Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues. There are many different kinds of anemia, each with its own symptoms. The main symptoms of anemia are tiredness and fatigue. Further symptoms include weakness, pale skin, headaches, numbness or coldness in the arms and legs, problems thinking, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.

Our blood is made of fluid called plasma and cells floating within the plasma. One type of cell in our blood is red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the other tissues in the body. Red blood cells do this with hemoglobin, a red protein that gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin not only helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues, it also helps to take carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs to be expelled. Anemia is a condition in which either the number of red blood cells is too low, or the number of hemoglobin within the blood cells is to low.

There are different kinds of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia, the most common one, when there is not enough iron for the bone marrow to produce enough hemoglobin, or vitamin-deficiency anemia, for example because of a lack of vitamin B12. Anemia can also be caused by certain chronic diseases like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, medications, or have genetic causes.

A poor diet, intestinal disorders, menstruation, pregnancy and family history are all factors that increase the chance of developing anemia. Western medical treatment depends on the cause and may involve making diet changes, taking supplements, changing medications, and treating the underlying disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) anemia is called blood deficiency. There are several causes that can lead to a blood deficiency such as a situation where there is excessive blood loss and the body is unable to replace it, an insufficiency of the building blocks required to create blood due the spleen and stomach not functioning properly, or blood stasis, which means that the body is unable to generate new blood because of an inability to get rid of old blood which is stuck or sluggish.

Blood deficiency syndromes can also involve one or more of the major organs, adding certain symptoms, specific to each organ:

  • Heart blood deficiency will show symptoms of restlessness, disturbing dreams, insomnia, heart palpitations, forgetfulness, and the lips are likely to be pale.
  • Heart and spleen blood deficiency will show symptoms of difficulty falling asleep, poor memory, feeling tired, palpitations, poor appetite, anxiety, and anorexia.
  • Liver blood deficiency has symptoms of numbness in the extremities, tics, tremors, dizziness, blurred vision, floaters, and dry and withering nails.

With acupuncture we invigorate energy and help the body nourish the blood by stimulating points for the spleen and stomach as well as any other organ that is functioning poorly or is contributing to a blood deficiency. Acupuncture can help to bring back the energy levels, improve memory and concentration, relieve anxiety and stress, and strengthen the body so that it is better able to produce the blood it requires. Of course lifestyle, stress reduction and a good diet are also very important factors for success!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

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