Hemoglobin too low to donate blood

weedwomanMay 8, 2004

I'm one of the many people who donated blood for the first time on Sept 11. Since then I've been donating 2 or 3 times a year. Last time I went they had to try twice to get hemoglobin readings high enough for me to donate; I went this week and they told me I couldn't - you need 2 out of 3 over 12.5 and mine were 12.1, 12.3, and 12.7.

I'm a 50 year old woman, in menopause, in good health. I've been a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian for about 16 years, so it's not surprising I'm a little on the low side. I know this isn't low enough to be considered anemia, and it certainly isn't causing any symptoms; but it's annoying to go to the trouble of going over there and then being turned away. I've looked for info and found some, including a good thread a couple months ago on this forum.

Anyway, my question is this. How long does it take the hemoglobin level to reflect what you eat? I had a cup of black tea, then lunch, then another cup of tea and then went to donate. Were those cups of tea enough to knock the hemoglobin level down? If I loaded up on iron rich food for a day or 2 before I went in to donate, would that put the level up? Or is it more a reflection of your overall diet, health, etc, and there aren't any short term 'fixes'?

Thanks.

WW

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PeaBee4

Think of it this way:

Hemoglobin is the method by which the body carries oxygen to all parts of the body....especially the brain.

Low hemoglobin, less oxygen to the brain.

If your hemoglobing is low and you donate blood, you will have even less oxygen to the brain until you replenish the red blood cells. Is that what you want?

It would be a good idea to try to change your diet around until you can get your hemoglobin up. Then you will be able to donate blood without effecting your general well being. Also think about what would happen if you needed surgery or had a bad accident.

You may not really be anemic at this time, but you are close enough to it that it wouldn't take much to get you there.

I think it is just wonderful that you have been able to donate in the past. Please try to get more iron in your diet so that you can continue this very worthwhile activity.
PB

    Bookmark   May 9, 2004 at 9:35AM
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lazy_gardens

"I've been a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian for about 16 years, so it's not surprising I'm a little on the low side. I know this isn't low enough to be considered anemia, and it certainly isn't causing any symptoms; but it's annoying to go to the trouble of going over there and then being turned away."

Improve your diet ... you are barely making ends meet on your iron intake if you are menopausal and still too low to donate.

"I've been a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian for about 16 years, so it's not surprising I'm a little on the low side."

Making hemoglobin takes basically iron and protein. Both can be in short supply on this kind of diet. Increase your protein intake and take low-dose iron supplements or start cooking in cast-iron cookware.

Hemoglobin and blood cells are continually being produced, but it takes a couple of weeks to boost your hemoglobin by a couple of tenths ... if someone is seriously anemic the usually rebound faster.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2004 at 9:01PM
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weedwoman

Hmm, I guess I can't blame it on a couple cups of tea if it takes a couple weeks to boost it a couple tenths. Guess I will have to start paying more attention to my diet. I hate that.

Anybody know of a site that tells you the iron content of various foods? Not the RDA, but how many mg are in a serving? (Although I think there are lists like that in my ragged old 'Joy of Cooking' if there's none on line...)

Thanks.

WW

    Bookmark   May 12, 2004 at 4:32PM
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weedwoman

FWIW...
I went back to try again in mid July and was high enough to donate - the first sample they took was 13.1. They said to try to eat a lot of iron rich foods for about a week before you go in to donate - they gave me a list and it included beans, fortified food (the frozen waffles I eat all the time are iron fortified), and green leafy vegetables among other things. I didn't really do anything except cut back some on the black tea drinking.

I'd still be interested in a website listing iron and other nutrients of food, if anybody has one.

Donating blood amounts to a free mini physical. They tell you your blood pressure, hemoglobin, temperature, and the place I go puts your cholesterol reading on the little receipt they send you after you donate. Another little incentive.

WW

    Bookmark   August 6, 2004 at 10:09PM
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morz8

When I needed to donate blood for myself twice in a month, pre surgery, I was told to eat red meat several times per week (probably not what you wanted to hear) and raisins. That the iron tablets, unless timed released and very low dose would probably make me feel sick, and I wouldn't feel hungry enough to eat an overall healthy diet (Puget Sound Blood Bank). At 5'3" and wearing heavy clothing to make the 110# cutoff weight, I managed the 2 units fine...on steak and raisins.

Here is a link that might be useful: A few iron rich foods

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 12:32AM
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weedwoman

Thanks, that's a good chart. Looks like prune juice is the way to go-- in more ways than one (sorry, I couldn't resist.) I didn't realized dried fruits were so high in iron, wonder why that is.

WW

    Bookmark   August 14, 2004 at 9:32PM
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