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About Blood deficiency

Blood isn’t just platelets and plasma; it is our vitality. Blood carries the story of our ancestry. Asian medicine definition of blood is a bit different than that of Western medicine. Blood nourishes every aspect of our body from the skin and muscles to the brain and the organs. Blood is vital and symbolic and carries meaning within its movement through capillaries, veins, and arteries.

I am fascinated by how an imbalance in blood and circulation can be linked to so many health imbalances. Deficient and/or stagnant blood is behind so many illnesses. Improving the quality of one’s Blood and circulation can assist in managing and preventing a vast array of physical, emotional, and psychological imbalances. It’s not just quantity, but the quality of Blood circulating through your system that helps give us vitality, focus and rosy cheeks. When Blood is abundant you feel alive, nourished and well connected in mind and spirit.  Nourished Blood allows joy and laughter into our lives and builds and maintains meaningful relationships. When Blood is deficient a person can experience may symptoms.

Symptoms of Blood deficiency

  • anemia

  • anorexia

  • anxiety

  • blood loss

  • brittle and dry nail, hair and skin

  • cold limbs or a deep cold

  • depression

  • dream disturbed or restless sleep

  • dryness

  • easily awakened

  • easily startled – boo!

  • exhaustion

  • feeling of weakness in the limbs and muscles

  • irritability

  • lack of warmth – both physically and emotionally

  • mood swings

  • nervousness

  • nervous laughter and laughter at inappropriate times

  • numbness, tingling, limbs and extremities ‘going to sleep’

  • pale complexion

  • pale nails

  • palpitations

  • sadness

  • scanty or absent periods

  • sensation of cold

  • skin conditions – some eczema and vitiligo, and dry skin

  • slow growing hair and nails

  • slow healing and recover

  • slow mental thought

  • weak immune system


What is blood deficiency?

There are two common types of blood deficiency: low circulatory volume and low iron, as in cases of anemia. Low blood volume and deficient iron may or may not exist together

What are some causes of blood deficiency?

There may be an inability to absorb nutrients, a loss of blood, or an inability to produce healthy blood cells. Genetic patterning, constitutional weakness, and weakness of organs and tissues can also cause blood deficiency. Our sources of nourishment are air, food, and our innate energetic capacity. If there is a compromise to any of these, then the vitality of the blood may be compromised. Digestion is also important. If someone is malnourished or not absorbing food properly, this will affect the state of the blood.


Why do we become Blood deficient? 

Here’s a quick look at the reasons we might become Blood deficient

  • Irregular eating habits

  • Lack of adequate rest or sleep

  • Constitutional (born with it) factors such as weak Heart, Kidney, Lungs or Spleen

  • Mal nourishment

  • Excessive blood loss including excessive menstrual flows

  • Pregnancy, labor and nursing

  • Weak digestive system

  • Excessive mental and emotional overwork or stress

  • Excessive physical labor

Fortunately, there are many ways to nourish Blood, but let’s look first at Blood’s functions.


HEART - The Heart is the ruler of the Blood. It physically pumps the Blood and enlivens it with Qi, and uses it to house the mind (Shen), keeping us warm physically and emotionally, and we are calm and clear. Our Shen is nicely snuggled up and housed in our Heart, when it is nourished with abundant Blood we respond appropriately to our environment.  It allows us to build meaningful relationships, be calm, experience joy and to feel rooted and to be able to adapt. When the Shen is unsettled or not anchored with Blood emotional problems arise. Symptoms may include: anxiety, nervousness, dream disturbed sleep, mood swings, depression, sensation of floating out of the body, inability to root or ground, speech disturbances like stuttering, palpitations or irregular heart rates, breathlessness, exhaustion, insomnia and an inability to form rewarding relationships. In extreme cases there may be irrational behavior, hysteria, insanity, manic disorder and delirium. We definitely want our Shen anchored.


LUNGS - Move the Blood through their descending and dispersing function. Each breath you take helps to regulate your Heart’s beating and to move Qi, Blood and Fluids to organs and the extremities. Need better circulation? Practice breathing exercise like Qigong, Yoga or T’ai Chi and move your body.


LIVER - Regulates the volume of Blood circulating at any given time in the body.  During exercise or times of need, it releases more. During times of rest, it pulls it back in to cleanse the Blood.  If it’s deficient, the Liver will not have adequate amounts of Blood to move and this may lead to stagnation.  Deficiency of Liver Blood will also mean the skin, hair and nails aren’t nourished and moistens or will fail to thrive.


SPLEEN - Holds the Blood. One of the Spleen’s major functions is to hold things in their place. When it comes to Blood, the Spleen holds the blood in the vessels. A failing of this function can mean easy bruising, prolapse, incontinence and varicosities.

As you can see, it is quite the refined system and if at any given time an organ system chooses to not play its part, and Blood becomes deficient, the system will start to tumble and problems will start to manifest. If any of these organs are weak or lacking in their required substances, deficiency will arise.

Tips for building Blood


Eat healthy food - The basis for Blood is the refined Qi of food. The higher the quality of food, the faster the recovery will be. Eating animal and bone broths is the first place to start. Protein is hydrophilic. The way that it pulls fluids quickly increases circulatory volume. Animal products can build Blood fast. Please make wise choices with sustainably raised, GMO and hormone free. Darker meats and organ meats are the most building. Anyone with blood deficiency needs good, clean protein that is digestible.


Bone broth - Marrow stock is deeply nourishing and quickly builds the Blood, Qi, Yang and Fluids.  I sometimes toss in egg shells into the stock pot (incredible for ligaments and Blood).


Eat chlorophyll rich foods - This category is huge, with good reason, we are meant to eat a lot of chlorophyll rich foods and they build the blood quickly. Chlorophyll rich foods include dark leafy greens (COOKED kale, chard, dandelion, etc.),  macro-algaes (seaweeds), micro-algaes (spirulina, etc.), nettles and cereal grass (wheat and barley grass).  Eat it if it’s naturally green.


More Blood building foods

**are my top favorites

  • **gelatin

  • **nettles

  • **wheat grass

  • black beans

  • eggs

  • all animal proteins including organ meats **Liver pate
  • Blackstrap molasses one of my favorite ways to rebuild quickly. 1 tsp of blackstrap, 2 x a day with vitamin C.

  • cherries, apricots, berries, dates-soaked in ghee with spices are great for building energ

  • lentils and legumes – they are high in protein, B vitamins, folic acid

  • blood-colored foods such as beets and pomegranate juice

Eat with joy - Part of nourishing Blood is the willingness to be open to receive nourishment and to feed yourself well.  Although supplementation may be called for in some cases, it is not the same thing as actually enjoying meals where you taste the food and allow it to replenish you.

Improve your digestion - The basis of Blood is food, but even if you eat well you could have problems building Blood if your digestion is weak. It might be that you need prebiotic and probiotic foods or to eliminate some foods like gluten that can slow or hinder the system.

Avoid foods that deplete Blood - Sugar, excess salt, unhealthy fatty foods, processed and refined foods, chemical laden foods.

Nourish Blood after times of blood loss - Rebuild after any type of blood loss, including menses. I recommend women learn to include specifically building foods after their cycle to rebuild so you don’t feel exhausted. A life time of bleeding or child bearing without proper rebuilding can lead to issues later in life.

Cook in cast iron - a simple way to increase your iron intake.


Take a nap - Proper rest is important for nourishing and rebuilding Blood and Qi. Napping in the early afternoon is particularly beneficial, giving your Liver and Spleen a chance to revitalize the Blood.

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