Can Vitamins Increase Blood Oxygen Level?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

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It's unlikely that a vitamin can increase blood oxygen levels. But a healthy balanced diet filled with an adequate supply of essential nutrients may ensure that your blood oxygen levels stay within a normal range.

Low Blood Oxygen Level

Blood oxygen is a measure of the oxygen saturation in your blood and how well your lungs are working to deliver oxygen throughout your body. Blood oxygen level also involves the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood, as well as pH balance — the balance of acids and bases.

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Low blood oxygen is referred to as hypoxemia. It's measured by taking a blood sample from an artery — called an arterial blood gas test — or using a small device that clips onto your finger called a pulse oximeter. A normal result from an arterial blood gas test is between 75 and 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A normal pulse oximeter result is between 95 and 100 percent.

  • Asthma
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Congenital heart defects in children
  • ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome)
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Emphysema
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Medications that may depress breathing
  • Sleep apnea
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Collapsed lung
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

According to the Cleveland Clinic, high altitudes can also cause hypoxemia, when there is not enough oxygen in the environment. People who exercise or do other strenuous activities at high altitudes are at greater risk.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Confusion
  • Bluish tinge to skin, lips and fingernails

Anemia and Low Blood Oxygen

Deficiencies in vitamin B12 and folate are called megaloblastic anemias. In this type of anemia, the blood cells develop abnormally. They are very large and oval, not round like normal, healthy blood cells. This causes the bone marrow to decrease production of red blood cells, and these unhealthy blood cells often die more quickly than normal cells.

Symptoms of megaloblastic anemia vary, but they may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Weak muscles
  • Smooth and tender tongue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Bleeding gums
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Decreased appetite
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Anemia can develop in anyone, but it is most common in people who:

  • Eat a poor diet
  • Eat a restrictive diet, such as vegans
  • Have lower digestive tract disorders such as Crohn's and celiac diseases, which interfere with nutrient absorption
  • Have a weakened stomach lining
  • Lack intrinsic factor, a substance secreted by the stomach that enables vitamin B12 absorption
  • Take certain medications that may impair absorption of folate

Increase Oxygen in Blood

Increasing low blood oxygen level due to anemia involves repairing the nutrient deficiency. In most cases, this involves increasing dietary intake of foods rich in the missing nutrient or taking a supplement — or both.

Either way, you need to be sure to get at least the amount recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Medicine. These are the amounts deemed adequate to prevent deficiency and support good health in the general population.

For vitamin B12, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) is 2.4 mg per day for men and women, 2.6 mg per day for pregnant women and 2.8 mg per day for women who are breastfeeding. For folate, the RDI is 400 for men and women, 600 for pregnant women and 500 for breastfeeding women.

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There aren't any specific oxygen-rich foods you should eat; rather, you should focus on food sources that are rich in the particular nutrient you are deficient in. This will help repair your anemia and increase oxygen in blood.

To get more vitamin B12 in your diet, increase your intake of:

    Fish Meat
  • Poultry
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

There are very few vegan sources of B12, which is the reason why anemia is prevalent among people who eschew animal foods. Fortified cereals are highly bioavailable sources of B12 for vegans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nutritional yeast may also contain adequate levels of B12.

Increase your folate intake by eating more:

  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Grains
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The NIH reports that the richest food sources of folate include spinach, liver, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

Do You Need a Supplement?

Whether or not you need to take a supplement depends on the cause and severity of your deficiency. People with mild deficiencies may be able to simply increase their dietary intake of the nutrient. In cases of more severe deficiencies, supplements are often required for a period of time.

Vegans and people with medical conditions may need to take supplements long- term in order to prevent anemia and increase oxygen in the blood. But it's best to consult with your doctor before deciding to supplement. In many cases, taking high-dose supplements aren't worth the money. In the case of the water-soluble B vitamins, getting more than your body needs won't result in any added benefits, since any excess is excreted from your body via urine.

If you see specific claims about supplements that oxygenate blood using a proprietary blend of nutrients, be wary. These often contain a blend of B vitamins that, while helpful in the case of a deficiency, aren't proven to increase energy in healthy populations, according to NIH. These supplements can be exorbitant, and the money would be better spent on high-quality, nutrient- rich foods.

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