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Even after you beat a disease like cancer, you can still be plagued by anemia. Here are ten ways to increase red blood cell counts and increase hemoglobin levels even without taking EPO.

In 2016, Judy received the devastating news that she had anaplastic thyroid cancer. This relatively rare kind of cancer in which tumors don't have well defined borders accounts for only 2 percent of thyroid cancer cases, but 40 percent of thyroid cancer deaths [1]. But Judy wasn't ready to accept a death sentence. She had a lot more living to do.

In 2017, after five surgeries, ten rounds of chemotherapy, and dozens of low-dose radiation treatments, Judy was pronounced cancer-free. Her enthusiasm for life had never diminished, but her physical energy levels were close to zero. She had severe anemia. However, she was just as aggressive in pursuing both natural and medical treatments for anemia as she had been for cancer.

Anemia, Hematocrit, and Hemoglobin

Strictly speaking, anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells, not the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin they contain [2]. However, as a practical matter of getting well, it's necessary both to have enough red blood cells and for those red blood cells to contain enough hemoglobin to keep tissues throughout the body oxygenated. 

Ten Remedies to Increase Low Hematocrit and Low Hemoglobin Naturally

Anemia and low hemoglobin levels are always an issue for medical management. There likely will be drugs and doctor-prescribed supplements that bring hematocrit and hemoglobin levels back up to normal. But there are also 10 natural remedies that can help you establish adequately high hemoglobin levels along with the things your doctor can do for you.

1. If your doctor approves, spend some time at a higher altitude.

There's less oxygen in mountain air than there is in sea-level air. People who ordinarily live at low elevations produce more hemoglobin when they spend a few days to a few weeks at higher elevations. You may not want to travel directly to the 3000-meter (10,000-foot) elevation that athletes use for training. But a lesser change in altitude for a short vacation, with an option to return to lower elevations quickly if you overexert, may be helpful. Ask your doctor first. [3]

2. Switch from cow's milk to goat's milk.

Goat's milk contains more iron than cow's milk, in a form that is more easily absorbed by your body. Goat's milk cheeses (chèvre) may also help. [4]

3. If you are taking a prescribed supplement for iron deficiency anemia, you should also take vitamin C (at least 100 mg up to 500 mg) every time you take iron.

Vitamin C increases the amount of iron in a supplement that enters your bloodstream [5]. If you are overweight or obese, you need more vitamin C to get the same effect [6].

4. Avoid taking an iron supplement within two hours of consuming milk or dairy products.

Or if you do, be sure you take your iron with vitamin C. The calcium in dairy products binds to iron so it can't be absorbed, but vitamin C overcomes this effect. [7]

5. Avoid drinking tea, especially green tea, or eating green leafy vegetables within two hours of taking an iron supplement.

Green tea and green vegetables are well known sources of important plant nutrients, but the polyphenols that make them healthy bind to iron and change it into a form that the body can't readily use for higher hemoglobin levels for red blood cells [8].

6. Avoid excessive salt.

Fluid retention can lower both hematocrit  and hemoglobin levels, both by as much as 8 percent [9]. Losing water weight as your kidneys eliminate excess sodium not only leaves you lighter but also with better oxygenation.

7. Consult a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

There is laboratory evidence that some of the chemicals in white peony (moutan), a frequent ingredient in Chinese herbal formulas, can stimulate the production of red blood cells [10]. But don't try to use Chinese herbs on your own. Work with a medically trained doctor of Chinese medicine. 

8. Avoid taking a break in the sun in the middle of winter.

Your hematocrit and hemoglobin will both be higher in winter weather [11]. Taking a winter break in a warm, sunny climate can impede the production of red blood cells. Wait until you have your red blood cell and hemoglobin counts back up to normal before taking a break in the sun.

9. Avoid estrogen therapy and herbs that increase estrogen levels.

Estrogen interferes with the stem cells that become red blood cells [12]. Lower estrogen levels, or at least avoiding estrogen replacement therapy, may help with anemia.

10. Eat salad before meals.

Leafy vegetables contain bitter compounds that stimulate the release of stomach acid. In turn, the increased stomach acid helps with the activation of intrinsic factor that enables your body to absorb vitamin B12, which is important in the creation of new red blood cells.

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