Things a Blood Donor Can Do Before and After a Donation
Published | 6 min read
Blood donation is a noble act that saves lives. Did you know that a blood donor can also experience health benefits if they donate regularly?
Becoming a blood donor today can save your life tomorrow. Yes, you read that right. A readily available blood supply is necessary to treat people with various injuries or health complications.
People who benefit from blood donations include women who suffer pregnancy and childbirth complications, children with severe anaemia, people who require surgery, were involved in an accident, or are undergoing cancer treatment. In addition, being a blood donor can be good for your health as well.
Does this pique your interest? Read on to discover these benefits and the steps you can take to prepare as a blood donor. You’ll also learn several tips to help you feel rejuvenated after donating blood.
How the Chinese System of Medicine Views Blood
In Western medicine, blood is looked at from a cellular level. Meanwhile, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) refers to blood as a denser form of qi (vital life force) and a substance that’s inseparable from qi. It’s also believed that blood nourishes the organs and enables qi production.
However, anxiety, worry, overthinking, overworking, and consuming a diet that lacks nutrition can contribute to Blood Deficiency. Blood loss due to menstruation, childbirth, and internal and external bleeding may also cause the syndrome’s onset.
Consequently, it’ll lead to symptoms like a pale tongue, dry skin, hair loss, weakness, inability to focus, and insomnia.
Why You Should Be a Blood Donor
There are plenty of benefits if you opt to be a blood donor, in addition to saving a life.
It doubles as a complimentary health screening
To ensure that you’re fit enough for the procedure, your vital signs will be examined by an on-site medical practitioner beforehand. The examination may help identify dangerous health conditions like high blood pressure or heart arrhythmia.
This will also reveal your blood type. Being aware of this information can be useful if you need to undergo surgery or a blood transfusion procedure in the future.
It can lower your risk of multiple, potentially fatal illnesses
Regular blood donation can lower blood viscosity, which relates to stroke, a heart attack, and the formation of blood clots. It can also help people with hereditary hemochromatosis. Hemochromatosis describes an excessive build-up of iron, which can lead to heart attacks.
Too much iron in the body can also damage the liver, provoking the onset of hepatitis C and alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases. Hence, blood donations can decrease the amount of iron in the body, helping to prevent hemochromatosis and liver conditions.
Reduces body constitution imbalances
TCM believes that blood donation may also reduce your risk of body constitution imbalances. A study showed that a Qi (vital life force) Deficiency was more apparent in non-blood donors as compared to people who donated blood one to four times. Likewise, Yang (active energy) Deficiency and Blood Stasis was more likely to affect non-blood donors and people who donated one to four times than people who’ve donated blood more than 10 times.
According to TCM, donating 200-400 millilitres of blood once every two years – not more frequently – isn’t a problem and may even enhance the body’s ability to produce more blood.
Steps to Take Before Donating Blood
The first step you must take before a blood donation is to verify your eligibility. Keep in mind that there are different criteria to become a blood donor and the donation of plasma or platelets (apheresis donation).
If you’re donating blood, you must:
- Be between 17 to 60 years of age
- Be residing in Malaysia for at least one year (for non-citizens)
- Have no history of chronic medical illnesses such as hepatitis B and C, cancer and cardiac disease, to mention a few
- Be a minimum weight of 45 kilograms (kg)
- Have a minimum of five hours of sleep before the donation
- Not be fasting
- Not be on long-term prescription medications
- Abstain from alcohol within a 24-hour period before the donation
If you’re donating plasma, platelets, or both, be sure that:
- You’re below 55 years of age
- Be a minimum weight of 45 kilograms (kg)
- You’ve donated whole blood at least twice previously, with the last donation happening within a six-month period prior
- Your arm has a firm, large, and palpable veins
According to TCM, if you have a Qi, Blood, Yin or Yang Deficiency, or any combination of those, you shouldn’t be a blood donor.
The second step to becoming a blood donor is to have a sufficient level of iron and vitamin B complex in the body. “Increase your intake of red meats and organs, beans, and leafy green vegetables in the weeks before donating. It’ll help to replenish nutrient depletion before and after the procedure is complete. Eat foods that contain vitamin C to encourage the absorption of iron from non-meat sources,” advises Eu Yan Sang’s Senior Nutritionist Salome Tham.
The third step is to get enough rest, stay hydrated and eat regularly a day before the donation happens. It’s also advisable to have a full meal or light snack three hours before donating.
Dr Zho Shigao, deputy director of the Internal Medicine Department of Longhua Hospital, attached to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, says donors should avoid vigorous sports and get plenty of rest for two weeks before donating blood. They should avoid cold temperatures and cold yin energy foods. This will help ensure the quality of donated blood and quick recovery.
Steps to Take After Donating Blood
Rest up to 15 minutes on the donor bed before leaving the venue. If you’re experiencing symptoms like vomiting, dizziness or physical weakness, notify volunteers or nursing staff on duty immediately.
Load up on foods and beverages
It’s also good to drink lots of water and eat light yet satiating snacks, such as bananas, buns, or sandwiches, while you rest. Drink plenty of fluids for at least half a day after getting home. Avoid alcoholic beverages within the first few hours, and strenuous physical activities within 24 hours after a donation.
TCM states that blood comes from food and is composed of nutrition and fluids. The stomach and Spleen turn the foods into jing (essence) and then into the blood. If both these organ systems function well, a blood donation can be regarded merely as an accelerated metabolic process.
Use blood-nourishing herbs
TCM also places importance on nourishing blood after a donation. To this effect, Miss Tham recommends consuming herbal teas prepared with brown sugar or jujubes (da zao, 大枣). You may also use Chinese yam (shan yao, 山药) and lotus seeds (lian zi, 莲子) to strengthen the Spleen.
Astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), Chinese Angelica root (dang gui, 当归), and jujubes can be used to alleviate post-donation physical weakness. The ingredients can also be used to improve your recovery by correcting blood and Qi (vital life force) Deficiencies.
If you’ve made the decision to become a blood donor, kudos! Take comfort in knowing that the right habits before and after a donation can help you stay healthy. Speak to a TCM practitioner if you do decide to use herbs with herbal formulas or ingredients to regulate any post-procedure body imbalances.
- World Health Organization. 2022. Blood products: Blood donation. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 2022. The Surprising Benefits of Donating Blood. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- Rasmussen University. 2018. 6 Surprising Benefits of Donating Blood. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- National Library of Medicine. 2016. The Role of Iron and Iron Overload in Chronic Liver Disease. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- MyHealth. BLOOD DONATION. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- Health Sciences Authority. Blood donation process – How to prepare. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- China.org.cn. Blood: The mother of qi – Why donating is a big deal in China. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- ResearchGate. 2017. Traditional Chinese Medicine Constitution of Unpaid Blood Donation Population. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
- MyHealth. BLOOD DONATION. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]7. Health Sciences Authority. Blood donation process – How to prepare. [online] [Accessed 19 August 2022]
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