When I originally wrote this article back in 2008, blood supply levels were at a record low. Now, 3 years later, blood level supplies are still dangerously low. Here’s a link to a Fox23.com story entitled Blood Supply at Emergency Levels after Winter Storms. The story was last updated in February of 2011. It seems that nothing much has changed (unfortunately).
In addition to trying to get people to donate blood, donation centers have to weed out donors who do not meet the minimum blood donation requirements. If you wish to donate blood you have to meet the weight, age and a host of requirements. One of the most important requirements is meeting the proper hemoglobin level. A blood donor’s hemoglobin level must be at least 12.5 grams per deciliter (g/dL). If your count is too low, you’ll be turned away.
Low hemoglobin count need not be a permanent condition, however. With a few dietary changes, it is possible to increase your hemoglobin count to reach the level required to donate blood within a matter of weeks.
Here are a few dietary changes you can make to increase your hemoglobin count.
Rule out Serious Medical Conditions
Go to the doctor. Don’t modify your diet until you get the all clear from your physician. Your doctor will be able to determine whether or not your low iron count is a result of poor eating habits or symptoms of a more serious underlying condition. Wait until you get the all systems go from your doctor before making the changes.
Foods that Increase Iron Levels
Consume iron rich foods such as clams, oysters, lean beef and beans. All of these foods have differing degrees of iron that help to boost the bloods iron levels. The American Red Cross has a rather extensive listing of iron-rich foods. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of ways to boost your iron without consuming animal products.
Supplements to Boost Hemoglobin Count
Another way to boost hemoglobin levels is to take iron supplements. Be sure to do some research prior to taking iron supplements. Some people find that iron tablets cause stomach upset and constipation. If you are subject to such symptoms, look for slow release iron supplements. Since slow release iron tablets enter the system at a slower rate, the chance of stomach upset and constipation is reduced. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements has a rather extensive fact sheet that discusses iron supplements and iron rich foods.
Whether eating iron rich foods or taking supplements, increase your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron.
Foods that Hinder or Block Iron Absorption
Avoid foods that block the body’s ability to absorb iron. Coffee, tea, milk and fiber are known slow down and sometimes block the body’s ability to absorb iron. Therefore, refrain from ingesting iron rich foods at the same time as iron blocking foods. Allow several hours to elapse between eating an iron blocking food and an iron rich food. In other words, don’t wash your iron supplements down with a swig of coffee.
Within a few weeks, not only should your hemoglobin increase, but you might find that you’re a bit more energetic. People deficient in iron tend to experience tiredness and fatigue. A boost in iron may eliminate that tired feeling.
After successfully increasing the hemoglobin levels to a minimum of 12.5 g/dL, it’s time to contact the American Red Cross to donate your iron-rich blood. You can contact them by visiting their website or call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE for information on local blood drives.