Plasma Donation - Increasing Your Hematocrit and Protein Numbers
Bring Up The Numbers
If you’re considering donating plasma, or, are a current donor and have been “deferred” due to low hematocrit (Ht or HCT) or protein levels, here are some helpful hints that I’ve learned during my 5 years as a plasma donor.
First off, we’ll look at your low hematocrit level. What is hematocrit? Simply put, it’s the volume of red blood cells within your blood. The total volume of your hematocrit will depend on the number of red blood cells and the size of those red blood cells.
If you’ve had a low hematocrit level, this is due to a low red blood cell volume.The best way to increase this, is to increase your iron intake.Something as simple as taking an iron supplement may be enough to boost your levels enough to qualify for your next donation, however, if you’re like me, I needed to alter my diet to bring my levels up enough.Here are a few neat facts I’ve learned over the years about increasing hematocrit levels:
- Your body needs vitamin C to absorb iron
- Exposure to sunlight may give your body the vitamin D it needs, but it also depletes your vitamin C levels, therefore, reducing your body’s ability to absorb iron
What are good sources of iron? Here are the top 10 iron-rich foods:
- Red meat (wild game such as elk and deer has a higher level of iron than beef, but emu is even higher than elk or deer)
- Egg yolks
- Dark, leafy greens such as spinach (remember Popeye) and collards
- Dried fruit like prunes and raisins
- Iron-enriched cereals and grains, be sure to check the label
- Mollusks; oysters, clams and scallops
- Turkey or chicken giblets
- Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans
I’ve found that some protein bars are also high in iron.This is great if you also have a low protein count.Check the labels, you may be surprised.You’ll want to combine one or more of the iron-rich foods above with a good vitamin C source as well.
Here are some foods high in vitamin C:
- Bell peppers (yellow, green and red)
- Brussels sprouts
- Oranges and orange juice (juice has higher levels)
- Grapefruit and grapefruit juice (pink or white, again juice has higher levels)
Keep in mind, these are just the top sources, you can take a supplement of either, but I’ve found that consuming them in food form produces better results. Also, check out the labels of some fruit and vegetable juices for their vitamin C content. One of my favorites is the V-8 Splash. It offers a good amount of vitamin C, and I don’t have to choke down brussels sprouts.
If you have a low protein level you’ll want to start incorporating some of these high protein foods into your diet:
- Cheese (in moderation the day of your donation as it will make your plasma cloudy and thicker
- Beans (soybeans, lentils, kidney), the larger and more mature, the higher the protein levels
- Lean veal and beef (once again, wild game has higher levels of protein, and emu offering even more than the others)
- Roasted pumpkin, squash and watermelon seeds
- Lean meats (chicken, lamb, pork, turkey)
- Fish (tuna, anchovies, salmon)
- Fish eggs (roe and caviar)
- Yeast extract spread (marmite)
- Lobster and crab
- Lentils, pulses and peanuts
It’s been my personal experience, that consuming these high-iron and high-protein diets the day before my plasma donation gave me the best results, the morning of or too far ahead of time will not be as effective.
I hope these little tips for low hematocrit and protein levels helps get your levels within the acceptable range, and your donation process goes smoothly.