Blood Donation and Iron Deficiency in Adolescent Females

In the US alone, every year about 7 million people donate blood, which is a good and safe thing to do. You can save someone’s life without any problems, unless you have a medical condition or you’re an adolescent female. The latest studies show that young women are at a high risk of getting iron deficiency that can damage their brain development in the long run.

As to now, the most dangerous thing donation-wise I thought about was fainting during the procedure, but it turns out you should only start donating blood when you’re out of adolescent age (especially if you’re female).

Why Blood Donation May Cause Iron Deficiency

While your body is developing, you have less amount of blood and, logically, less iron. When donating blood, you usually give about 200-250 milligrams of iron, no matter what your age is, so you’re already deprived until your body restores itself. As your blood volume is lower, the proportion of hemoglobin loss is larger than that in adult people.

Hemoglobin transports vital oxygen for your brain to develop and function properly. So, with regular iron drop, the amount of the overall iron level surrogate called serum ferritin also drops, leading to possible chronic iron deficiency. Females are more at risk than males in this scenario because of monthly menstrual blood loss.

Improving Blood Iron Levels

Improving blood iron levels is mostly connected to your diet, but make sure you stay in the norm unless prescribed otherwise by a doctor. The norm is 7-18 mg of iron per day.

There are two types of iron in food: heme and non-heme. You can get the first type from:

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Organ meats

As much as 40% of heme iron is absorbed by your body as soon as you eat it. About 10-15% of our daily iron consumption come from heme iron sources unless you’re vegan.

Non-heme iron comes from:

  • Rice, oats, wheat
  • Spinach and kale
  • Beans
  • Dried fruit

This type of iron isn’t absorbed as efficiently but makes up to 90% of our daily iron consumption.

There are also certain supplements you can find in food that will help your organism absorb more iron in the long run. They include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Beta-Carotene

If you are at risk or iron deficiency or already have it, it’s possible to make its effect on you less harmful by adjusting your diet to make sure you get enough iron and other vitamins and minerals to sustain your organism.

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