In TCM, blood, known as xue, is one of our vital substances that provides nourishment and Qi to our skin, hair, muscles, and organs. There are three main organ systems that are responsible for its production, where it goes in our body, and for how it is used to house our emotions.
The Spleen transforms the food we eat into usable units, our Liver stores xue and sends it to where it needs to go in the body as needed, and it is said that our Heart houses the mind within the safety of our blood.
If your practitioner suspects a diagnosis of blood deficiency, they will be looking at the function of these three systems to determine why and where the deficiency is occurring.
Common symptoms for blood deficiency include dry hair and nails, hard time falling asleep, anxiety and depression, easily startled, weak muscles, dizziness, palpitations, poor memory, eye floaters, light periods or no menstruation at all, and numbness and tingling of limbs.
Often the root is weak Spleen Qi. If the Spleen is unable to transform the food we eat into usable building blocks for blood, then the quality of our blood will be low. The common saying “you are what you eat” is actually inaccurate. You are what you don’t poop out. You can be eating the healthiest diet but if your Spleen is too weak to transform it then the healthy diet is of no good. When the Spleen is weak you will have the additional symptoms of fatigue and loose stools.
When building blood, it is important to protect the Spleen’s function of transforming food. This can be achieved by eating foods that are lightly cooked and dense in nutrition. Raw and cold foods, dairy, sugar, greasy, and processed foods all damage the Spleen and must be avoided.
When building blood, we want 30-40% of our diet to be vegetables, with an emphasis on nutrient-rich leafy greens. 20-30% should be high-quality protein. Red meat is a great blood-building food but should be eaten in smaller portions, 2-4oz, and not be eaten at every meal. The remaining 30-50% of the diet should comprise of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains.
Below are some great food choices to add to your diet to aid in the building of healthy blood.
Vegetables: spinach, chard, kale, Chinese greens, sweet potato, squash, carrots, yams, peas, beets, onion, leeks, garlic, mushrooms, seaweeds, ginger, savoy cabbage
Fruit: apple, apricot, avocado, date, figs, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, litchi, peach, plum
Beans: aduki, chick peas, kidney beans, green beans, black beans, fava beans
Nuts and Seeds: almonds, black sesame seeds
Meat and Fish: red meat, bone marrow, liver (beef, pork, or chicken), mussels, oyster, sardine, tuna, salmon, rabbit
Grains: rice, oats, barley, corn, quinoa
Other: miso, molasses, marmite, vegemite, coconut milk, parsley
Avoid and restrict the following foods as they will harm the Spleen and impede its ability to make the most out of the food you consume: Salads, raw vegetables, raw fruit in the winter, tofu, dairy, nut butters (high oil content = greasy and hard to digest), sweet foods, refined sugar, smoothies, ice cream, iced drinks, and fast food take out.
* This diet info sheet is not meant to be used for self diagnosis, please consult with your TCM practitioner to determine if it’s good info for you.*
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