Most of us don’t think about our blood very often; we just take for granted that it will be there, flowing through our arteries and veins. When we do think about blood, it’s often in a negative light. Chinese Medicine looks at blood from an entirely different angle, one that has a much deeper and more descriptive function that it does in Western medicine. Blood in Chinese Medicine is an extension of Yin, a nutritive, sedating, calming substance that nourishes the mind and spirit as well as the physical body.
Blood is elemental to our survival and greatly influences our health, especially in the areas of fertility, pregnancy, labor and delivery. In order to build a strong foundation for women’s health, Chinese Medicine first looks to bolstering blood. This vital substance is the root for a healthy menstrual cycle, which promotes fertility, and is the cornerstone of a healthy pregnancy and labor/delivery. Practitioners of Chinese Medicine place great emphasis on the quality and efficacy of the blood when evaluating health concerns.
Constitutional imbalances are often characterized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as either a deficiency or a stagnation, requiring a building up in the first instance or a resumption of flow in the second. For many women, their particular health issue has a blood deficiency or blood stagnation as its root cause. Signs and symptoms can range from irregular periods, fibroids, cysts, and infertility to difficulties in pregnancy like miscarriage, preterm labor, inability to initiate labor naturally, stalled labor, and failure to progress in labor.
Blood deficiency can be caused by heavy periods, over-exercising and/or an insufficient amount of protein in the diet. Vegetarians and vegans need to be particularly mindful of protein intake and often need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12. Including wheat grass, spirulina and chlorella in the diet is also especially recommended for those who are not eating meat.
With patterns of blood deficiency, we might expect to see shortened, light or absent menstrual cycles, weakness, paleness, brittle hair and nails, dizziness, restlessness and insomnia. Lots of stress, anxiety and “racing brain” can interfere with our digestion; the way we absorb and process the nutrients in our food is directly related to how we deal with our emotions. This, in turn, can interfere with the body’s blood building process.
With blood stagnation, where blood does not move effectively, we might see symptoms of painful and clotty periods, endometriosis, fibroids, or sharp stabbing pains with period or at ovulation. TCM treatments incorporate acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition to resolve these imbalances and support a healthy body.
Blood production is rooted in digestion. Chinese Medicine says when we transform food, we produce new blood. That is why at The Nest we have such a strong focus on nutrition! We understand that when we improve digestion and improve the quality of the foods that a patient consumes, we have a direct impact on the quality of the blood that is being produced. Good food and a healthy digestive system are the best ways to build a strong root for healthful women’s bodies. Some blood building and blood regulating foods include: dark leafy greens, blueberries, raspberries, dates, figs, and beets. Fruits and vegetables that are dark in color are particularly beneficial for the blood.
A Bit About Beets
Beets are a blood building powerhouse. While they are available year-round, the best time to buy them is June through October, when they are at their most tender. Look for unblemished bulbs with sturdy, unwilted greens. Roasting is the easiest way to cook beets, not least because the skins will slip right off. Cooking them this way is easy.
EASY ROASTED BEET RECIPE:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the greens away from the beets, leaving about 1/4 inch of stems. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or lidded ovenproof casserole dish. Add 1/4 inch of water to the dish. Cover tightly. Place in the oven and roast small beets (three ounces or less) for 30 to 40 minutes, medium beets (four to six ounces) for 40 to 45 minutes, and large beets (eight ounces or more) for 50 to 60 minutes. They’re done when they’re easily penetrated with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool in the covered baking dish. Cut away the ends and slip off the skins.
Roasted beets are wonderful on their own or simply dressed with a vinaigrette, and they will keep for five days in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. It’s best not to peel them until you plan to eat them.