Ironing out Anemia the Natural Way
What is anemia and how is it affecting your body?
Anemia is the most common blood disorder seen in practice. Although there are many different causes to this specific disease pattern, the underlying problem remains the same. In Western medicine, the main cause is not having enough red blood cells produced from the bone marrow. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) views this as an overall blood deficiency. This can cause a variety of symptoms for anemic patients. Diet can greatly improve some anemic disorders, and is crucial for the road to recovery.
Anemia in Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine, we use the term “Blood Deficiency” to describe anemia. There are many different types of Blood Deficiency one can have. Depending on the symptoms, tongue, and pulse, TCM practitioners are able to distinguish how to diagnose and treat a specific Blood Deficiency disorder.
Here are a couple ways your Acupuncturist might determine how to treat your anemia in TCM language:
This condition is common among women but can also sometimes manifest in men. When the spleen is not nourished adequately with blood forming foods such as meat and grains, it is not able to properly produce blood for the liver to store. Emotions can also play a vital role in causing this type of disorder in the body. Sadness and a general feeling of emotional stress can deplete ones overall Qi, which can in turn; deplete the blood.
Blurred vision or floaters in the eye
Light menstruation or amenorrhea
Dull or pale complexion and lips
Muscular weakness; cramps
Withered and brittle nails, dry hair and skin
2. Spleen-blood deficiency
When the muscles are consistently being strained and worked, the spleen can develop a deficiency from excessive overwork. Since the spleen relies heavily on diet, and hates cold, a diet in raw and cold foods can also deplete the spleen. These life-styles can lead to spleen and liver blood deficiency. The symptoms are similar to liver-blood deficiency but include spleen qi deficiency symptoms as well.
Bloating and fatigue especially after meals
Dull-pale complexion and lips
Weakness and numbness of the limbs or frequent cramps
Scanty periods or amenorrhea
Blurred vision, floaters in the eyes, diminished night vision
Withered and brittle nails, dry hair and skin
Ways to improve Anemia through diet
There are many foods that are recommended for people with these symptoms.
Micro-Algae’s like Spirulina are an excellent way to build blood in the body because of their high content of Vit-B12. For people with Anemia, the recommended dose of Spirulina is doubles to 20grams per day and must be taken daily. Blending in the powdered form of Spirulina in with beet and kale juice is a great blood-tonic. Chlorella and Spirulina are best for blood deficiency caused by weak digestive absorption and poor spleen function. Like Spirulina, wheat grass is another food that can help with anemic patients. However, wheat grass is much more cooling in nature and can have cleansing and detoxifying effects. A person with a more deficient type of Anemia should be careful when taking wheat grass.
2. Fruit & Veggies
Cherries: rich in iron, warming thermal nature and sweet flavor can increase the flow of Qi and tonify the spleen and stomach. Numbness in the limbs is a symptom often related to blood deficiency and cherries are known the help patients overcome this. Their dark-red pigment, like our blood, reminds us that nature is trying to tell us something.
Dark-green leafy vegetables: Kale for instance, can be a wonderful source of chlorophyll, calcium, iron and vitamin A. Kale is warming in nature, sweet and slightly bitter with a pungent flavor. Aside from inadvertently benefitting the blood through its rich chlorophyll content, it can also ease lung congestion and stomach ulcers.
Apricots: A commonly used fruit to treat anemia because of their high content of copper and cobalt. They should not be over-eaten, especially in pregnant women. Apricots are neutral in nature, sweet and sour. They can moisten the lungs and increase the yin fluids (blood).
Blackberries: Beneficial for the liver and kidneys because of their ability to cleanse the blood of toxins, treat anemia, regulate the menstrual cycle, and also help with urinary dysfunction. The blood-building properties of this berry can be extremely useful in blood deficient patients.
3. Animal Products
Animal products can be incredibly nutritional and nourishing for anemic patients. Often times, the reason someone might become blood deficient is due to the fact that they are vegetarian or only eat raw, cold foods.
Lamb: Increases Qi circulation, internal warmth and improves blood production. It can be used in treating general weakness, but is specifically good for anemia and other deficiencies.
Mussels and Oysters: Strengthen the liver and kidneys and can be especially useful in building yin and blood.
Eggs: A blood and yin tonic. They are neutral and sweet in flavor. Eggs can also moisten the upper body and can relieve dryness in the lungs, throat and eyes.
Goat’s milk: A long-time remedy for people with weak dispositions. It has specific beneficial uses in blood deficient type patients. Goat’s milk is neutral, slightly bitter, cooling, tonifying and astringent.
Acupuncture and herbal formulas can help
In order to understand blood deficiency and Anemia, one must understand the energy within the blood itself. Our bodies way of making blood relies heavily on the nutrients we supply it with. Proper nutrition helps the spleen to produce blood efficiently. Acupuncture and herbal formulas are a great way to restore the body and is highly recommended for anyone suffering from anemia. In addition to regular treatments, improving ones diet is critical. Regardless of what ones anemia is specifically caused by, all the foods mentioned above are an exceptional way to naturally heal the body from anemia and help the body build an adequate supply of blood.
By Samantha Manka-Segal L.Ac
1. Maciocia, Giovanni. Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Second Edition.
2. Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1993, 1996, 2002.
3. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. “Anemia.” <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001586/>
February 7, 2012.