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The primary function of red blood cell is to transport oxygen to all parts of the body. Inflammation and nutrient deficiencies can reduce red blood cell numbers or their ability to effectively deliver oxygen, which can contribute to hypoxia.

In this post, you will learn ways to increase or decrease your red blood cell count.

If you are struggling with chronic health issues – the way I used to – you probably have piles of lab tests that can potentially tell you a lot about your health. Red blood cells may be one of them. However, doctors never had enough time to explain it properly. They will only notice it if the lab flags your test results as outside of normal. But what if all your results are coming back normal, yet you know you are feeling nowhere near healthy? They may even tell you there is nothing wrong with you, and that it’s all in your head – I’ve been there.

Lab Test Analyzer is the tool I wish I had when I was dealing with all my health issues. Instead of normal, it will tell you the optimal values for red blood cells and many other lab tests. And if you are outside the optimal range, it will give you actionable tips and recommendations that will help you get there.



Over 99% of the particles in the blood are cells called red blood cells, or erythrocytes, due to their red color. Red blood cells look like a disc with indentations in the middle so they can bend easily to squeeze through narrow blood vessels (R,R).

Each red blood cell contains the protein hemoglobin, which transports oxygen (R)

In tiny blood vessels in the lung, the red blood cells pick up oxygen from inhaled air and transport it through the bloodstream to all parts of the body.

Our cells need oxygen to function. Oxygen is used to accept electrons at the final step of cellular respiration. At the same time, carbon dioxide is released as a waste product from the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats for energy (R). The red blood cells pick up the carbon dioxide and transport it back to the lungs. There we exhale it when we breathe out.


Aside from oxygen and carbon dioxide, red blood cells can also pick up or release hydrogen ions and nitric oxide.

By picking up or releasing hydrogen ions, they help to keep the pH level (acidity/basicity) of the blood steady.

When red blood cells release nitric oxide, the nitric oxide can cause the blood vessels expand, which leads to a drop in blood pressure (R).

Modify Red Blood Cell Levels

Everyone is different, and our bodies can be complex. If you want to increase or decrease your red blood cell levels, it’s best to analyze them with Lab Test Analyzer. This tool will compute, based on this and your other results, the best steps you can take that will bring you back to optimal.

Ways to Increase Red Blood Cells Levels

1) Iron


Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin. Iron can be absorbed from meats, vegetables or other foods.

Note that large amounts of iron can be harmful because it increases oxidative stress in the body.

2) Copper

Copper is a necessary cofactor in the production of red blood cells (R).

3) Vitamin B12

Low levels of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) can lead to pernicious anemia. This type of anemia often is treated with vitamin B12 supplements and by increasing consumption of animal products.

4) Folic Acid

Folic acid (folate) is a form of vitamin B that’s found in foods. It is needed for making and maintaining new cells, including red blood cells.

5) Vitamin C


Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Good sources of vitamin C are vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits. Other fruits rich in vitamin C include kiwi fruit, strawberries, and cantaloupes.

Vegetables rich in vitamin C include broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, and leafy green vegetables like turnip greens and spinach.

Fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables, and juices usually have more vitamin C than canned ones.

Note: If you’re taking medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice. This fruit can affect the strength of a few medicines and how well they work.

6) Vitamin D

Vitamin D can help when anemia is associated with inflammation.

Vitamin D, through its down-regulatory effects on inflammatory cytokines and hepcidin may help with anemia, particularly anemia of inflammation (R).

7) Stop Drinking

Stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol consumption decreases the red blood cell count, because even the lowest consumption producing a significant decrease (R).

8) Exercise


Training increases red blood cell levels and hemoglobin by stimulating erythropoiesis. This increases the amount of oxygen that can be carried by blood (R).

However, some athletes can also develop anemia due to increased red blood cell destruction.

9) Drugs

Drugs that can treat an underlying cause of anemia, which can increase red blood cell count include:

  • Antibiotics to treat infections
  • Hormones to treat heavy menstrual bleeding in teenaged and adult women
  • Medicines to prevent the body’s immune system from destroying its own red blood cells
  • Chelation therapy in cases of heavy metal toxicity

10) Erythropoietin

Erythropoietin, also known as EPO, hematopoietin or hemopoietin, is a hormone produced in the kidneys that controls red blood cell production (erythropoiesis) (R).

Natural ways to increase EPO in the body:

  • Echinacea (R)
  • Astragalus (R)
  • Beetroot juice (RR2)
  • Spirulina (R)
  • Dietary protein (R)
  • Arachidonic acid (R)
  • Cobalt (R)
  • Portulaca oleracea L. (R)
  • Rhodiola (Salidroside) (R)
  • Rehmannia (Catalpol) (R)
  • Emodin (R)
  • Altitude training (R)
  • Sauna (R)

EPO used as therapeutic agents are produced by recombinant DNA technology, and include Epogen/Procrit (epoetin alfa) and Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) (R).

EPO is used as a treatment for:

  • Anemia associated with kidney disease, chemotherapy, myelodysplastic syndromes, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, bone marrow transplantation, and blood loss following surgery or trauma (RR2R3R4R5).
  • Neurological disorders such as ischemic stroke, intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease (RR2).
  • Controlling rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (RR2).
  • RBC disorders, such as hereditary spherocytosis and haemoglobinopathies, or mechanical damage of RBCs, such as in heart valve dysfunction (RR2).
  • Critically ill patients, EPO reduced the requirement of blood transfusion by 50% (R).
  • Congestive heart failure (RR2)

11) Blood Transfusions


This is a common procedure in which blood is given to you intravenously. Transfusions require careful matching of donated blood with the recipient’s blood.

12) Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant

A blood and marrow stem cell transplant replaces your faulty stem cells with healthy ones from another person (a donor). During the transplant, which is like a blood transfusion, you get donated stem cells through a tube placed in a vein in your chest. Once the stem cells are in your body, they travel to your bone marrow and begin making new blood cells.

Ways to Decrease Red Blood Cells Levels

1) Stop Smoking


Smoking increases red blood cell count (R,R,R).

2) Phlebotomy or Blood Draw

A procedure that removes some blood from the body. A needle is inserted into one of the veins and blood from the vein flows through an airtight tube into a sterile container or bag. The process is similar to the process of donating blood.

Phlebotomy reduces red blood cell count and brings the blood thickness closer to normal.

3) Drugs

Drugs that prevent the bone marrow from making too many red blood cells:

Hydroxyurea is a medicine generally used to treat cancer. It reduces the number of red blood cells and platelets in the blood. As a result, the blood flow improves and the thickness of the blood approaches normal.

Interferon-alpha is a substance that the body normally makes. It can prompt the immune system to fight overactive bone marrow cells. This helps lower red blood cell count and keeps the blood flow and blood thickness closer to normal.

Imatinib mesylate is a medicine that’s approved for treating leukemia. In clinical trials, this medicine helped reduce the need for phlebotomy. This medicine also helped reduce the size of enlarged spleens.

4) Radiation Treatment

Radiation treatment can help suppress overactive bone marrow cells. This helps lower red blood cell count and keeps the blood flow and blood thickness closer to normal.

However, radiation treatment can raise the risk of leukemia (blood cancer) and other blood diseases.

Irregular Red Blood Cell Levels?

If you have not yet tested your red blood cell levels, I recommend that you ask your doctor for it. If you already have your blood test results and you’re not sure what to make of them, you need to check out Lab Test Analyzer. It does all the heavy lifting for you. No need to do thousands of hours of research on what to make of your various blood tests.

People don’t realize that their blood test results contain a gold mine of information that’s waiting to be unearthed. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or the inclination to sift through dozens of research papers.

It’s super-simple, so that even if you don’t have any background in science, you will understand what your results mean, and what you can do to get them in the optimal range.

Lab Test Analyzer gives you up-to-date scientific information about your lab results. In addition, you will get both lifestyle tips and natural solutions to help you optimize your health. You can also rely on our science-based Optimal Ranges to prevent potential health issues and maximize your overall wellbeing.

All the content is backed by science and researched by a team of PhDs, professors, and scientists.

We’re all unique, so we deserve solutions that treat us that way.

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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.


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  • Ben Joshua

    i read that testosterone @ steroids will greatly increased RBC and can cause Pulmonary Embolism.

  • Devesh Rathore

    If my RBC cell reach 112.0 thou/mm3 than what can I do for….shall I need to attention towards my RBC Cells….

  • Devesh Rathore

    If anybody’s RBC cell reach 112.0 thou/mm3 than what can I do for….shall I need to attention towards my RBC Cells….

  • Denis

    I was getting too much testosterone injections and now my red cell count is high. Thanks for info!!

  • Lonnie

    I have way too much blood in my body
    . Should I be worried?

  • shareen

    My RBC count too high, how can i control that plz give me any suggestion.

  • Hari gosal

    What will happen if there is excessive red bolld cells in the body

  • John Doe Jr.

    Andrew: Yes. To much testosterone causes an increase in red blood cells .
    And taking over the counter DHEA will also cause an increase in red blood cells.

  • John Doe Jr.

    Martin: They can draw your blood and throw it away. You don’t have to donate it.

  • martin

    so there is no natural way to lower red blood cell count? I cant donate blood because my hematocrit is to high.

  • Tanya

    Get genetic testing for hereditary hemochromatosis

  • w johnson

    When my RBC count reached 18,100 I asked my Doctor to order further teats to understand WHY my RBC count was high. I was sent to a hematologist that ordered further blood tests of a different kind and it came back that I had CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia). That sounds awful but it is the least invasive form of leukemia. The Hematologist said I can live for many years with this. I don’t like it but I was told that something else would probably get me before the CLL does.

    1. MrsD

      My dad also has CLL. I guess I thought his WBC was elevated, but maybe his RBC is too…?!

  • Janette

    My rbc is getting out of control 20.9 I have always been a very low rbc I. Don’t think the doctors know what to do. We tried to do a blood draw and the blood was clotting in the tube and at the needle my arm is really sore. We used a 14needle and I ask doc can we use bigger needle and tube he said I did not know what I am asking, HELP

  • Julius Williams


  • Andrew

    Something obviously missing here is testosterone – that massively increases red blood cell count

  • twhite48

    Altitude tents/chronic hypoxia?

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