The health of your skin depends on the state of your blood. In Chinese medicine blood is viewed as a nourishing substance supplying nutrients to all body tissues including skin, hair and nails. What are the signs of blood deficiency?
- Pale complexion
- Scanty menses
- Dry skin, hair, and nails
- Vertical ridges on the nails or brittle nails
- Eye dryness
- Insomnia, especially difficulty to fall asleep
- Vivid dreams
- Mild anxiety or tendency to startle easily
- Leg cramps at night
Because blood is a substance, it needs to be nourished with a substance as well. Our bodies make new blood from the food we ingest and transform. Of course, as we age our digestive systems become less robust and can’t extract nutrients from the food as efficiently as in the younger age. This does not have to mean that we are stuck with dried out skin and brittle nails. There are foods and herbs that are beneficial and can be easily added to our diet that can help us nourish the blood and restore the vitality of our skin, nails and hair. I always emphasize with my patients that applying skin moisturizers or hair masks does not work that well. This only protects the skin from drying out from the outside but does not really make any significant difference if internally we are still not supplying the nutrients from the inside. So here are a few easy tips for you to fix the blood deficiency and enrich your skin from within.
Eat nourishing foods. First of all, do not be afraid to eat. When you give the body the nutrients it needs instead of empty calories and junk food, the body will know when it is enough. Trust me you won’t get fat from eating real foods.
Develop a bone broth habit. This is a nutrient dense food that is also going to warm you from inside out, easy to digest, and has many other health benefits. I could write a whole separate blog on this subject. Having a cup of warm bone broth every morning will make a huge difference in how you look and feel.
Borrow blood building food ideas from Chinese medicine. The foods that nourish the blood according Chinese food therapy are good quality meats, eggs, seafood, organ meats and shellfish. The vegetarian sources are not many but plants rich in chlorophyll such as chlorella or seaweed are a good addition. Avoid excessive raw and cold foods especially during the colder seasons to conserve the digestive energy.
Avoid grains and beans. These foods have a lot of lectins and other antinutrients and hamper your ability to absorb nutrients and damage your gut. If the gut is healthy, and the absorption of nutrients is optimized, this will allow the body to produce abundant blood.
Add edible Chinese medicinal herbs that nourish the blood. Lucky for you such herbs are usually sweet and can be added to soups and stews or steeped like tea. Here are some Chinese herbal blood tonics that you can find in your local Asian market or even a regular supermarket:
Astragalus: Cheap and easy to find in an Asian market, has a mild taste and is usually cooked with any soup. The bonus is that this herb is an awesome immune system booster.
Longan berry: This is a delicious fruit, also sometimes called dragon eye fruit. It resembles lychee and you can eat it as a snack. It is rich in nutrients, especially in vitamin C, and can aid in blood circulation and is traditionally used for skin healthy and beauty.
Licorice: It has a sweet taste and makes an excellent tea. Licorice is probably the most commonly used herb in Chinese medicine and the list of its medicinal uses goes on forever. Most importantly for beauty it is a Qi and digestive tonic, and it also promotes body fluids.
Goji berry: This berry is traditionally added to rice congee (porridge) to enrich the blood and Liver and Kidney Yin. It boosts your energy and brightens the eye too!
Reishi mushroom: This one is pretty bitter tasting and you are better off taking it in a capsule unless you like bitter taste. An amazing nourishing adaptogens that does not just nourish the blood but also helps you adapt to stress, sleep better, and modulates your immune system.
In conclusion, remember that your thoughts and action matter too. If you are worrying and overthinking, you are injuring your Stomach and Spleen system, the system that transform food into your blood and Qi. Observe your thoughts, notice if you have repetitive cyclical thinking and stop yourself every time you notice. Find a balance between moving enough and resting, Chinese medicine advises moderation above all else. If you try these tips, I am sure you would notice a difference in your skin, hair and most importantly in how you feel.