A Whole New Reason to Pump Iron

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 22:00
iron rich foods to boost hematocrit level

Familiar to every blood donor is the quick little pre-donation fingerstick to make sure your hemoglobin is high enough for you to safely donate. Unfortunatley, more than four percent of RIBC's donors are temporarily deferred because their hemoglobin level is too low. That's about 2,200 donations a year. Dr. Carolyn Young, Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Blood Center, says, "A lower level is the most common reason, especially in women, for getting deferred. We currently use a hemoglobin of 12.5 g/dL for women and 13.0 g/dL for men."

Donors sometimes think getting deferred means they are anemic. That may not be the case at all, rather their levels are not quite high enough to safely spare some red blood cells based on the current criteria. Dr. Young recommends donors take a daily multivitamin with at least 18 mg of iron since they lose about 200-250 mg iron each time they donate. (Do not have dairy products or additional calcium supplements one hour before or 2 hours after taking your multivitamin with iron. The calcium may interfere with iron absorption). The iron value is listed on the nutrition label. This recommendation does not extend to donors with hemochromatosis or other reasons for too much iron.

The Rhode Island Blood Center recommends doing two things to keep your hemoglobin levels up: 

1. Take a daily multi-vitamin with at least 18 mgs of iron. Do not have dairy products or additional calcium supplements one hour before or 2 hours after taking your multivitamin with iron. The calcium may interfere with iron absorption.

2. Increase the amount of iron rich foods you regularly eat in your diet.

RIBC blood donor Joy Vaudreuil, who has been deferred for low hemoglobin/hematrocrit many times is proof the advice works. She says, "Even though the deferral was only temporary, I was feeling a bit rejected each time I couldn't give. They told me what foods to eat and to start taking a multivitamin, and I haven't had a problem giving since!" She's glad she kept trying and did not give up on saving lives through blood donation.

Learn more about foods you can eat boost your iron levels.  

Get tasty recipes from Chef Frank Terranova of Johnson & Wales University to help boost iron levels.