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What can you do to build up your blood? There are incredibly expensive drugs that increase red blood cell count, but there are herbs and foods that help, too.

Anemia is one a few diseases that has a very straight forward definition. If your bloodstream suffers a loss of red blood cells, you have anemia. Sometimes doctors simply ignore mild anemia. But sometimes the symptoms of anemia become so severe, including breathing problems, dangerously low blood pressure, or shock, that they must be treated. Before your own red blood cell count becomes so depleted that you need emergency medical care, there are some simple things you can do.

Don't rely on guesses in red blood cell count treatment

Your doctor will almost certainly order a complete blood count, but not every doctor will take the time to read it carefully. Read your own lab report and ask about high and low readings, not just your red blood cell count (RBC count). Red blood cell count is particularly important if you are pregnant, and even more important if you are pregnant and have African or African-American genetics [1]. Focus on red blood cell count. Even high hemoglobin levels may not compensate for a low count or small size of red blood cells.

Be aware of the symptoms of "mild" anemia in red blood cell count treatment

Black, tarry stools are a major symptom of blood loss in the digestive tract [2]. A need to chew on ice cubes can be a sign of iron deficiency [3].

  • Brittle fingernails,
  • leg cramps,
  • problems swallowing,
  • fatigue, and
  • impotence in men

can also indicate a need for more iron to make more hemoglobin, even if the number of red blood cells is adequate [4].

Eat foods high in iron for red blood cell count treatment

If you have some of the symptoms of anemia and your lab work tells you that you have low iron levels, eat foods that rich in iron, but also eat the foods that help your body absorb iron.

In North and South America, just about any food made with wheat flour (or in Latin America, masa or "corn flour") is fortified with iron [5].

Many kinds of meat, not just liver, are rich in iron. You don't have to eat them bloody. Even if they are well done, they still release the iron that helps "build up your blood." [6] Healthy, probiotic bacteria will help your digestive tract absorb iron. If you feed your probiotic bacteria with healthy fiber foods, like salads, they will help your body absorb iron from meat [7]. Even foods that are not particularly rich in iron themselves, like the rice and dal (split-pea or split-pulse soups and porridges) of Indian food, help your body absorb iron from food [8].

Herbs can help you raise your red blood cell levels

And herbs can even help you to achieve high hemoglobin levels. These aren't "medicinal" herbs.

  • Hibiscus like the hibiscus used in Red Zinger tea helps raise your iron levels naturally [9].
  • Chamomile,
  • mint,
  • sage, and
  • nettles

provide not just iron but also calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc [10].

On the other hand, some herbs, especially black and green tea, interfere with iron absorption. It's even possible to develop anemia because you drink too much tea [11].

Medications can stimulate your body to produce more red blood cells

These kinds of medications are known as erythropoietic drugs. The downside for most of these drugs is that they can be extremely expensive. A single injection of Procrit, for example, costs about $800 without insurance. A vial of Aranesp costs about $5000. If your doctor decides you really need an erythropoietic medication, then the doctor's medical staff may help you find the drug you need at a price you can afford, but in the United States, this can be a long, frustrating process.

What can you do to if your red blood cell count is too high if you have a condition called polycythemia?

It's usually not a good idea to dabble with Chinese herbs on your own. There have been cases in which unsupervised used of Chinese herbs made polycythemia worse [12]. It is probably also essential to avoid smoking and stress. When you smoke, your body may make more red blood cells to carry oxygen because it's harder for your lungs to pump oxygen into your bloodstream. When you are under stress, your body may make more red blood cells to be on the ready for fight or flight.

A study of the survivors of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown found that many developed polycythemia, even if they did not smoke if even they did not have lung disease, and even if they kept high blood pressure under control [13]. Too many red blood cells can cause its own problems. A balanced diet, sensible use of culinary herbs, and keeping stress under control may keep red blood cell counts healthy.

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