The Importance of Food in the Treatment of Blood Deficiency

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One of the most common patterns of disharmony that I see in my practice as an acupuncturist specializing in gynecology and fertility is Blood Deficiency. The pattern of Blood Deficiency lies on a spectrum and it can include a wide array of signs and symptoms. While it is beneficial to be coming in for regular acupuncture treatments as you are working towards your health goals, this post is a peak into my nerdy acupuncture brain. My hope is that I am able to express the importance of making choices in your lifestyle to support your own health to feel empowered to make changes for yourself.


The Function of Blood in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Blood runs through your veins and oxygenates your cells. Just as importantly, I think of it as the messenger that allows communication throughout the whole body via the exchange of different molecules and chemical markers. Good blood flow is important for the health of your tendons, joints, skin and hair.


In TCM, Blood also nourishes the mind and allows for clear thinking. If Blood is deficient, the person may feel unrooted and have difficulty feeling present in their bodies. Sleep may be impeded. If you have sufficient and good quality blood, you will have strength and vitality flowing through your body. Your mind, reactions and focus will be clear.


Common Causes of Blood Deficiency

  • EXCESSIVE MENSTRUAL FLOW: Many women have complaints about their menstrual cycle but tell me that they waited so long to seek help because they believed their monthly suffering was “normal.” Ideally, your menstrual cycle should be 28-30 days in between flows, with your flow being 3-4 days with bright, fresh looking blood. Small clots the size of peas or smaller is normal as your blood normally coagulates when it is oxygenated, but all too often I see women who come in complaining of large clots with incredible pain. Some pressure and heaviness around your lower abdomen is normal, but severe signs and symptoms leading up to and during your period including cramps, breast tenderness, fatigue, and emotional swings may be an indication that there is an imbalance in your endocrine system. The quantity of your flow is also something that we analyze. Ideally, there should be enough blood to fill a regular tampon about every 3-4 hours. Too light of a flow can indicate blood deficiency because there is just not enough blood to create a sufficient flow. Too heavy of a flow can indicate blood deficiency as well because you are losing so much blood with every menstrual cycle that your body is unable to replenish its reserves.


  • A LIFESTYLE OF WORRY AND STRESS: Our nervous system exists in the sympathetic state (fight or flight) or in the parasympathetic state (rest, digest and restore). The problem is that most of us live in a world heavily dominated by the sympathetic state of existing. Our everyday lives whether they are in the office or at home require us to accomplish goals, multitask, problem-solve and get stuff done. The problem is that biologically, the body cannot tell the difference between the normal and everyday stresses of life and running away from a tiger. Both require us to kick into our sympathetic nervous system. When this happens, the blood flow is diverted from our organs of reproduction and digestion and into our limbs, brains, heart and lungs. This is so that we are capable of accomplishing the tasks at hand. The problem with this is that since the blood flow is diverted from the organs of digestion, when we eat while we are in the parasympathetic state, the right stomach enzymes and acids are not being produced, peristalsis is not functioning optimally and you are not actually absorbing and digesting your food efficiently.


  • WEAKENED DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: You could be eating the best organic produce and taking the most expensive supplements out on the market, but if your digestive system is weak, then you are not absorbing all the vitamins, minerals and nutrition that you could be, thus you are not feeding your body all the building blocks to create healthy blood. This is why in most of my treatments of blood deficiency, I usually find it necessary to support the digestive system and encourage mindfulness practices to promote the parasympathetic nervous system in addition to boosting the blood.


Some signs and symptoms of Blood Deficiency:

  • Hair loss

  • Fatigue

  • Excessive/Deficient menstrual flow

  • Floaters in the visual field/Weakened eye sight

  • Anxiety/Depression/Insomnia

  • Dizziness/feeling of floating/disembodiment

  • Cold limbs and/or body

  • Shortness of breath / chest pain or tightness

  • Pale skin, lips or  tongue

  • Gynecological problems: fibroids, cysts, menstrual pain

  • Infertility

  • Headaches

  • Body aches

  • Weak tendons that are prone to injury

  • Dry skin, lips, hair

  • Poor memory


Veggies to Boost Blood:

  • Seaweeds and spirulina

  • Sprouts

  • Seeds/Nuts

  • Dark leafy greens

  • Beets


Animal Products to Boost Blood:

  • Royal jelly

  • Bone broth

  • Shellfish

  • Organ meats

  • Meat

  • Eggs


Foods to Avoid: All these foods are difficult to digest and are discouraged

  • Alcohol

  • Greasy, heavy or oily foods

  • Processed foods

  • Refined carbohydrates

  • Cold/Raw foods


How We Eat: This is just as important as what we eat.

  • PARASYMPATHETIC MEALS: Stopping work to enjoy your meal in a calm environment away from stresses or distractions is so important because your body is not producing the correct enzymes and acids for digestion when it is in the sympathetic (fight or flight) state.

  • COOK WITH A CAST-IRON SKILLET: This study found that cooking with cast-iron skillets was a promising way to increase hemoglobin in iron-deficient anemia.


Need help with navigating the world of nutrition and how it relates to your health? I’m happy to support. Call (604)678-8600 to book a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with me.


Kathleen Lee FABORM, RTCMP, L.Ac. MTCM