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How to Raise Hemoglobin Levels

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

Have finished three rounds of taxol/carboplatin with nearly no side effects except occasional fatigue--and the news that my hemoglobin is too low.

It is 9.1 instead of the 11.-14 considered normal for women.

My cancer center didn't really elaborate on how to address the problem; the chemo nurse just muttered, "Maybe you should be taking some iron." (Talk about vague; what KIND of iron, and how much?)

Worse yet, I've often read that cancer thrives on two elements: glucose (sugar) and iron.

So does anyone out there know how to bring up hemoglobin without resorting to iron supplements? (It's true that I've eaten very little red meat since my diagnosis--because it's high in iron--but maybe I'd better start doing so.) Can a change in diet bring up hemoglobin levels within two weeks? Am scheduled to start radiation in two weeks and that too lowers hemoglobin so this is a little scary.

Would prefer not to take Procrit (which wasn't even suggested to me) unless absolutel necessary, so any advice I'd really appreciate. I haven't felt very tired except for two days last week.

Thanks,
Rosey

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

Hi, Rosey--

I had lots of trouble with my hemoglobin levels while I was in treatment and did eat some red and organ meat during that time. I also ate the following foods, all of which are either neutral or alkaline and are fine if you are following an anti-cancer diet:

Dried fruits such as figs and raisins

Nuts, particularly almonds

Beans, especially lima beans

Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and broccoli

Blackstrap molasses--A very good source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Also a good source of vitamin B6 and selenium. The boiling process removes most of the harmful ingredients of the sugar; and this product is pretty neutral to use on an anti-cancer diet.

Whole grains

Plant foods contain non-heme iron, which is a form that is not as readily absorbed as is iron from meat. Studies have shown that absorption can be improved if Vitamin C is taken along with the plant source. For example, steam some spinach and squeeze some lemon juice on top.

I hope this helps.

Jill

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

Dear Jill,

Have started to do many but not all of the things you've suggested: ate a bit of lamb and organic beef three nights in a row; ate a few dried figs after dinner; cut back on the huge amount of green tea I'd been drinking (anti-angiogenesus but also an iron-suppresant!). However, will also start squeezing some lemon on my greens as I hardly ever eat citrus fruit anymore (am scared of its glucose content although I do eat an unripe banana and some berries in my morning oatmeal).

Will try the blackstrap molasses.

Come to thnk of it, even the book Anti-Cancer doesn't preclude eating meat, as long as it's organic. MY blood type is O positive, which, come to think of it (to whatever extent these theories are valid) is a blood type that's supposed to thrive on vegetables AND meat whereas some types can flourish on a strictly vegetarian regimen.

Thanks so much for your advice!

Rosey

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

How are you doing with the changes in your diet? Do you know whether your hemoglobin is higher?

You mention being concerned about glucose levels, but lemons and limes are particularly alkaline and thus anti-inflammatory. Also, ripe bananas are alkaline whereas unripe bananas are not. I am interested in why you choose unripe bananas.

You seem to be very knowledgeable about diet. I hope you can share some information with us.

After my surgery, chemo, and blood draws, I still have no idea of my blood type. I assume it's easy for me to find out...

All the best to you.

Jill

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

Dear Jill,

Thanks for the reminders about lemons and limes and their alkalinity. Their vitamin C, I've discovered, also helps to absorb whatever iron you'be had in a meal.

Re bananas: perhaps I have it backwards; had thought that ripe bananas were acidic and upripe bananas were alkaline. (Whatever the case, ripe have a far higher glucose count; perhaps that's what I'd feared. I also prefer the taste of slightly green bananas.

I forget whether you yourself had trouble with hemoglobin; if so, did you need to take iron or have a transfusion? You seem to be doing well these days, thank heaven.

Best,
Rosey

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

CSN help told me there would be a "delete" option at bottom of page!

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

ALKALINE FRUITS
Apples and Cider
Apricots
Avocados
Bananas (speckled only)
Berries
Breadfruit
Cacius
Cantaloupe
Carob - pod only
Charlmoyes
CRANBERRIES
Cherries
Citron
Currants
Dates
Figs
Grapes
Grapefruit
Guavas
Kumquats Lemons - ripe
Limes
Loquats
Mangoes
Melons, all
Nectarines
Olives, sundried
Papaya
Passionfruit
Peaches
Pears
Persimmons
Pineapples
PLUMS
Pomegranates
PRUNES & JUICE
Quince
Raisins
Saponins
Tamarind
Tangerines
Tomatoes

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

Ignore

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

Ignore

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

Jill,

Had looked at your initial comment, regaling us with all you'd done to improve your own hemoglobin--then got sidetracked by response to other contributors.

By the time I came back to respond to your most recent post, I'd forgotten that yes, you took nutirional measures to counter your low hemoglobin. (To whatever extent "chemo brain" is a real phenomenon, I am feeling it right now: a bit foggy!)

Would still like to know one thing: can you remember how long your own dietary measures took to bring up your hemoglobin? How often was your blood being tested at that time?

Thanks,
Rosey

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

For various reasons, I would rather not go through my paperwork to see how low my hemoglobin was; but I was told when I had to delay my chemo that if the count did not come up I would need a transfusion. I guzzled blackstrap molasses, ate red and organ meat, had spinach with a squeeze of lemon juice, made chili with beans, lentil soup with spinach... The upshot was that I avoided a transfusion, and all of my blood counts were perfect two weeks after the end of my sixth session of chemo.

Sometimes, dietary measures do not work fast enough; and a transfusion is needed. I would have had the transfusion if my dietary measures did not work.

All the best,

Jill

antigone_42
Posts: 8
Joined: Jan 2011

my hemoglobin was at 8.6 before my last survey so they have put my on iron supplements. I had been on a pretty restrictive diet up to that survey. previously I had never had a problem on a vegetarian diet, I found the items that stayed with me the best were broccoli, spinach and raisins, with those as staples normally my hemoglobin hangs out around 11, even with a lot of bleeding from my hyperplasia.

Cindy Bear
Posts: 560
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi. There was a discussion about this recently on inspire.com... what to eat if your platelets are low.. (no sure but I think hemoglobin/platelets are the same thing? ) anyhow, a couple of things that kept coming up were papaya (fresh or papaya tea) and spanish peanuts (with the redskins on) I don't know if you like peanuts but it sounds like it couldn't hurt.. Good luck.

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

Cindy,

I too read online that the skins of Spanish peanuts could bolster your blood counts, but thought it was WHITE blood cells that they stimulated, not red platelets. Perhaps someone can correct me, but that's what I saw. I also read that white baked potatos, especially the skins, were good for stimulating white blood cells (lymphocites), which often fall after chemo.

Will look up papaya to see which blood cells it may stimulate.

Thanks for the tip.
Rosey

minniejan
Posts: 88
Joined: Dec 2010

Hello,

After three treatments of carbo and taxol I received a phone call on my latest blood test results yesterday. My hemoglobin is below 8.0 so they highly recommended a blood transfusion to bring it back up to about where is was after the second chemo treatment, about 10.3. I hope it works, I am having trouble even walking up the stairs, my limbs feel like lead and my heart pounds. I become short of breath. Was told that without the transfusion and even taking iron supplements and using diet to bring it back up, it would take 6 months on its own. I opted for the transfusion. I am leaving shortly for HUP.

MinnieJan

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

My levels of both hemoglobin and platelets were pretty low when I was in treatment. Hemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body, whereas platelets are the components that help the blood to clot.

MinnieJan, my understanding is that the transfusion should bring your levels back up pretty quickly, and you will likely feel much, much better. Good luck to you; the symptoms you describe are NOT fun.

Jill

minniejan
Posts: 88
Joined: Dec 2010

Hello,

Had my transfusion yesterday. It actually hurt much more than the chemo did going in. I was told that is normal, due to the blood being refrigerated. I had my arm wrapped in hot pads and a blanket from the tips of my finger to my elbow (had the infusion right above the wrist) and that helped, along with Tylenol. No problems today with arm pain. I was told the two units should put me up about 2 "points" or so. So I should be about where I was after the second chemo. Today I can climb stairs without much trouble but am still quite fatigued. I was told to eat iron rich foods and now take an iron supplement, slow FE.

MinnieJan

Rewriter's picture
Rewriter
Posts: 494
Joined: Dec 2009

I am hoping that by the end of the day today you are feeling much less fatigued. I'm glad to hear that you are able to climb stairs and that your arm pain has gone away. Do you like calves liver? On an ordinary day, I would not touch it; but the meat is very high in iron. I believe it has almost twice the iron of a steak.

Good luck to you.

Jill

Ro10's picture
Ro10
Posts: 1361
Joined: Jan 2009

Glad to hear you got two units of blood to make you feel better. Usually one unit of blood does raise the hemaglobin one point.

Glad you can climb stairs easier today. The fatigue will get better with time, too. Take one day at a time. In peace and caring.

minniejan
Posts: 88
Joined: Dec 2010

Thanks for the support. I haven't yet decided about taking iron supplements, and unfortunately I cannot abide liver! I eat spinach salad each day and will stock up on some of the other foods you all shared with me. I am leaving next week for a two week trip to see my grown son in Arizona. Haven't seen him since late January. I just plan to rest and enjoy the sun out there after so many cold rainy days here in the mid-Atlantic region. I was given the "go ahead" to travel even before my numbers came back and I had the transfusion. At this point I hope I can get through the airport on my own. Which leads me to another question, has anyone had any problems going through airport security? I look so darn different from my driver's license and will be wearing a head covering.

MinnieJan

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

MinnieJan,

Spinach in any form, raw or cooked, is really healthy but its magnesium and iron are better absorbed when it's cooked. And squeeze a little lemon on your cooked greens because vitamin C enhances iron absorption. (if you're taking vitamin C or like citrus fruit, the best time you can ingest them is while, or right before, you eat iron-rich food.

So no need to give up the salads, but be sure to get cooked sources of greens as well.

Have a great trip.

Rosey

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

Dear MinnieJan,

So sorry to hear you hemo is even lower than mine; nobody advised me to take iron or even thought I should bother to have my blood tested for a final time after my third round of chemo. (Radiation was coming up next, so the nurse said I didn't have to come in for the blood test we usually do two days before a new round of chemo.

But then I reaized a day later that having it tested after all three rounds was probably crucial--so I arranged on my own for a blood test, and sure enough, hemoglobin was 8.8. And radiation further depletes hemoglobin, so I couldn't believe I hadn't been told that this final blood test before radiation was crucial. (By the way: am being treated at the same institution!)

Am scheduled to start radiation in a few days, yet my rad. oncologist isn't sure if her lab even received that blood test result from chemo two weeks ago.

In the meantime, let me know how it is to have a transfusion as I too may need one at the rate things are going!

If it's any comfort, I know a woman at work who's doing fine these days but whose hemoglobin was 6.0 at one point in her treatment.

Are you having a transfusion because you need more treatment ASAP?

Best,
Rosey R

minniejan
Posts: 88
Joined: Dec 2010

Hello Rosey,

I did have the transfusion, it was actually more painful than the chemo treatments, during the transfusion itself. I breezed through the chemo treatments at the facility, slept mostly! The blood transfusing took much longer than they told me it would, but doesn't everything? I had to have my arm wrapped in a blanket from my fingers to my elbow with two small chemical heat pads in the blanket during the second bag. I suffered with aching pain during the transfusing of the first bag, then spoke up. I was also given Tylenol. I was told it was due to the refrigeration of the blood product and is quite common. They were also taking my blood pressure often on that same arm. (My blood pressure was quite low, which for me is unusual.) I asked them to switch to the other arm with the cuff. The pain was only during the transfusions themselves, everything was fine afterwards. I wish I had spoken up as soon as the aching pain started. It was worth it though, I do feel better. And my color is much improved, according to friends.

I had chemo and brachytherapy radiation at the same time, and am finished with both! I was given the transfusion due to my symptoms, the heart pounding, and the inability to climb stairs without having to lay down. I was so utterly exhausted I could do nothing. One symptom I had that they thought might be due to the low numbers was extreme cold in my extremities but that still persists. I am still wearing lightweight gloves around the house and two pair of warm socks!

I call the chemo nurse at HUP whenever I have questions, and I am fortunate that one of my daughters is an inpatient chemo nurse at another hospital, so she helps me understand and process a lot of the jargon. She also knew just by looking at me prior to the results of the blood work that I would need a transfusion, so when the call came on Monday morning I was somewhat mentally prepared. I am so blessed to have her, she drives home to see me as often as possible. She even went with me to all my chemo treatments.

After my exam prior to my third chemo I was automatically given a slip for blood work, which was the case after the first two treatments as well. I have the blood work locally.

And the good news is that my CA 125 is down to 6! My next blood work and exam will be in late May with the gynecologic oncologist and June with my radiation oncologist.

Take care. MinnieJan

RoseyR
Posts: 462
Joined: Feb 2011

MinnieJan,

I appreciate your description of the process; it sounds a bit painful but not excruciating should I need it.
I got several tips from your account, very helpful.

Hope you have a great trip to see your son--and enjoy your great CA12 results!

Best,
Rosey

Rajinder Kapoor
Posts: 1
Joined: Nov 2011

My Brother in law who is having O-ve blood group is suffering from Stomach cancer and which has reached to the bones also. His Hb level has come down to 8. Even after transfusing 1 unit of blood, Hb level did not increase but remained at the same level. Shall appreciate if you can advise what diet should be adopted to increase his Hb level and also what precautions are very important during chemotherapy treatment

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