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The Blood Donation Diet

Coast guard donates blood

Photo © ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/43876580@N07/##Coast Guard District 11 Public Affairs##

A few weeks ago I made an appointment to donate blood at United Blood Services. If there’s one thing that makes me totally uncomfortable, it’s needles. I hate needles. I hate mosquitoes. My skin is there for a reason, and that reason does not include getting poked, by human or otherwise.

However, I decided recently that I really should get over myself and make an effort to donate blood regularly. (It saves lives you know. Yes, plural. One blood donation can be separated into its various parts and used to treat multiple people.) If it wasn’t for my hangup about needles, giving blood would probably hover somewhere between boring and a little bit fun — mostly because after donation, you have free reign to munch on the likes of these with zero guilt in order to replenish your blood sugar levels:

Oreo cookies

Photo © ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/torbenh/##Torben Bjørn Hansen##

Sign. Me. UP!

Prior to my donation, I got a good night’s rest, did a little yoga in the morning, drank about a liter of water, and had a filling, moderately low fat breakfast. My donation was a breeze. Because I treated myself well, from poke to finish the actual donation part only took 7 minutes, and I didn’t feel lightheaded or sick to my stomach.

It was the best I’d been to myself for weeks.

As I waited for my appointment, I found it odd that I don’t treat myself that way every day.

Why not? If I could feel great while having my life force sucked straight out of my veins, why can’t I feel great all the time?

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat nourishing, lower fat foods
  • Eat foods rich in iron (mainly meat and seafood — sorry veg-heads) and foods that help you absorb iron (like fruits and veggies rich in vitamins C and B)
  • Take 15 minutes to sit down and relax (with or without a cookie!) when your body needs a rest

It seems like common sense, but if it was that common, the blood donation organizations wouldn’t be constantly reminding you to do these things before and after donating.

If you’ve never donated blood before, it’s not that bad, and it’s totally worth it. You can only donate once every eight weeks anyway, and hospitals are constantly in blood shortages. A lot of donation organizations go so far as to offer rewards to donors. In the summer, my donation center usually runs a “pint for a pint” program (donate a pint of blood and get a coupon for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream). Via the website you can earn and redeem points towards movie tickets and stuff. They’ll even track your cholesterol levels for you.

But mostly, it’s about saving lives. A few minutes of discomfort for you could be the world for someone in need.

And might I add that you feel like a total rock star afterward? I mean, seriously, you save freaking lives. You’re like the Batman of Blood, or the Han Solo of Hemoglobin, or — you get the idea!

What’s your blood type? (I’m O+, the most common type.)
When was the last time you donated blood?

12 thoughts on “The Blood Donation Diet

    1. It’s not necessarily a bad excuse. One time in college I had finally worked myself up enough to go to the bloodmobile by myself (prior to that I had always gone with my brothers). I was so incredibly nervous that they suggested I didn’t donate, lol. I’m not sure if it had to do with increased blood pressure or if they were worried I’d faint on them or something, but anxiety is a legitimate reason not to donate.

      If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, I’d suggest going with a friend. It’s not so scary that way. 🙂

    1. LOL! I don’t know my blood type horoscope either. I thought it was interesting that Wikipedia considers it “scientific racism.” I guess people must take it pretty seriously!

  1. Nice job donating! And great excuse to eat cookies. 🙂

    I’ve never been able to donate for various reasons. Once, embarrassingly, because I didn’t meet the weight requirement. Like not being tall enough to go on the big-kid rides. 🙁 And then subsequently having visited malarial countries every year. Oh well!

    Thanks for putting up with your needle aversion to donate. It’s really cool that you do it.

  2. I’ve always had issues with donating. When I was in college, I was too skinny. Then I was aenemic, then I was too soon after a semester in China (you have to wait for awhile to see if you develop some horrible blood-bourne illness)…. I have given blood a few times and always felt virtuous afterwards. I’m an O-, the universal donor and fairly rare.

    But then my husband and I moved to England in the early 1990s. Mad Cow Disease was the scare du jour. We did our research and decided to not eat organ meats or hamburger, but the steaks were really cheap so we did eat them at least once a week. Now we can never give blood again b/c there might be prions lurking in there waiting to rear up and give some poor person Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Sigh.

    On a bizarre aside, we did adopt a former stray cat in England and brought her with us to the US. Her catfood was confiscated at US Customs b/c it contained minute quantites of gelatin that might have been from beef…. not sure how humans would contract CJD from cat food — it’s not spread through the saliva of insane cats. In the end, she did grow increasingly confused and she might have had mad cat disease (not unheard of in the UK)… poor kitty.

    1. Wow, I had no idea that eating steak in England in the ’90s permanently took you off the donor list! :O I’m also surprised that being too skinny to donate is a problem. Right now I’m actually heavy enough to donate double red cells… >_> But I’m hesitant to do so because it takes longer, and also because part of the process returns some of your plasma back to you after it’s cooled off a little bit, which I’ve heard makes you really chilly.

      My brother is O-. He’s the main reason I donate… he was the one who drug me out for my first donation. He’s finishing up his medical residency on the East Coast now.

  3. I’ve always wanted to be a regular donor and don’t have an issue with needles (thank you thyroid testing), but I’ve never actually done it. I think in college I never bothered due to anemia, but I’m not sure that’s still the case.

    I see the blood donor people out on the streets here a lot. They were actually out in full force on my way to work yesterday! I should really check what the guidelines for donation in Japan are…

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever been anemic. I saw some photos on Flickr of some pretty swanky Japanese donation centers. 🙂 Do you have bloodmobiles like in the U.S., or is it more like guys on street corners handing out “Donate today at our facility” fliers?

      1. They stand on the corners with big signs yelling, mostly. 😀

        I’m pretty sure they have mobile donation centers and such as well, but the easiest way to get people is to converge on the stations. I actually had no idea what they were at first, since they blend in with all the other people standing around outside the stations yelling and handing out tissues and fliers. >_>

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