While low red blood cells can be a sign of a serious health issue, such as anemia, there are ways to increase RBC.
People generally don’t think about their red blood cells or the possibility of having low red blood cells until they start developing problems. It can be helpful to understand why we need a proper level of red blood cells and how to increase RBC count.
Some people suffer from low red blood cells due to an illness, while others might be lacking certain vitamins in their diet. There are also diseases that are inherited and can lead to low red blood cells. Red blood cells are vital because they remove carbon dioxide from the body by transporting it to our lungs for us to exhale. Red blood cells are made inside our bone marrow and usually live for about 120 days before dying. More are then formed, and the cycle goes on.
Low blood cells can be due to a condition known as anemia. People who are suffering from anemia tend to have red blood cells that are an odd shape or are larger or smaller than normal. If you suffer from anemia, you could have various symptoms, including tiredness, irregular heartbeat, pale skin, feeling cold, and in severe cases, you could even experience heart failure. Children with low red blood cells can grow more slowly than other children.
An RBC count can tell doctors if you have a blood-related illness, such as anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. A low count can also indicate a deficiency in vitamin B6 or folate.
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If you want to increase RBC count, you may have to look at your nutritional intake. For instance, eating an iron-rich diet can increase production of red blood cells. There are all kinds of iron-rich foods to choose from. Adding B vitamins can also be helpful.
Bread and enriched cereals have a lot of B-9, which is folic acid. Although copper doesn’t directly produce red blood cells, it can help the cells access the iron they need to replicate. Foods rich in vitamin B-12, B-6, vitamin A, and vitamin C can also support RBC production.
Foods to increase red blood cell count:
- Iron-rich foods
- Oysters, clams, and mussels
- Red meats
- Vegetables, such as spinach and peas
- Pumpkin seeds
- Enriched cereals
- White beans and lentils
Foods with B-12
- Milk and cheese
- Soy milk
- Non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- Liver and kidney meat
- Fish, such as trout, salmon, and tuna
- Dried apricots
- Sunflower seeds
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- Chicken giblets
- Egg yolk
- Dried beans
- Soy products
- Brussels Sprouts
Foods with folic acid
- Vegetables, like asparagus and spinach
- Enriched bread and grains
- Rice and pasta
- Citrus fruits such as oranges
Foods with copper
- Beef liver
- Shellfish, such as oysters and crabs
- Sunflower seeds
- Turnip greens
We have already mentioned vitamins A and C; however, foods rich in vitamin E can also be beneficial when it comes to red blood cell count. Let’s begin with a look at foods that are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so it must be replenished all the time. There are plenty of natural sources of this vitamin, but there are those who find it difficult to get enough. Taking a vitamin C supplement is common. Adults should aim for between 75 and 90 mg of vitamin C each day.
Foods with vitamin C
- Fruits, such as oranges, kiwi, and strawberries
- Grapefruit juice
- Sweet red pepper
Foods that contain vitamin A are important because they support red blood cells. Vitamin A is a vitamin we don’t hear as much about. Many people in the medical profession refer to it as retinol.
Vitamin A foods
- Sweet potato
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Beef liver and lamb liver
- Goose liver pate
- Goat cheese
- Kale, collards, and spinach
- Cantaloupe and mango
The average adult requires about 15 mg of vitamin E daily. Most people can get all the vitamin E they need from foods, like the ones listed below. Keep in mind that a lot of vitamin E foods contain fat.
Vitamin E foods
- Wheat germ oil
- Hazelnuts, pine nuts, and peanuts
- Raw turnip greens
- Sunflower seeds
- Atlantic Salmon
- Rainbow trout
- Nut butter, such as almond butter and peanut butter
Lifestyle changes to increase red blood cells count
Experiencing symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations could be a sign of low red blood count. Making lifestyle changes to help increase red blood cell count isn’t just about food. Exercising can also be beneficial to RBC count.
If you exercise vigorously, it will raise your heart rate and cause your body and brain to require more oxygen. The need for more oxygen triggers the body to produce more red blood cells. Participating in regular exercise, along with maintaining a healthy diet, can allow the bone marrow to create those red blood cells.
Workouts can include running and jogging, cycling, swimming, or guided exercises, such as spinning or aerobics.
It is worth noting that reducing alcohol intake can be helpful to some people who have a low red blood cell count. Drinking too much alcohol has been known to lower RBC count. Some people can get away with moderate drinking and others may not be able to drink at all. Moderate drinking for men is two alcoholic drinks per day or less. Moderate drinking for women is one drink per day or less.
There are situations where lifestyle adjustments aren’t enough to deal with low red blood cell count, but there are medical solutions to increase the number of red blood cells your body generates.
Without the constant cycle of new red blood cells, our bones, tissues, and organs wouldn’t be getting adequate oxygen. Nourishing the body helps build our blood and support a healthy immune system. If you are having difficulty getting proper nutrients or any of the B vitamins, you should see a doctor as soon as possible so you can determine the right course of action.
Reprinted with permission from Bel Marra Health.