A lot of women that come for treatment in the clinic, especially women in their 30’s tod 40’s, are presenting with classic symptoms of blood deficiency. I would like to explain here what I mean when I use the Chinese Term ‘blood deficiency’ and give you an idea of how to change your diet to help you with symptoms such as dry hair and skin, or tiredness and dizziness resulting from this condition.
In Chinese medicine the term ‘blood deficient’ is different from the meaning attached to it in western medicine. Chinese medicine it is not necessarily about chemistry. In Chinese Medicine the approach is more about organising signs and symptoms to analyse what is going on. While in western medicine the GP will look for signs of anaemia and take a blood test looking for a specific deficiency of Hematocrit (the percentage of red blood cells) and your haemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein in the blood) a Chinese doctor will look at your complexion, tongue, pulse and ask you about all the signs and symptoms that you may have.
Signs and symptoms of blood deficiency:
Pale complexion, pale lips, dizziness, poor memory, numbness, blurred vision or spots, insomnia, amenorrhea or scanty periods and depression or anxiety. A woman that suffers from blood deficiency for a long time could also have signs of dry skin, dry hair and even some type of skin disease, Your tongue may look pale and slightly dry while your pulse may feel choppy or fine. Of course if you are already diagnosed with anaemia it is useful to know and likewise for your blood tests, they are important. But in Chinese medicine we are trying to detect the imbalances in the body before they are more serious, or before they are showing on tests.
It is important to say that suffering from ‘blood deficiency’ does not mean that you have to show all the signs described above all together and you may be showing other signs as well, but it is a good example of a typical collection of possible symptoms indicating blood deficiency.
Getting you on the right track
In order to start building your blood and helping to get your body back into balance and to make you feel well and vibrant again, I can use specific points for blood tonification. For example – Bl17 is a strong and influential point to invigorate the blood which is located on your back combined with other points that are more specific for your symptoms i.e. – St36 in your leg for your energy levels or Ht 7 in your wrist for any anxiety you may experience.
I will probably recommend adding to your diet specific foods to encourage a healthy blood and increase the absorption of those foods. There is a correlation between your digestive system and the creation of blood. Eating the right foods is not always enough, I need to build the ‘stomach/Spleen Qi’ and disperse ‘dampness’ if there is any as well.
Food to nourish and strengthen the blood
The nutrients that are most needed are; iron, folic acid, B12 and a good amount of protein. For iron absorption there needs to be also vitamin C, B and copper.
There is iron in plant foods such as legumes, most vegetables and whole grains. In their unrefined states they will also have the available protein, copper and B vitamin that is needed in order to absorb the iron. Vitamin C will be available in cabbage, bell peppers, broccoli, sprouts, parsley and rose hip tea. In fact, vitamin C will be in nearly all fresh fruit and vegetables but you have to keep in mind that most fruits are very cooling and if there is a cold or general deficiency it is not always recommended.
Seaweed and micro-algae such as spirulina are one way of building blood but in cases of weak digestive Qi, one should be careful with seaweed.
Folic acid is usually lost in prolonged cooking of micro algae, sprouts and leafy greens. The best cooking method is lightly steamed.
Animal products such as chicken or beef will help when blood deficiency is severe.
Including all that in your diet may not be the only thing we need to do .Every organ works with an other and every process in the body is a result of one before it. The symptoms you may have can also come from imbalance or deficiency in specific organs and you may need to add some more to your diet to help with those. For example, if you have kidney deficiency as well such as coldness in the body, lower back ache, or fatigue, we will add to your diet lamb or beef kidney.
It is important to keep in mind that in Chinese medicine it is not only about vitamins or minerals. It is hard to summarise and explain in short so many things that we have to take into consideration other than your initial symptoms or the reason that brought you to clinic. Even if we diagnose that you suffer from blood deficiency, we still need to consider which other organs are involved, what is the condition of your body, is it cold, is it hot, is it mixed? Is your energy moving smoothly or were you so deficient that it is stagnant now?
Considering foods is also considering their properties. As you probably noticed, I mentioned before that each food has its own energy and flavour, and it is very important for everyone to include in their diet, foods to suit to their condition. For example, a person that tends to be hot should be careful when consuming foods that are warm to hot in temperature and in the same way a person that tends to be cold had better avoid foods that are cool to cold in their energy. How you prepare your food also plays a part, whether it’s raw, boiled, grilled or steamed. It is always best to seek advice from a qualified Chinese Medicine practitioner , to be diagnosed properly and be advised about the most suitable diet for you.
If you are interested in reading more – these are three sources that I used in writing this blog posts: