Live Better Longer by Giving Blood. And Help Your Community Too.Apr 21, 2020
With all the distressing news about the corona epidemic, people are asking what they can do to help. My best answer is to give blood.
Blood donation is literally a way to give life blood to our communities. As the Surgeon General put it, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”
Blood is needed year round, but especially during times of emergency. Blood can save the lives of people who have suffered traumatic blood loss from accidents or crimes. But it’s also needed for patients undergoing surgeries, cancer treatment, bleeding disorders, sickle cell anemia and other serious health conditions. When blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets and plasma, it can help a large number of patients with different medical needs.
Organizations like Vivalant refer to donors as “heroes,” but the fact is we benefit greatly from giving blood. Blood donation gives us the spiritual opportunity to step up and make a heartfelt unconditional gift to strangers in need — to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Donation also offers an effective way to eliminate excess iron from the body. Because iron is a pro oxidant, reducing iron to optimal levels decreases inflammation throughout the body and helps keep us from “rusting out.” Regular blood donations lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and other ills. Indeed, the reason that women’s risk for heart disease shoots up after menopause is because we no longer lose blood each month through menstruation.
Giving blood also prevents premature aging. Age spots are the most visible signs of excess iron, but the problem is not just skin deep. As we grow increasingly iron toxic with age, lipofuscin (iron-oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids) builds up throughout the body, clogging cells, reducing their efficiency and contributing to fatigue and disease.
Tried in vain to heal “leaky gut”? Reducing iron overload might be the crucial missing piece. In brief, iron upsets the balance of gut flora because pathogens use iron to thrive and multiply. Excess iron can also lead to insulin resistance, prediabetes and diabetes.
Blood donation is not only beneficial but essential for people afflicted with hemochromatosis, a disease of iron overload.
NEVER TOO OLD
We are never too old to give blood. But we can be too young or too thin. The minimum weight required is 110 pounds, but it can be as high as 125 pounds or more for young people between the ages of 18 and 23. If the blood banks seem to be discriminating against people who are fashionably thin or young people at a healthy weight, there’s a reason for it; those who are light weight, young or both are more prone to fainting.
Before taking your blood, technicians will conduct a mini health exam to check blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature, hemoglobin, and other health markers. Donors are also required to fill out an extensive questionnaire, mostly exploring their history of — or likely exposure to — infectious diseases. Donors can be turned down for use of certain prescription or over-the-counter meds, street drugs, recent travel abroad, recent vaccinations, piercings and tattoos.
Because many of us in the real food communities decline to vaccinate, our blood is especially needed. I give four to six times per year and that's not just as a "do gooder." Men of all ages and women post menopause almost always show a toxic build up of iron in the body. Eliminating it via blood donation is my best secret to living better longer. To learn more, read this week's blog.
Before your blood is given to a patient in need, it will be screened to ensure it is free of some infectious diseases, including:
- Hepatitis B and C
- HTLV types I and II
- West Nile virus
- Chagas disease.
If any are found, you will be notified. In addition, you will be warned to see your doctor if your total cholesterol is high, according to current medical establishment guidelines. More helpful lipid markers such as LDL, HDL and triglycerides are not tested.
Worried that giving blood could put you at risk? The Red Cross assures us that it is taking precautionary measures very seriously and discusses all that it is doing here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/coronavirus--covid-19--and-blood-donation.html
Even healthy people are sometimes rejected as a donors. A common reason is low hemoglobin as measured by a finger prick test. This finding might be worrisome except for the fact that the test is notoriously unreliable. In 1999 the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported widely varying hemoglobin numbers taken from different fingers and different hands of the same person over the course of just a few minutes. Sadly, this imprecise and inaccurate test is still relied on by doctors, hospitals and blood banks. As a result, many thousands of people have not only found they cannot give blood but been misdiagnosed with anemia and prescribed unneeded and harmful iron supplements.
What to do? Offer another finger on the other hand. In all likelihood, the repeat hemoglobin test will come out just fine — rather obvious proof that the test is worthless. To increase the chance that the hemoglobin level will show a high enough reading to begin with, keep your chosen finger warm prior to the test by holding under the armpit until it’s time to be pricked.
If phlebotomists have trouble finding your veins, improve their chances by consuming plenty of liquids the day of and the day before the test. When blood volume goes up, the veins are plumper and easier to access. Although water is the official recommendation, I strongly recommend bone broth, a hydrating elixir with blood building properties.
Finally, make sure you eat well before the donation. Also be sure to bring your own glass bottle of purified water as well as healthy sweet and/or salty food to eat and drink after your donation. This and resting for 15 minutes will reduce the possibility of feeling weak or faint. If you forget to bring your own, the blood bank does provide, but your options will be limited to plastic water bottles, “buttery” popcorn, chips, cookies, Coca Cola and other junk food.
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