Blood Deficiency. Iron Deficiency. Anemia. Low Ferritin.
Blood deficiency is a very common Traditional Chinese Medicine pattern I see in clinic, especially with menstruating women. From a young age until menopause, many of us will have monthly bleeds which makes it super important to ensure we are consistently building back the blood we lose every month. Unfortunately, this isn't happening and for most women - and they don't even know they have a deficiency.
A Chinese Medicine blood deficiency diagnosis can show up on western blood work as low ferritin and in my experience it usually does, but because the range is so large on a test (roughly 5-270 ug/L) it often goes missed by many doctors. In clinic, I see many women who are around the 20-40 ug/L when optimally you want your levels to be at least 100 ug/L. This is something I recommend checking with your doctor or primary healthcare practitioner.
Symptoms of Blood Deficiency
Below are the most common symptoms, causes and my favourite ways to address it! Symptoms can include:
Getting to the Root Cause
The most important part of addressing blood deficiency is finding the root cause of the issue, which if I'm being honest, can sometimes be a pain in the ass. I always recommend working with a practitioner to find your root cause and treat from there. Below are some of the most common causes of blood deficiency:
- blood loss (from injuries, surgery, childbirth)
- internal blood loss (ulcerative colitis, crohns, stomach ucler)
- heavy menstruation
- nutrient deficiency
- digestive issues (IBS, SIBO, H Pylori, leaky gut or low stomach acid)
- overworking + overthinking
My Recommendations for Addressing Blood Deficiency
Supplement with Iron
Supplementing with iron can be really great, but only if you have figured out the root cause of your issue. For example, if you have an underlying digestive issue that's making it hard to absorb nutrients from the food you eat, taking an iron supplement isn't going to get you very far (because you won't be able to properly absorb it).
Again, I recommend working with a health practitioner who can assist you in finding the root cause and set you up with a supplement based on your needs (there are lots of options including ones for vegans).
Look to Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for assisting iron absorption in the body (which is why doctors will tell you to take your iron supplement with orange juice), but I prefer taking an actual vitamin C supplement, my favourite being this one by LivOn Labs. Plus, vitamin C is also the precursor to collagen which is found in the tissues of your digestive tract and helps to repair and heal your lining (more about digestion below).
Look to Your Diet
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the spleen makes blood and the liver stores it. Which means that our diet plays a big role in building blood. Our spleen loves warm, cooked foods that are easy to digest + absorb. It's recommended to avoid cold, raw foods (like juices, smoothies and salads) because they are often hard to digest and can weaken our digestive system, further causing digestive issues.
Below are my favourite foods to build blood:
Focus on Digestion
Improving digestion is always beneficial, especially when dealing with a blood deficiency. Depending on symptoms, it's sometimes a good idea to get some additional GI testing done with a naturopathic doctor to rule out any pathogens in the digestive tract.
If that's been done and you've been cleared/treated of any underlying pathogens/bacteria -- I like to work with increasing stomach acid because it's often a common cause of nutrient deficiency. This can be done by taking apple cider vinegar, bitters, or hydrochloric acid with meals.
Address Your Stress
Stress affects pretty much every part of our body -- including our blood. In Chinese Medicine theory, blood nourishes our brain and helps with thinking, memory, and concentration. This is why if you're deficient, you might notice your memory isn't as good as it once was.
Unfortunately, overthinking also depletes our blood. Bringing more balance into our lives by nourishing our Yin (rest) is super important to building blood -- yoga, meditation, nature walks, or whatever helps you to relax and feel calm is always a good idea!
I hope this helps, remember to be patient + consistent -- it takes 120 days to build new red blood cells so it can take a little while to see results!
Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations from a healthcare provider. This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease. That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options. If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.