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Favorite Thing: The forgotten detox

Last weekend, my wife and I had a wonderful picnic at a nearby park, just the two of us. Our youngest is 13 and we’re getting a taste of life as empty-nesters. We love our kids and our time with them, but it’s a novel treat when we have time to ourselves.

After our picnic lunch we wandered around the park and saw a sign that reminded me of one of the most effective forms of detoxification ever. One of my earliest interest in natural medicine was Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India. Ayurveda had an elaborate system of detoxification called panchakarma, or the five cleansings. One of the five was bloodletting. We often think of bloodletting as quaint ideas from a bygone era but you’d be surprised how much benefit it can give in the right circumstances.

The sign I saw was for a blood drive. We still had some time left in the afternoon with no plans so I decided to go donate.



Did you know that a single donation saves three lives? One of my favorite authors talks about the ethics of doing what we can to help others. If you are just donating money, it currently takes about $3000 to save a human life. But with blood donation, it’s much easier. I’d heard about various benefits to donating blood before, but as I was waiting my turn, I looked up the current research and was blown away.

Heart disease remains the largest killer and blood donation helps it more than anything I’ve seen. Let me give context for the numbers.

Each year someone smokes, they  increase their heart disease risk by 0.9%. That’s bad and we all know it.

Diabetes raises your risk of heart disease by 197%. If you have a good HDL (good cholesterol) your risk may go down by 40%.

Regular blood donation has been shown to lower cardiovascular disease risk by 88%.

Who benefits the most? Menopausal women and men. Women who are menstruating regularly have much less risk of heart disease than men. Once they hit menopause, the benefits seem to vanish. Blood loss appears to be the key.

There are also benefits to lowering the risk of some cancers and possible benefits to lowering the risk of age related macular degeneration.

That’s what I found in medical research. The Red Cross’ signs showed an additional benefit I had never heard before – each donation burns 650 calories!


I’m a maniac about food logging. Once I saw this, I checked myfitnesspal to see if they had an entry for blood donation. Sure enough.


That’s the only ‘food entry’ I’ve ever seen that has a negative calorie value.

Blood donation

  • Save 3 lives per donation
  • Cancer risk reduction
  • Reduces heart disease risk – 88%
  • Burns 650 calories

Who should donate:

  • Men
  • Menopausal women

Who should NOT donate:

  • Those who are low in iron or anemic for other reasons
  • Those whose blood is not suitable to donate
    • Certain medications
    • Infections

To Your Health,


Crashed Balance Packs - Dr. Alan Christianson