How to build good blood and reduce deficiencies through healthy digestion.
The Chinese Medicine understanding of blood deficiency not only incorporates iron deficiency, but also includes other nutrients acquired through digestion, as well as the inherent energy within the blood. For instance, quite often people will present in the clinic with blood deficiency symptoms, but have perfect blood iron levels.
Signs of blood deficiency include dry skin, pale fingernails, unusual hair loss, or premature greying, dry hair, dry eyes or spots in the field of vision, numbness and tingling in the extremities, and pale complexion. In women, it may manifest as scant menstrual flow. Think of a plant that is not being nourished with all the minerals its needs. It grows but fails to thrive!
Usually blood deficiency is caused by a suboptimal digestive system, through improper diet, by loss of blood through gastro-intestinal bleeding, or excessive menstrual flow. Chronic diseases and low-grade inflammation consume blood as well, and can lead to blood deficiency.
In order to enrich blood, one can improve the assimilation of nutrients through tonifying the digestive function, or improve the quality of food and fluids consumed. Generally, these are best done together for maximum efficiency.
The Spleen and Stomach organs are associated with digestion in Chinese medicine. If these organs are weak then it doesn’t matter what you eat. It won’t be absorbed. Some symptoms of low spleen function include frequent bloating, lack of appetite, low energy, loose stools, damp and mucus conditions.
Nutrients most commonly used to counteract blood deficiencies are iron, and B vitamins. B12 is especially important, and its lack is frequently associated with pernicious anemia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12).
While it is good to eat foods rich in iron and B vitamins to build blood, it is best to eat them in a condition where co-factors are present for their absorptions. For instance, iron is better absorbed when taken with vitamin C.
Whole plant based foods generally provide the environment for assimilation. Vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts and grains when consumed in their unrefined state provides adequate protein, iron, copper, and C and B vitamins for easy absorption of blood building nutrients.
If you are thinking of building blood, then think green foods. The chlorophyll in green foods such as spirulina, chlorella, lettuce, kale, sprouts and seaweeds is very similar in structure to hemin, the pigment that creates haemoglobin when combined with a protein (Pitchford P:Healing with whole foods. 2002, p388). The high chlorophyll foods usually contain high levels of iron and trace minerals, which are excellent resources for blood production.