5 Ways to Build Your Blood
Healthy blood levels have us feeling physically energised and ready to take on the world. (Be sure to check out Part 1 for my blood vitality checklist).
But what happens when the balance is off? As a Chinese medicine practitioner, I have many people consulting with me when they are feeling perpetually fatigued, clouded with brain fog and they can’t for the life of them get a good night's sleep no matter how tired they feel.
When the blood becomes depleted in Chinese medicine, we term this: blood deficiency.
What does having blood deficiency feel like?
In a nutshell, it’s utterly exhausting.
My patients with blood deficiency are experiencing overwhelming tiredness, fatigue and a sense of being constantly depleted. They wake up unrefreshed in the morning and the thought of all the things that need to get done that day can be daunting. People with blood deficiency often feel dizzy or lightheaded upon standing, and weak after they have been rushing about using a lot of energy during their busy day. People sometimes describe feeling like they are constantly on the verge of getting sick. They are run-down. Their vitality has diminished and with the physical fatigue comes difficulty concentrating and regulating their emotions. In a particularly harsh irony, blood deficient patients often experience difficulty falling asleep and may have their nights interrupted by vivid dreams or restlessness.
Symptoms of Chinese medicine blood deficiency:
- Pale Complexion
- Dizziness and generalised weakness
- Brittle hair and nails
- Hair loss or thinning
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Dry skin or eyes
- Dull headaches made worse after exertion
- Absent menstrual periods, or short/light flow
- Heart palpitations
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Pale tongue body
Now please rest assured, if you find some of these signs and symptoms all too familiar, there are a multitude of things that you can do to restore your blood vitality.
5 ways to build your blood levels.
1. Eat warm and cooked foods
If you’ve ever been exposed to Chinese medicine before, you’ll have likely heard this advice. And for good reason! In people who are already fatigued, we want to ensure that digestion isn’t adding to the long list of tasks their body is working overtime to complete.
By choosing meals such as stews, soups and slow-cooks, you are taking some of the digestive hard-yards out of the equation. The cooking process enables these foods to be more easily digested, and thus the yield of energy gained is often higher.
2. Eat blood nourishing foods
According to Chinese medicine, foods have specific physical, thermal and energetic properties. Some fabulous choices if you are trying to build your blood levels are: red meat, liver, oysters, beetroot, goji berries, dates and dark-leafy greens.3. Drink bone broth
Bone broths and any soups made from animal bones are revered for their blood building qualities in Chinese medicine. Broths provide easy to digest and assimilate nutrition, as well as contribute to the lubrication and hydration of the body tissues.
In addition to the physiological benefits, the bone marrow found within bone broths has an important energetic association with blood production and healthy blood levels in Chinese medicine.4. Horizontal rest
This might sound a little strange, however in Chinese medicine the blood is most effectively restored when lying flat. Of course, getting 8 hours of sleep each night is a sure-fire way to accomplish this. However, you may recall me explaining that blood deficient patients often have difficulty with their sleep.
If this is the case, try carving out 1 or 2 short intervals during your day to lay down - flat - and rest. You don’t need to fall asleep. This need only be for 10-15 minutes at a time, however the benefit of being horizontal will be a game-changer for your blood.
Identifying and managing stressors in your day-to-day life is critical for someone experiencing blood deficiency. Chronic states of stress, overwork and anxiety can consume the blood in Chinese medicine. This in turn generates an unfortunate cycle: the stress depletes the blood levels, and then, the depleted blood levels leave you more susceptible to the effects of stress. Rinse, repeat.
Whilst recovering, try your best to moderate your exposure to stressful environments around you. Politely decline to take on additional work tasks or extra responsibilities, and engage in activities that fill your cup back up.6. (Bonus!) Herbal medicine
There are several medicinal herbs that specifically address blood deficiency. Two famous Chinese blood building herbs are Dang Gui (Angelica sinensis root) and Bai Shao (white peony root). Depending on the dosages used, these can be prescribed to both treat blood deficiency, as well as to nourish the body and prevent blood deficiency from occurring. Of course, be sure to check in with your practitioner before commencing any new herbal medicine.
Dr Jess Bowkett
Chinese Medicine Practitioner
(Part 2 of 2)