In conventional medicine blood is thought of and diagnosed by its individual components such as red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, nutrients and proteins. Its function is to distribute hormones, carry oxygen and energy and to support the immune system.
In Chinese Medicine the concept of “Blood” is much broader. Though it encompasses all the things Western medicine describes, its scope is much larger and it is more closely looked at in regard to pathology in the body. Blood provides nutrition and moisture, it cools and warms and its meaning can be extended to anything that provides nourishment to the body.
For women, its important to learn how to nourish the Blood because our physiology is more dependent on it compared to men. It plays a large role in the menstrual cycle, in the ability to conceive, to have and hold a healthy pregnancy and to feel mentally well and strong throughout a pregnancy, post partum and in menopause.
In Chinese Medicine, we say that when Blood is strong, you will have radiant skin, vitality, and you will feel connected in mind and spirit. However, when Blood is deficient you may experience fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, scanty periods and you may feel anxious or easily startled.
We can see how essential Blood is for women by looking at how conception, gestation and post partum can be effected by its quality.
When trying to conceive the quality and quantity of the Blood is important to create a healthy lining and deliver nutrients and energy to the ovaries for egg quality. If the menstrual blood is either scanty or thick and congealed implantation can be difficult. If the Blood is under nourished cycles can be irregular and in severe cases amenorrhea can occur.
During pregnancy nourishment from the Blood is essential for the fetus to grow and to be healthy. For the mother, good quality Blood will give her greater energy and will help her feel grounded and mentally strong.
Post partum depression is often caused by poor quality or depleted Blood. This can be caused by long term deficiency in Blood, excess bleeding during the birthing process or not getting enough nourishment from food post partum. This will show up at this time because of the demands on the mothers Blood supply through regular breastfeeding and exhaustion in general dealing with a newborn.
The Shen (mind) is also nourished by Blood and when Blood is sufficient and of good quality you are better able to respond appropriately to the stresses of daily life. You well feel grounded and will be able to adapt better. You can create meaningful relationships, be calm and experience joy. When Blood is depleted the Shen can be affected causing one to feel disconnected, anxious or depressed, insomnia and poor memory. If severe enough it can contribute to mental disorders and psychiatric diseases.
Needless to say, as women its essential we nourish our Blood which will in turn nourish our body, mind and spirit.
In Chinese Medicine, we have many great herbs and formulas dedicated to nourishing the Blood as well as acupuncture points that help strengthen the body’s ability to make Blood. There are also many things you can do in your daily life to nourish and build Blood.
Tips for building blood:
Avoid physical activity that leaves you exhausted or that causes excessive sweating:
Building Blood takes energy. Only exercise to an extent that you feel you could easily do every day without feeling fatigued. Sweat is part of the yin fluids which is Blood. If one continues to excessively sweat it will therefore deplete the Blood. For example, doing hot yoga too frequently can deplete the Blood.
Blood is made from the foods we eat. Eating the right food is important but we also need to be able to absorb that delicious food. Take the time to sit for meals. Chew more and slowly and enjoy your meals and welcome its nourishment.
Eat foods that help keep the gut strong such as pre and probiotics and avoid foods that may be problematic for you such as dairy and gluten
Cook with a Cast Iron Pan- This is a simple way to increase your iron intake
Take time to rest:
Proper rest is important for rebuilding Blood and Qi. Doing quiet activities or taking a nap in the afternoon can give your body the chance to nourish.
Avoid worry and overthinking- Meditate: In Chinese Medicine, it’s the spleens’ job to transform food into Blood. Overthinking and worry damages the spleen and stops its ability to create the deeply nourishing Blood. Learning to be in the present moment through meditation can help ease this issue.
Eat Blood nourishing foods: Blood nourishing foods should be included into the diet as much as possible. They are especially important to eat after blood loss such as during menstruation.
Blood nourishing foods:
Bone broth: Stock which is made from bones and includes marrow quickly builds Blood
Meat and Fish: Meat and fish are great for building Blood. If you are someone who avoids meat all together bringing in just a small amount can make a huge difference. I generally recommend my clients try to eat 3-5 oz. of meat or fish twice a week
Darker meats and organ meat are the most enriching so choose chicken thighs over breast and if you are like me and find it hard to eat organ meat try supplementing with grass fed liver instead.
The most nourishing meats are grass fed beef, bison and elk.
Chlorophyll rich foods: Chlorophyll is the Blood of plants and chlorophyll rich foods build Blood quickly. They include: Algae’s such as spirulina, dark leafy greens like kale, swiss chard and spinach and nettles and cereal grass. If its naturally green, eat it
Fruits: Fruits that are dark and rich in color build Blood these include berries, grapes, apricots, cherries, dates and figs.
Beans: Like most dark colored foods both black beans and red beans nourish the Blood
Skye Van Munster