Are my blood levels low?

Monday February 17 2020


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

Nowadays, my breathing is laboured even after a simple walk. I was told it was due to lack of blood. I also pass red urine nowadays. Is this the reason I have low blood levels? Can taking beetroot improve my situation? Amos

Hello Amos,
We mainly breathe so that we can get oxygen to burn glucose and give us energy while at the same time expelling the resultant waste gas (carbon dioxide).

Breathing out is effortless but breathing in requires some effort though this effort at rest is normally unnoticeable. However, we breathe heavily and noticeably when we exercise or when we have difficulty breathing.

We run out of breath and seem to have difficulty breathing on exertion as a sign that our lungs are not getting enough oxygen in or not getting enough carbon dioxide out and this is usual during and after serious physical exertion.

A heavily pregnant woman, those who are obese or those not used to physical exercise can get breathless on minor exertion. That said, since breathlessness on mild exertion might indicate a more serious health problem such as asthma, pneumonia, heart problems including heart failure, lack of blood (anaemia), anxiety and stress among others, it is necessary to have a medical checkup to rule out those health problems.

Also, a medical checkup will rule out blood in urine as a cause of red urine and, therefore, the likelihood of anaemia.


A number of Ugandans at the hint of lack of blood will take red vegetables and beetroot claiming these directly increase blood amounts and correct anaemia. However, beetroot has pigments such as betanin that may make urine and sometimes stool red.

Much as noticing the red colour of urine or stool for the first time may be scary, it is mostly harmless although, it may sometimes indicate iron deficiency anaemia or low stomach acid levels that allow betanin to go through the stomach unchanged and appear in urine and stool.