The Gift of BloodMar 28, 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. Despite orders for us to stay mostly at home, the U.S. Surgeon General has urged us to go out to give blood because of worries about blood shortages. “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.” I don’t agree with Dr. Adams on everything, but I do on this one.
Blood is needed year round, but especially during times of emergency. Most people know that 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 the components of red cells, platelets and plasma, it can help several patients with different medical needs.
Vivalant (formerly United Blood Services) refers to donors as “heroes,” but the fact is we benefit greatly from giving blood. Blood donation gives us the opportunity to 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 and helps prevent “rusting.” Regular blood donations lower our 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 visible signs of excess iron, but the problem is not just skin deep. As we grow iron-toxic with age, cells throughout the body become clogged with lipofuscin (iron-oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids), reducing their efficiency and contributing to fatigue and disease.
Reducing iron overload might even be the crucial missing piece in healing “leaky gut” syndrome. The reason is pathogens use iron to multiply and thrive, thus upsetting the balance of good and bad gut flora. 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 that seems like discrimination not only against the fashionably thin but also young adults at a healthy weight, there’s a reason for it; those who are slim, young or both are more prone to fainting.
Before taking your blood, technicians will 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 the use of certain prescription or over-the-counter meds, street drugs, travel abroad, recent vaccinations, piercings and tattoos. Some of the rules are for the donor’s benefit; others to protect the recipients.
The rule against donating if you’ve been vaccinated recently has likely contributed to the ongoing shortage of blood. Because many of us in the natural health and “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.
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 visit your doctor if your total cholesterol is high, according to current medical establishment guidelines. This is promoted as a public service though more helpful basic lipid markers such as LDL, HDL and triglycerides are not tested. Setting off alarm bells based on high total cholesterol alone is much ado about nothing, a topic I’ve covered often and elsewhere. In any event, cholesterol level does not affect your blood’s value for transfusion.
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 to keep us all safe here:
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 at least occasionally been turned down as donors. Worse, they may be misdiagnosed by their doctors — or by themselves — as anemic 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 fallible. To increase the chance that the hemoglobin level will show a high enough reading to begin with, keep the chosen finger warm prior to the test by holding under the armpit until it’s time to be pricked.
If your veins are small and hard to find, improve the phlebotomist’s chances by consuming plenty of liquids both the day of and the day before your donation. When blood volume goes up, the veins are plumper and easier to access. Although water is the official recommendation, I favor bone broth, for its hydrating, strengthening and blood building properties.
Finally, make sure you eat well before the donation. I also recommend bringing 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.