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Eat Right for Your Blood...Donation

June 14, 2012 by Joanna Drake, Registered Dietitian

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To be honest, it wasn’t something I had thought about. I assumed a blood transfusion would only be necessary in the context of a car accident, cancer or major surgery. Like everyone, I hoped to avoid such a situation. It never occurred to me that childbirth would cause that need.

After an uncomplicated pregnancy, my daughter was born. Immediately after her birth, I started hemorrhaging. My husband and newborn daughter were escorted from the room while a team of specialists went to work. Numerous medical procedures, 12 units of blood and seven hours later, the blood loss had stopped (and they had put Humpty Dumpty back together again). However, it wasn’t just the team of specialists that saved my life. It was also 12 people - strangers to me - who took the time to donate blood that saved my life.

I’m not telling you this to be dramatic. I’m sharing this to remind you of the importance of blood donation. There are many reasons why people don’t donate, but if you knew that donating blood would save the life of someone you know, wouldn’t you do it? According to Canadian Blood Services, 52% of Canadians polled say that “they, or a family member, have needed blood or blood products for surgery or for medical treatment.” The trouble is, the need for blood is usually unexpected. That’s why we all need to give of ourselves so that when our time of need comes, life saving blood is available.

There are several diet and lifestyle factors that are important for making blood donation easier and more successful:

What to Do Why It's Important
Eat an iron rich diet every day.


Iron helps to carry oxygen in the blood. Low blood iron makes people feel tired and they are more likely to become sick. Iron status is checked before every donation to make sure there is enough; people with low iron cannot donate blood.

Many women less than 50 years who are regular blood donors (2-3 blood donations per year) need an iron supplement to keep iron stores high enough to donate blood. Women should speak with their physician before taking a supplement.

Drink extra fluid before and after donating. Being well hydrated increases blood volume. This makes veins easier to find and blood to move more quickly through the body.This makes donating blood faster and easier.

Drinking extra fluid will also help to replace the fluids lost during donation. Individuals who are dehydrated are more likely to faint after donating.

Eat before you donate. Don’t skip meals before donating blood. Your body will need the energy. You will feel better and be less likely to feel light headed after donating if you’ve eaten beforehand.
Avoid eating a very high fat meal (e.g. a large amount of deep fried food) for 3-4 hours before donating. Blood that contains too much circulating fat cannot be used. If too much fat is in the blood, normal blood testing – e.g. infectious disease testing – cannot be done.
Stop and have the snack served immediately after your donation. This will help to prevent light headedness, dizziness and weakness that can sometimes follow donating blood.

It takes about an hour, and while you’ll never know who you end up helping, there is someone who will be eternally grateful for your time and your contribution.

To donate blood you can make an appointment by calling 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236 6283).

Thank you.

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