Updated: Jun 23
As in Western medicine, blood nourishes and moistens the body. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Blood (written with a capital ‘B’ in TCM) is moved by Qi (energy). If we lack Qi our limbs can feel heavy or tingly as there is not enough blood reaching the extremities. If any of the Fu organs (Spleen, Kidneys, Lungs, Heart, Liver) are out of balance or not strong, Blood production and flow can be affected. When our Blood is strong and sufficient we have strong nails, healthy and glowing skin, good memory, good sleep, strong bones and muscles as well as lots of energy.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Blood production requires good nutrition and good Jing; a substance stored by the Kidneys. Jing can move into the bones to become marrow and can be converted, by the Liver, to Blood when needed (also a process in Western medicine, but interestingly Chinese medicine came up with this idea centuries earlier!).
Blood production can be affected by a poor diet, lack of food, irregular eating or a weak digestive system. You can read about how to help your digestive system at: https://www.yasminhodgeacupuncture.co.uk/post/spleen-and-stomach-nourishing-foods
Just like a car, you need fuel to function. Put in the wrong fuel and key components won’t perform optimally. Put in too little and you constantly run on reserve- also not good. But unlike a car, we can continue to function without fuel for two weeks (without water for only 3 days).
Women are more likely to be Blood deficient (a TCM term) as we bleed every month. With regards to menstruation, the Blood in the Liver is very important as a lack leads to amenorrhoea (lack of periods) whilst any blockage in the flow of Qi can lead to dysmenorrhoea (painful periods).
Foods to include in your diet to help build blood
Please eat these in moderation as overdoing one can create other problems. Please also ignore any that you don't like or would not eat.
As a general rule, try to stick to warm, cooked foods as these are easier for the stomach to digest. Breakfast should, ideally, be eaten between 7.30-9.30am as this is when the stomach is most active according to TCM. Skipping breakfast is very common in our society as we all live busy lives and become used to skipping this meal, choosing instead to have a coffee or late breakfast. Intermittent fasting has now become popular but, contrary to what is advised, breakfast is often skipped rather than dinner. If you are intermittent fasting for general health or to lose weight, eat breakfast and either have no evening meal or a very light meal at this time.
Veg: Alfalfa sprouts, artichoke, beetroot, button mushroom, cabbage, turnip, fennel, sweet potato, celery, dandelion leaf, dark leafy greens, kelp, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, wheatgrass.
Fruit (in moderation): avocado, date, grapes, jujube (Chinese red dates), fig, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, black grapes, pomegranates, apples.
Beans: Aduki, black soya, kidney, green lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas.
Nuts: Black sesame, almond, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, pine nuts, pistachio.
Grains: rice (brown), oats, quinoa, corn, whole wheat (if you do not have an issue with wheat) and barley.
Herbs: Thyme, nettle, fennel, parsley.
Juice (in moderation): Red grape, cherry, plum, carrot.
Condiments: Black Molasses. Sesame oil, local honey (in moderation).
Common supplements: Algae, kelp
I have excluded meat and fish out of respect to vegetarians, vegans and those who exclude certain meats for religious reasons. If you would like to get the list of meats, fish and dairy I will be posting a separate post shortly and will pop the link in here.
Spoon of blackstrap molasses mixed into tahini and spooned onto toast (sounds gross but is amazing).
Snacks: Chinese red dates (also called Jujube fruit- available in Planet organic/Holland & Barrett).
Sprinkle a little thyme on cooked veg. Thyme is very high in Iron.
Fry a small handful of raisins until they expand. Add spinach/kale and cook for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts in the last minute of cooking.
Swap your caffeinated tea for a nettle tea. Nettle tea used to very popular in Britain. New leaves on nettle plants in Spring were picked to make tea in order to nourish the body after winter.
I would love to hear about recipes you have created or used which include Blood nourishing foods. Pop these in the comments box.
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