Can You Donate Blood if You Have Autoimmune Disease?

Originally posted Nov. 14, 2014 –

Yes.  Maybe.  It depends.

A couple of weeks ago I donated blood for the first time ever in my life.  Yes, the first time ever.  When I was a teenager, my doctor told me I shouldn’t donate, and through my 20s as well.  In my 30s I was getting tattoos so wouldn’t have been allowed to donate.  Finally though, at the age of 47, I was motivated by my Mother’s bout with cancer last year, and her need for so many blood transfusions.  Also by a friend who a couple of years ago had leukemia and also needed transfusions.  I am healthy, I have blood, people need it, so I went to give.

If you have celiac disease, and you are not currently battling anemia because of it, you can donate blood.  Generally speaking, anyone with low haemoglobin or iron levels will be turned away.  If you are currently *not* diagnosed with any autoimmune disease and your haemoglobin blood test is low when you go in to donate, you should go see your doctor to find out why.  If there are things going wrong in your body there is usually a reason.  Don’t wait.  Go now.  Same if your blood pressure or pulse is too high or too low.  Make a doctor’s appointment.  Now.

Celiacs can donate blood and any organs, but not bone marrow/stem cells.  There is at least one documented case of celiac disease being transmitted via bone marrow transplant.  It was familial, and it was likely that the recipient already had the celiac gene.  The donor was a diagnosed celiac, and the recipient was her brother.  This may also be true of other autoimmune diseases.

If you have autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto’s, you can donate blood if your thyroid levels are within normal range.  If you have active Grave’s disease however, you should not donate.  I have Grave’s in remission, no active symptoms, thyroid levels within healthy range.  No antibodies present (fingers crossed!)

If you are on immunosupressive drugs, you should not donate blood.  If you have active Rheumatoid Arthritis, Addison’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis, you may not be able to donate.  If you are on other medications, you may not be able to donate.  If however you have autoimmune, and are off all medications and asymptomatic, you may be able to donate blood.  The intake nurse at the clinic will have the list of medications and illnesses that will determine your eligibility.

I researched this before I went, because that’s the kind of person I am.  I need to know what’s going to happen, and why.  My main concern of course was the “cookies and juice” after donating.  Why do they do that?  What about us celiacs who follow a primal lifestyle and can’t eat the cookies, and would gag at the juice?  So, I went to where I always go first when I want some primal info, Mark’s Daily Apple.

Mark was asked that question and his response was that the cookies and juice are not exactly “to get your blood sugar back up”, but because they want you to sit and relax a bit to make sure you’re not going to pass out on your way out the door!  

So here’s my trick.  I was going with a friend, so I picked her up, and we went out for breakfast.  A Big Fatty Breakfast.  I had a 3 eggs omelet, with a bowl of fruit.  Plus, I hydrated.  A lot!  I took an apple with me, as well as a bottle of water for afterward.

During donating I had no problems, until the last minute or so, when my arm started to go a bit numb.  I sort of expected this, so I wasn’t worried.  It went away as soon as the nurse released the tourniquet.  I sat for a little while to eat my apple…I wasn’t even hungry after that big second breakfast! and had a few sips of water.  I drove my friend home, drove myself home, and came home and did a full day of stuff.  Nothing too strenuous, but basically regular Saturday stuff.  I never felt light headed, but I was a bit sleepy.  That was it.  

I received a phone call a couple of weeks later to let me know that I was O+ blood type, which makes me special 🙂  I can donate to more than 80% of the Canadian population, anyone with a Positive blood type.  That’s pretty cool.  It also let me know that an ancestral diet is the best for me. I never knew my blood type before, but now that I know I’m an O, it all really makes sense.  

Do you donate blood?  Why or why not?  


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