WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Firstly, don’t panic – this doesn’t mean you don’t have enough blood!
The concept of Blood in Chinese medicine is more of an understanding of the ‘energy’ of Blood, the nutrients it is made up from, and how much the digestive process (Spleen Qi) is able to extract from food. Kidney Essence in Chinese medicine also has a part to play in this process of making Blood but for now, let’s focus on what your symptoms are and what you can do to help yourself.
Blood Deficiency may be linked with anaemia but you don’t have to be diagnosed with anaemia to be Blood Deficient in Chinese medicine (yep, confusing I know!).
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Blood deficiency is a Chinese medicine term that encapsulates a whole host of symptoms including dry eyes, floaters in your vision, dizziness, insomnia, pale complexion, pale tongue, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, unusual hair loss, premature greying and thinning of hair and trembling or numbness in the arms of hands [i] . A sense of free-floating anxiety and not feeling embodied can also be a symptom. You don’t need to have all these symptoms to have a diagnosis of Blood Deficiency.[ii]
HOW DOES BLOOD BECOME DEFICIENT?
Blood Deficiency usually occurs against a background of Spleen Qi Deficiency. As I mentioned previously, this is related to your digestion and how well it is working.
Blood Deficiency may also be caused by long-term illness, poor nutrition, stress, chronic worry, or overwork (these last four being disappointingly prevalent in our modern world). Blood can be lost in childbirth, due to heavy menstrual periods and also through injury. In these cases, a period of renewal is always advised to replenish the loss.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Have acupuncture! Also – eat your greens!
Eating a diet rich in sources of iron is important, with daily consumption of leafy greens a priority. You can also include seaweeds, legumes (such as chick peas and lentils), grains (including whole grain rice, oats, barley, quinoa and couscous), molasses, nuts and seeds, eggs and fermented soya products such as tofu and tempeh. Sprouted seeds and micro-algae such as spirulina are also recommended to give yourself a boost: you can sprout seeds yourself with just a jam jar and a dark cupboard. For those who eat it, meat provides one of the easiest sources of Blood enhancement with regular consumption of small amounts of good-quality meat being very helpful [iii].
A rather handy guideline is that the dark colouring of a food is a good indication of its power to nourish the Blood; dark berries, dark red and black beans, black sesame seeds, beetroot and so on are considered very nourishing.
FOODS TO AVOID
It’s the usual culprits I’m afraid…..Sugar creates a sudden imbalance in the composition of the Blood; alcohol creates Heat which in excess can exhaust the Blood; chemical additives accumulate as toxins in the Blood and need to expelled (more work for the body!). Sea salt is generally beneficial, although in excess it weakens the Blood. Too much fat will obstruct the Blood and inhibit distribution of nutrients [iv].
SPLEEN QI DEFICIENCY
As Blood Deficiency often occurs against a background of Spleen Qi Deficiency it is important when using the Chinese medicine system, to consider how you can strengthen your digestion.
In Chinese medicine there are flavours associated with each element (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) with the flavour of the Earth element (and therefore the Spleen) being ‘Sweet’. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you should eat more cake! In fact, refined sugar weakens the Spleen and can therefore cause accumulation of ‘Damp’ (that’s a topic for another article!).
The Spleen loves the ‘Sweet’ flavours of starchy vegetables, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, yam, carrots. Also, rice, lentils., chickpeas, oats, spelt, dates, figs, cherry, molasses, herring, mackerel, beef (not much is sweet about those last three admittedly, but they still fall into the ‘Sweet’ category!).
The Spleen also benefits from mildly pungent spices such as nutmeg, aniseed, black pepper fennel and cinnamon [v].
Well-cooked soups and stews are considered nourishing to the Spleen, due to the fact that they have already begun the digestive process so your body can more readily access the good bits. For this reason, raw and cold foods should be avoided when focusing on strengthening the Spleen Qi.
Regular acupuncture can help to treat symptoms of Blood Deficiency directly as well as addressing the underlying causes – which I will determine during a consultation with you. Please feel free to contact me on 07933797829, via my Facebook page or via my contact page.
I also heartily recommend a great recipe book for Chinese medicine called ‘Recipes for Self-Healing’ by Daverick Leggit. It explains the various imbalances there are in Chinese medicine and their causes, and provides some delicious and restorative recipes to support your healing.
[ii] Leggett. D 1999, Recipes for Self-Healing, Totness, Meridian Press, p 85
[iii] Pitchford. P, 2002, Healing With Wholefoods (Third Edition), Berkley, California, North Atlantic Books, p 388
[v] Leggett. D 1999, Recipes for Self-Healing, Totness, Meridian Press, p 80