Last July I attempted to donate blood for the very first time, only to be rejected due to low iron levels. The Canadian Blood Services uses the word “deferred”, but to me it felt like a serious rejection as in my mind I was the absolute picture of health, and I really wanted to give back in a way that would help others in a grievous time of need. It was explained to me that the iron measure of 125 g per L cut off that the CBS uses is slightly higher than what the average family doctor would consider low enough to warrant supplementation, but that did little to soften the blow.
Not to be turned away a second time, when a group of colleagues agreed to participate in a blood drive this March I prepared like I would have for an Olympic event. Two weeks before my scheduled date of donation, I began supplementing with “Floravit” which is a plant-derived iron and B vitamin supplement which also happens to be gluten and yeast free. I also made sure I was getting adequate amounts of vitamin C, sleep, and began to limit my coffee intake, which isn’t really that high, but any edge to achieve my goal was going to be harnessed. To top it all off, the night before I ate a good portion of red meat – something I consume only about 4 times per year. (always advocating for local, grass-fed organic sources)
Donation day was met with some trepidation, unsure if my iron levels would make the grade. I had already read the questionnaire online, and knew if I could just get passed the Iron Gate I would be a great candidate for blood donation!
The result was an impressive 141 g per L! What was more impressive was the iron levels of the vegetarian in our group were even higher at around 145 g per L, which she attributes to her gross consumption of leafy greens and lentils.
Two days ago, I donated again. This time in honour of the late Sarah Gordon who lost her battle with leukemia in March 2010. Learn more about this inspiring young woman by clicking this link: http://ow.ly/5kQZP
Through this most recent blood drive that I also learned about the One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network, which I am in the process of joining. More information on One Match here: http://ow.ly/5kQha
What really prompted me to write this post was the cookies and juice that are offered after your donation, which are high in sugar and low in nutrition. Obviously there are healthier alternatives, but you need to come prepared with your own wares as you won’t find them at the CBS clinics.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re very well hydrated both pre and post donation. Blood is mostly made up of water, after all. The orange juice they offer is perfectly fine, but it’s the Oreo cookies I have a little problem with as they may artificially spike blood sugar levels, and are void of valuable nutrients. So here’s my list of portable foods that make are great for post blood donation refueling:
- Prunes (source of iron)
- Raisins (source of iron)
- Whole oranges
- Bananas (higher glycemic load)
- Strained sweet potato (Yes, I’m talking about baby food. I happen to like this as a snack with a handful of raw almonds, but it may not be for everyone’s palette.)
Any regular blood donors out there? I’d love to hear what you do to get your body ready for donation and healthfully refuel afterward.