natural and herbal ways to address the problem of low hemoglobin.
1. Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus)
This is a wonderful herb that can easily be added to your diet – cook with it or add it to your diet. Making an infusion is easy, too – just add two teaspoons of the dried herb to 2-3 cups of water and let steep. You can add other herbs, like licorice, for flavor.
2. Liquid Chlorophyll
It has a molecular structure similar to hemoglobin, except for the center atom. Liquid chlorophyll is extracted from plants, so you’re already getting chlorophyll when you eat your greens. However, some prefer to supplement with liquid chlorophyll drops and add them to drinks.
3. Blackstrap Molasses
Pregnant women report this to be useful as it’s high in iron. Here is a wonderful recipe using blackstrap molasses. Be careful to choose blackstrap – ordinary molasses will not do. Also, this is not good for diabetics since it is sugary.
4. Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Consistently making a nettle infusion can help to raise hemoglobin in the blood. The infusion should consist of dried nettle leaves – use about 1 ounce per 4-5 cups of water and let steep for several hours. Do this weekly. Again, consistency is key: you can’t drink one cup and expect your problem to disappear.
We featured carao the other day; it helps the body to generate hemoglobin and can also have other health benefits. Read more about it and its uses here.
Finally, a word about common anemic conditions: women who are pregnant also often find themselves anemic; this is because their blood volume is dramatically increased, so they need to be especially careful to make up for the low iron and up their green vegetable intake.
Also, children who undergo sudden growth spurts should be monitored in this regard – their case is pretty similar: when the body grows, the blood increases, and sometimes hemoglobin production can’t keep up. And in any case, if you choose to undertake any of these treatments, keep checking your blood regularly to see how you react. Every body and every case is different.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.