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 primarily depends on your diet, and it’s important to ensure you’re within the recommended daily intake unless otherwise advised by a doctor, which typically ranges from 7-18 mg of iron per day. Depending on your current levels, your doctor may recommend taking iron supplements in addition to a well-balanced diet for lower levels or suggest other methods to decrease it if you have higher concentrations. However, it’s crucial to identify the type of iron deficiency you have before proceeding.
There are two main types of iron found in food: heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is sourced from:
- 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
- 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
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.