Signs and symptoms of blood deficiency in Chinese Medicine can include fatigue, a pale complexion, poor memory, dizziness or vertigo, blurred vision, insomnia, tremors or numbness, and even hair loss and early graying of hair.
One sign that your acupuncturist will check when blood deficiency (the body is either not making enough, or losing too much) is indicated is the color or your tongue, which will be pale rather than pink or light red.
Nourishing blood deficiency can be integral to alleviating depression in many cases, as the heart and liver are nourished by the blood, two organ systems central in the smooth flow of emotional processing.
The blood, in Chinese Medicine, also houses the Shen, or spirit - an intangible and ineffable part of ourselves that makes us who we are. When there is not enough blood, that dryness doesn't only manifest physically, but also on emotional and spiritual levels, as indicated in the symptoms above.
Fortunately, there are many good foods you can include in your diet to help nourish blood, including:
Limited amounts of meat, eggs and liver, particularly bone broth soup also help to nourish blood when there is chronic or prolonged blood deficiency. See my recent post on heart health and meat consumption for information.
However, a diet rich in the above foods will go a long way towards better health and longevity!
Each element is associated not only with a season, but with a whole set of correspondences, including a taste.
The taste belonging to the Metal element is pungent, a strong, acrid flavor. "Anything pungent is said to scatter qi." Examples include: garlic, cinnamon, and ginger.
Food with these flavors are used to keep illness at bay or when a cold or flu is first setting it because they disperse qi and pathogens. They often cause sweating which is one means of dispelling an illness at the initial stages.
Recently I made the usual sweet potato fries with a twist. Key ingredients: cinnamon, rosemary, sea salt, and lime juice.
Sweet potatoes nourish yin and provide long-term energy. For those that crave sugar, sweet potatoes are your friend. This recipe balances their sweet taste with salty and sour flavors, harmonizing the earth, water, and wood elements. Plus, it's delicious. Great to serve with a veggie soup such as this one which I recently posted: http://www.food.com/recipe/vegetable-cod-soup-216731
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
Wash and cut organic sweet potato into wedges or shoe-string fries and place on baking sheet or cast iron.
Drizzle with a high temperature oil such as coconut or sunflower oil.
Sprinkle to coat with sea salt, parsley flakes, cinnamon, and rosemary.
Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.
While potatoes are in the oven, cut several lime wedges.
Squeeze fresh lime juice on the fries in place of any other condiment as a great sugar-free and I must say, better! alternative.
The element corresponding to the Winter is Water - winter is a yin season; in nature there is activity deep beneath the surface, as animals hibernate and live on stores of food saved over the year. Traditionally this is a time of hibernation, reserved physical and mental energy, and introspection. Winter is a time to connect with your roots and nourish essence.
The roots in Chinese Medicine are your Kidneys - one's qi, energy and vigor is thought to stem from them, the point "Gate of Life/VItality" lies just between them. The classics say that "the Kidneys are responsible for the creation of power. Skill and ability stem from them." (Larre and Rochat de las Vallee)
What is Jing? Jing is stored in the Kidneys and is the energetic substance that governs all the transformations and growth in your body, feeding vitality and vigor over a lifetime. The Chinese character for Jing represents four grains or seeds bursting with potential life, and the color qing, which is the color of a sprouting bud!
Interesting facts about Kidney and Jing - Your Energy Stores
-The kidneys store jing
-Every individual has a fixed amount of jing to "spend" over a lifetime
-The quality and quantity of jing is constitutional, and it is inherited from your ancestors and parents
-In treatment, lifestyle advice is made in respect to one's jing
-Jing is depleted by over time by overwork, frequent ejaculation in men, too many childbirths in women, frequent drug usage, poor diet, lack of rest or lack of appropriate exercise
-Jing follows a long term cycle of growth - governing reproduction and fertility, conception and pregnancy.
-For women, the jing cycle is every 7 years, for men, a new cycle of jing begins every 8 years.
So how does one nourish essence or Jing?
-Pace yourself. When you push through to a "second wind" you are tapping into your jing. Unlike qi that you receive continuously from food and air, one spent, jing can't be re-gained.
-Take time to be still. Meditate, or rest for starters. Listen to your body if you are tired. Stimulating it with caffeine only further erodes Kidney Yin.
-Don't burn the midnight oil. Sleeping is the body's ultimate way of rebuilding and restoring. A rule of thumb is to be horizontal by 11:00 PM to allow your liver blood to regenerate your organ systems.
-Eat a nourishing diet of yin foods - these include preferably organic root vegetables - yams, parsnips, beets - all soups (watery substances nourish yin), whole grains like rice in moderation, eggs, and organic non-farmed fish and sustainably-minded meats.
-Limit or avoid refined sugars and refined foods in general, they stimulate energy but erode Kidney and Stomach Yin over time, creating heat and inflammation. Nourish yin with whole, natural fruits.
-When thinking about nourishing yin, make sure food is warm and cooked, and that liquids are not cold! Cold injures the kidneys. If you enjoy a fresh green juice in the winter, add grated ginger to warm internally.
-Follow a gentle exercise routine that gets your qi moving to the extremities and so nourishes vitality, 20-30 minutes of walking is perfect.
-Acupuncture treatment nourishes jing by supporting the kidneys and the water element, and by helping the body to remember what is truly nourishing.
-Take time to be and not do. I've realized that stillness is an active practice. It takes some time to get used to, but it is essential to nurturing yourself!
Chinese Medicine and philosophy looks at nature to see how to live healthfully. They witnessed that all living things are dynamic, the seasons progressing naturally into one another is the basis of Five Element Acupuncture. The same is true for the generation of energy. Yin as stillness is the very basis for yang, dynamic vitality. The two are intertwined and interdependent, one cannot exist without the other. Nourishing both creates the best foundation for healthy, balanced living.
Amidst all the holiday buzz, eating a nutrition-based diet tends to take a back seat. I've posted the guide to find markets, farms, and businesses that support local foods and healthful choices. http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home A great little synopsis of why eating local matters can be found here: at "Top 10 Reasons to Eat Local":
And here's a link to a seasonal ingredient map from epicurious, an easy way to find out what's seasonal in your area and incorporate it into your holiday dishes!
Eating locally is also one of the best ways to stay in tune with the movement of the seasons, restoring your connection to nature in a culture where we are so often estranged from its natural movement. This is especially key in the winter time when the movement is from yang (bright, sunlight, expansive) energy to yin (quiet, slow, introspective) energy. Winter is the time of deepest yin - quiet - stillness - the feeling of the first deep snow when the earth is abundantly quiet resonates with this feeling. It is the time to hibernate; we all know it; and yet the holidays, shopping can often interrupt that natural movement into quietude.
How many of us long for some peace and spaciousness inside amidst all the activities of the holidays? It is important to listen to that yearning. Without yin, which is your substantive, cooling energy, there is no basis for yang, active, creative energy. The two are always interdependent. We happen to live in a culture and time that favors the expression of yang much more than its counterpart.
Make sure to take time for yourself this winter; replenish your yin energy with plenty of sleep, proper hydration, a daily meditation practice and exercise that is restorative, such as yoga or tai chi. Take advantage of the time with family and friends to be nourished by connection, and allow yourself to simply be together!
Cookus Interruptus teaches you "how to cook fresh, local, organic, whole foods despite life's interruptions"
Tons of great recipes you'll enjoy!
Spring is a yang time, when energy is rising. The movement of energy in your body is the same. By choosing foods that reflect that movement, you will make life more fluid and lively for yourself. In Chinese Medicine, the Spring is also associated with the liver and gallbladder, so it's no coincidence that this is the time our bodies want to shed the heaviness of winter by keeping the diet light and simple.
Food is medicine. One of the best ways to manage your own health and wellbeing is by being aware of the foods you choose to eat, and attuning your diet to the seasons. I can't underscore the importance of eating fresh vegetables in the Spring! The youthfulness of Spring makes it a great time for eating green sprouts, and making "green smoothies" from leafy greens, cucumbers, and/or wheatgrass.
A variety of pungent herbs are recommended in the the Classics of Chinese Medicine for their sweet, expansive qualities attuned to the Spring. These include: basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, and bayleaf. The complex carbohydrates: grains, legumes, and seeds are also highly beneficial. A daily serving of sweet veggies can be particularly refreshing in the springtime. Try making a grated beet, yellow carrot, and quinoa salad, topped with walnuts and a sprinkling of goat cheese. There is plenty of room to be creative with making salads! Adding an element like freshly squeezed lime juice, dried cranberries, or avocado will keep it interesting & delicious.
It should be noted though, that the amount of raw vs. cooked vegetable varies from person to person, and it is best to consult your acupuncturist in regards to how much raw foods are best for you to eat. Very generally, if your constitution is more frail, and you tends towards feeling cold, it is best to consume more cooked vegetables and warmer foods.
Basic foods to avoid for Spring cleansing include heavy, greasy, or oily foods as they stress the liver and gallbladder & highly salty foods due to their sinking, yin energetic (yin is associated with the fall and winter.)
Most importantly, watch how your body feels during and after you eat. The best assimilation of nutrients occurs when you make the time to eat at a relaxed pace, in a calm environment, and with an awareness and gratitude for the incredible blessing of food! Think of it like this: if you are in a noisy, hectic environment or, say, reading your email while you eat, you are also digesting not only your food but all of those experiences. Notice how you feel when eating in this fast-paced environment, and then experiment eating with full attention, present to the sensory experience of flavors and textures. Observe how your stomach feels, or how your breathing might change.
Wishing you Peace & Vitality,
References: Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
Notice: Because individual health and medical needs and responses vary greatly from person to person, you should always consult your healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes. This blog is not intended as a replacement for services of a qualified physician or licensed healthcare provider.