MCHC Blood Test: What Low, High or Normal Levels Mean

MCHC Blood Test: What Does It Mean?

Doctors take blood samples to count the number of blood cells, see how your vital organs are performing and help to diagnose diseases. One important factor your blood test will show is the average concentration of hemoglobin in your blood cells, or MCHC. Low MCHC levels may mean that you are anemic and show symptoms of fatigue, pale skin, and general weakness. If your MCHC levels are too high, then doctors will run more tests to check for autoimmune conditions or check your kidney function.

Generally, normal MCHC levels indicate that your body is producing enough hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin (Hb or Hgb) is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. So having a normal MCHC level means that you’ll have normal levels of oxygen in your blood to nourish your body’s cells and tissue.

If MCHC levels are low, then depending on other test results, your doctor may recommend to increase the levels of iron, vitamin B6 or vitamin B12 in your blood as they are important for having normal hemoglobin levels.

In this article, you will learn what MCHC blood test means and what you can do to increase MCHC levels if they are too low.

What Is MCHC Blood Test and What Is It Used For?

MCHC stands for mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration. In other words, it measures the concentration of hemoglobin in a given volume of red blood cells. Or a more accurate definition is that MCHC expresses the average weight of hemoglobin per unit volume of red blood cell.

According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on MedicineNet, hemoglobin is necessary to transport oxygen around your vascular system and carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs. Hemoglobin contains traces of iron which give blood its red color and oval shape. If the average hemoglobin count in red blood cells is low, then blood can’t flow properly or efficiently through the veins.1

The mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) is measured as part of complete blood count (CBC) test. Dr. Yang Merritt on Medscape says that MCHC and other hemoglobin parameters help to identify if a person suffers from anemia or from high levels of hemoglobin.2

The MCHC blood test is also related to the MCH blood test which measures the he amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells.

What Are Normal or Low MCHC Levels?

Dr. Laura Martin on MedlinePlus says that normal MCHC levels are between 32 and 36 g/dl (grams/deciliter). Doctors will also evaluate the average red blood cell size (MCV, or mean corpuscular volume) and the amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell (MCH, or mean cell hemoglobin).3

So, even if your red blood cell count is normal, you could still show signs of anemia if there is not enough hemoglobin in your red blood cells (MCH) or if the concentration of hemoglobin in each red blood cell is too low (MCHC).

What Causes Low Hemoglobin Concentration in Red Blood Cells?

Most cases of low MCHC (also called hypochromic MCHC) are caused by anemia. This is a medical condition in which there is a deficiency of red cells or of hemoglobin in the blood. The journal The Medical Clinics of North America says that small red blood cells are usually the result of having not enough hemoglobin in each blood cell. This is often caused by an iron deficiency in the body. However, it can also be caused by internal bleeding, menstruation, or pregnancy.4

Another cause of low MCHC levels is malabsorption which happens when the body can’t absorb enough nutrients and minerals. The World Journal of Gastroenterology reports that a common symptom of malabsorption is anemia caused by low iron and vitamin B12 levels. This could be caused by Celiac disease, suffering from a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, or having gastric surgery.5

According to Dr. Louise Newson on, folic acid (folate) deficiency can also cause anemia. Some digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease or certain medicines can also affect how the body absorbs folic acid.6

What Are the Symptoms of Low MCHC Levels?

Low MCHC levels usually mean that you show all the classic signs of anemia caused by an iron deficiency. Some of the signs are feeling of tiredness, weakness, or headaches. I have already written in great detail about the warning signs of iron deficiency and how to increase iron levels in blood.

According to Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD, low MCHC levels will make you feel weak and tired. This is because your body can’t get enough oxygen from the red blood cells.7

Doctors from the National Health Service say that other symptoms of having a low amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells are feeling faint, constant headaches from a vitamin B12 deficiency, palpitations, and loss of appetite that results in weight loss.8

Dr. Louise Newson on says that other symptoms of low MCHC levels are tingling all over the body, numbness in one or more of your limbs, and even depression.6

Some other symptoms of a folate or vitamin B12 deficiency are passing greasy stools, feeling of being cold, and chills without fever.

How to Increase MCHC Levels

If the results of your blood test show low MCHC levels, you will need to address your iron, vitamin B12, or vitamin B6 deficiency. There are many ways to naturally increase iron and B group vitamins in your blood.

Increase MCHC levels by consuming animal sources of iron

The best sources of iron that are easily absorbed by the body are from red meat, poultry, and fish. These foods contain Heme iron that is easily absorbed into the body. Dr. Christine Mikstas on WebMD says that some of the best iron-rich foods to increase blood iron levels are beef, clams, oyster, and canned sardines. Also, chicken, salmon, tuna, and ham contain good sources of iron.9

Increase MCHC levels by consuming vegetable sources of iron

Although there are many plant sources that are rich in iron, the body can’t absorb iron very well from these. Plant sources contain Nonheme iron which is poorly absorbed into the body. Dr. Mikstas says that good source of iron from plants or vegetables are kale, spinach, pumpkin seeds, legumes, and broccoli.9

One way to increase iron absorption from vegetable sources is to supplement your diet with vitamin C. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that vitamin C can boost iron absorption. In fact, it can increase bioavailability by up to 7%.10

One great plant-based source of iron is spirulina. Spirulina is high in protein and is a great source of vitamins and minerals if you follow a strict vegetarian diet. The journal Cellular & Molecular Immunology says that spirulina contains vitamin B1, vitamin B12, folate, iron, and vitamins A, E, C, and D. The researchers said that spirulina can help improve the symptoms of anemia by helping to address an iron deficiency.11

Take iron supplements to increase MCHC levels in the blood

If you suffer from low MCHC because of blood loss, then iron supplements can help boost levels of iron in your blood. This can be beneficial for women who have heavy blood loss during their menstrual period.

PubMed Health says that iron supplementation along with folic acid and other vitamins can help to treat anemia. These supplements help to boost hemoglobin levels and can help to prevent the symptoms of anemia.12

If you take iron supplements, you need to be aware that some of the side effects include constipation, nausea, abdominal discomfort and change in stool color. The report in PubMed Health suggests that some women can take iron supplement intermittently to reduce the side effects. However, taking iron supplements intermittently is less effective in preventing or controlling anemia in comparison with daily supplementation.

I have more detailed information in my article on how to naturally increase iron levels in the blood.

Increase MCHC levels by increasing vitamin B and folic acid levels

It is important to make sure that you enjoy a healthy diet that contains good sources of vitamin B and folic acid. Doctors from the NHS say that rich sources of B-group vitamins acid are milk, eggs, rice, meat, and fish. Good sources of folic acid are broccoli, liver, spinach, asparagus, and peas.13

If you enjoy a well-balanced diet, it should be possible to get enough iron, B-group vitamins and folic acid from dietary sources. However, if your low MCHC is caused by a lack of vitamin B12 or B6 and it’s not possible to increase their levels through diet, then taking multivitamins can help. For more information, read my article on how to naturally increase vitamin B12 levels.

High MCHC Levels – What Does It Mean?

High MCHC levels (hyperchromic MCHC) can indicate several health conditions where there is more concentration of hemoglobin within the red blood cells. If for example, a certain condition causes the red blood cells to be destroyed or become fragile, the hemoglobin will be outside of the red blood cells.

The symptoms of high MCHC levels vary according to the condition itself and will be discussed below.

Some of the conditions that can elevate MCHC levels in blood test are:

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)

This is a group of disorders in which the immune system doesn’t function properly. In these cases the body attacks red blood cells as it recognizes them as if they were foreign substances in the body.14

Symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath and pale skin. People with severe AIHA can develop enlarged spleen, jaundice and abdominal discomfort. Some people may not feel any symptoms if the destruction of red blood cells is minor.

This rare type of anemia can be caused if you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus, suffer from certain types of cancers, taking medications such as penicillin, or being infected with viruses such as HIV, hepatitis or Epstein-Barr.15

Hereditary spherocytosis

According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, this is a genetic condition that causes a shortage of red blood cells (anemia), jaundice, and an enlarged spleen. Some people may also develop gallstones, while people with a mild form of the condition may have very mild anemia or sometimes have no symptoms at all.16

Macrocytic anemia

This condition means that the red blood cells are larger than normal. Macrocytic anaemia occurs when there is also a decrease in haemoglobin levels in the blood, and it may occur due to vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency.17, 18

Treating this condition is done by correcting the deficiency that has caused the macrocytic anemia and by treating the underlying condition that caused the deficiency.

Other Related Blood Tests

RDW Blood Test

Red cell distribution width (RDW for short) is a blood test used to measure the difference in size and volume of your red blood cells. The combination of MCHC and RDW levels can tell a lot about your health – get more information in the article: RDW Blood Test: What It Means and What It Tells About Your Health.

MCV blood test

MCV blood test stands for mean corpuscular volume of your blood cells and helps doctors check the health of your blood. The MCV blood test shows the average size of your red blood cells, as red blood cells that are too large or too small can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition.

You can get more information about MCV blood test in the article: MCV Blood Test: What It Means and What It Tells About Your Health.

MPV Blood Test

MPV blood test measures the mean platelet volume in your red blood cell count. The average size of your platelets can help doctors identify certain blood disorders and help diagnose underlying health conditions.

You can get more information about MCHC blood test in the article: MPV Blood Test: What It Means and What It Tells About Your Health.

Hematocrit (Hct) Blood Test

Hematocrit (Hct) blood test is part of a complete blood cell count (CBC) and it measures the percentage of red blood cells (RBCs) in your blood. Results from a hematocrit (Hct) blood test can tell a doctor a lot about your general health.

You can get more information about Hct blood test in the article: Hematocrit (Hct) Blood Test: What Does Low or High Hct Levels Mean?

Read these related articles:

Article Sources

  1. MedicineNet. Hemoglobin.
  2. Medscape. Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration.
  3. MedlinePlus. RBC indices.
  4. Med Clin North Am. 1992 May;76(3):549-66.
  5. World J Gastroenterol. 2009 Oct 7; 15(37): 4644–4652.
  6. PatientInfo. Folic acid deficiency anaemia.
  7. WebMD. Folic acid deficiency anemia.
  8. NHS. Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia.
  9. WebMD. Top iron-rich foods list.
  10. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Apr;51(4):649-55.
  11. Cell Mol Immunol. 2011 May; 8(3): 248–254.
  12. PubMed. Iron supplements.
  13. NHS. Vitamin B.
  14. MSD Manual. Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia.
  15. WebMD. Acquired Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia.
  16. NIH. Hereditary spherocytosis.
  17. Macrocytosis and Macrocytic Anaemia.
  18. Medscape. Macrocytosis.

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