I donate blood on a regular basis – every 59 to 65 days. Have been doing it for years. Not everyone can do this, for various reasons to include medications, injuries, health issues, etc. One day I was told my iron was too low to donate. I was told, “go home and eat lots of green vegetables, and fruits to build it up and then come back. This peaked my curiosity as to why was I low in iron. I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t taken the time between donations to properly increase my iron intake. But there is more to it than that. I’d like to help you understand about this in regards to donating blood. The information I have is from oneblood.org’s pamphlet on Blood.
WHY IRON AND HEMOGLOBIN ARE IMPORTANT –
In case you don’t know what ‘hemoglobin’ is – it is an iron-containing protein in red blood cells. It is what gives blood the red color. Hemoglobin carries oxygen around the body and without enough of it your muscles and organs do not get all the oxygen they need.
What is iron? Iron is a mineral nutrient that your body needs to function normally. It is a vital part of hemoglobin. You get iron into your body from the food you eat, absorbing about 1-2 mg. per day. It also makes new red cells. Any remaining iron is stored and used by the body at times when there is an increased need for iron such as with growth, in pregnancy for blood loss. ‘Iron deficiency’ is when these stores have been used up. After donating blood – they are pretty well used up and have to be restored.
Giving blood – blood donation, removes red cells which contain hemoglobin and iron. Oneblood organization tells us that donors who have reduced dietary iron absorption, increased needs or other iron losses such as non-donation blood loss e.g. heavy menstruation in females, may take longer to restore their iron levels. It is when they prick that finger that the hemoglobin is screened for donation to ensure the hemoglobin is within the acceptable range for donation. You lose about 220-250 mg. of iron each time you donate a unit of blood. The time it takes to replenish the iron lost with blood donation depends on how much iron your body has before donation.
Along with eating the right foods, you can take a supplement or multivitamin containing iron to replenish, maintain and build up the iron in your blood. Many people with low iron feel fine, but low iron levels may cause anemia, tiredness, irritability, reduced endurance during exercise or everyday activities, as well as difficulty concentrating.
IRON LEVEL MAINTENANCE –
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet containing foods high in vitamin C and rich in iron. Choose foods high in absorbable iron at each meal and create food combinations to enhance absorption. If you are a meat eater, eat lean red meat. I am not a meat eater so I choose iron-rich foods such as legumes (lentils, baked beans or 3-bean mix salads) Combine non-meat sources of iron with good sources of vitamin C.
- Drink your beverages between meals and not with meals.
- Consider iron rich snacks such as raisins, nuts, dates, prunes and figs.
- Take an iron supplement or multivitamins with iron to replace the iron lost through blood donation. Check with your doctor. If your are a senior it takes longer to build you blood back up. Don’t panic, you can still donate blood.
- For frequent donors, about 18mg of iron per day for 60 days has been shown to replace the iron lost in a whole blood donation. This is the typical amount of iron in a multivitamin containing iron. (Be sure to read the label)
- Do not overdo on the iron dosage intake as high dosages may be harmful.
Iron rich foods can include: Wheat germ, bran muffin, tortillas, cooked cereal, dry cereals, liver, liver sausage, shellfish, fish and poultry, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, egg, peanut butter, prune juice, raisins, dates, prunes, figs, apricots, watermelon tomato juice, strawberries, apple juice, bananas, cooked dark leafy greens, raw dark leafy greens, jicama. I don’t recommend fast foods, but ‘oneblood’ adds burrito, taco, hamburger and cheeseburgers to the list.
Personally, I stick with the raw vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits – love that watermelon, raisins, etc. as well as an iron supplement by itself. I have an herbal Blood Formula provided by ‘The Botanical Pharmacy’ that I take as well.
I hope this helps you who are or who want to be blood donors to understand what it is all about. KEEP IN MIND – YOUR BLOOD MAY BE SAVING THE LIFE OF SOMEONE ELSE! I have donated over 6 gallons of blood.