Many people believe that low hemoglobin level is a lack of iron in the body. Before you look for the ways to increase it, I recommend you to check out some theoretical information about nature and properties of hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is actually a special protein inside of the red blood cells. The main feature of hemoglobin is that it can attach either oxygen or carbon dioxide to itself and thus erythrocytes transport oxygen through the body, move it from the lungs to the tissues or take carbon dioxide form the tissues and bring it to the lungs.
Thus, if there’s low hemoglobin and red blood cells level in the body, the tissues have lack of oxygen and this phenomenon is called anemia. There are many kinds of anemia, but in most cases it is associated with blood loss. For example if a person has got a trauma – he loses blood. Anemia during blood loss can be acute (after a trauma) or chronic (often bleeding from the nose). Moreover anemia can occur when bone marrows can’t produce normal amount of red blood cells, and vitamins and iron are necessary for this purpose, and then such anemia is called iron deficiency anemia. There is also a kind of anemia when red blood cells are broken down under the influence of some factors, and such anemia is called hemolytic anemia. But iron deficiency anemia is the most common anemia.
So, how to compensate hemoglobin?
Breastmilk and cow’s milk have little amount of iron. But breastmilk contains a special protein called lactoferrin – it’s a protein that helps the body digest iron. And if a nursing mother (or any adult) eats much meat, 20% of iron at best will be absorbed and 60% – from breastmilk. Therefore, when comparing the amount of iron in infant formula and the amount of iron in breastmilk, infant formula contains much more iron, but it is absorbed worse. And even if iron is perfectly absorbed in a baby’s body, he will still have lack of iron.
Where to take it?
It turns out that the nature has already taken care of moms – when a child isn’t yet born, he stores iron when fetus. That is when a mother has low hemoglobin level – it is because the fetus is storing iron to survive while being breastfed. This means that a pregnant woman is obliged to create all the conditions for a child to store enough iron, i.e. she must eat foods containing iron during pregnancy. Even if a vegetarian family decided to have children, they must eat products containing iron.
But a pregnant woman can’t always solve the problem with food alone; sometimes it is necessary to take iron supplements. It depends on the processes in her body – she has either low hemoglobin level and not enough amount of iron, or hemoglobin level is low but there’s enough amount of iron in her body. In any case she must get a special medical blood test to determine the level of a special protein called ferritin, which stores iron in the body. Unfortunately, few moms think of that.
Why is it so important?
If a mother has lack of iron in her body, her child will take it from nowhere and then she won’t be able to increase the amount of eaten meat, because she’ll have no time to store iron. So it is necessary to get the test to check ferritin level. The child accumulates iron before birth and this amount of iron will be enough up to 5-6 months (this is a critical age). So if the child is 6 months old, his skin is pale and mother had problems with hemoglobin when pregnant – she must get an ordinary medical test of her baby’s blood – this will determine the tactics of complementary feeding for the baby. And mother is obliged to take multivitamins that contain iron at this moment. And don’t be afraid of how this will affect your child, you should think that if you feel good – your baby will feel good as well (the only important thing is that you must not overeat).
How is low hemoglobin level dangerous?
Is it possible to compensate hemoglobin with foods?
Foods can help prevent iron deficiency in a body, but not raise hemoglobin level. That is if the child’s hemoglobin level is below normal rage, it can’t be increased with foods, only doctor and medications will help, and the physician must first determine the kind anemia in the child.
I want to emphasize again that hemoglobin transports oxygen throughout the human body, and a modern child, who is brought up in luxury and care, doesn’t need large amounts of oxygen and, consequently, large amounts of hemoglobin. If it isn’t necessary to maintain body temperature (it’s always warm in the room), if the child has no opportunity to move (he is swaddled tight, or he is seated to listen to fairy tales instead of running, etc.), what does then his body need “normal” hemoglobin amount for?
Normal amount of hemoglobin can’t be there in a pregnant woman, who is lying for 9 months long.
Normal amount of hemoglobin can’t be there in a child who learns foreign language three times a week, plays the cello three times a week, and spends the weekend watching cartoons.
Normal hemoglobin level requires a natural way of life.
So, if your child has a low hemoglobin level, you should not treat him but bring up him appropriately.
Here are two tables: normal amount of hemoglobin in a body and products that promote and inhibit the absorption of iron.
Average value, g/l
Range of norm, g/l
|6 months – 6 years||120||105-140|
Absorption of iron in the intestine
|Ascorbic acid||Soy protein|
|Meat||Phytates (specific substance in the vegetable products, they form insoluble salts with iron and inhibit its absorption)|
|Lactic acid||Dietary fiber|
|Polfenoly (beans, nuts, tea, coffee)|
But multivitamins have iron in such a form that these products won’t drastically inhibit its absorption.
What a baby should eat to avoid the problem of low hemoglobin level?
One of the most important foods is breastmilk. It turns out that lactoferrin not only promotes the absorption of iron from breastmilk, but from other foods. I.e. when after 6 months of age, mother breastfeeds and introduces solids, the iron from solids is absorbed much better. Thus timely solids introduction after 6 months of age, breastfeeding, and hemoglobin level test are important.
These are quite enough, and of course you should follow the up-to-date recommendations on complementary feeding because if you introduce complementary feeding with semolina or cow’s milk, the anemia is guaranteed.