Recovering Vegetarian

I used to have this problem while I was teaching yoga.  Every time I would go from a squatting position to standing up, which was quite often since I did a lot of manual adjustments and the infamous scalp massage at the end, I would black out.  None of my students ever knew about this, at least I don’t think they did.  I would usually stand up and just wait for my vision to come back.  It was a bit worrisome to me but more than anything it was annoying.  I also suffered from the worst insomnia EVER during that period of my life.  I could be exhausted from a day full of rock climbing, teaching, nannying, you name it…and I could just lay there for hours unable to fall asleep. I think that the insomnia was worse than the blacking out.  And I apologize to all who lived with me at that time because it made me a very grumpy person if they ever disturbed my slumber.  At some point I started getting acupuncture from Michael Kerrigan D.O.M., and when I asked him about it he said something about earth element, spleen, liver, and I was completely lost.  Although, I was already interested in Chinese medicine at the time, the theory was just a little too much for me.

Fast forward a couple of years to present day.  After playing copy cat to Kerrigan and attending the same acupuncture college as he did where I am now nearing the end of my studies, I have learned through my education that I was extremely blood deficient.  Now when I was in California I was a vegetarian.  On top of that, I had tried probably every fad diet there was.  I tried vegan, raw food, and even the “I don’t give f@ck what I eat” diet.  But through all that I didn’t eat any meat.  After doing my yoga teacher training in India in 2006, I stopped eating meat.  I agreed with the principles behind “no harming” and meat had always kind of grossed me out.  What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that I had just recovered from mono, a very depleting illness.  I also didn’t realize that when you go on a restrictive diet you need to eat balanced meals.  I knew none of this.  I was like a teeter totter.  Sometimes not eating but one meal a day…sometimes only eating salads.  So by the time I got to Santa Fe, my body was out of whack and what we could call blood deficient.

Blood deficiency in TCM doesn’t necessarily mean that you will test positive for anemia though that is probably the closest western equivalent.  It is not a disease but rather a health pattern used to describe and treat a series of complaints/imbalances.  Blood deficiency is more common in women because of the loss of blood during our monthly cycle.  It is important for women to eat lots of blood nourishing iron rich foods.  Inadequate protein intake is another contributing factor.  If a woman is vegan or vegetarian, she needs to be careful to eat protein with every meal and supplement vitamin B12 as well as include cereal grasses like wheat grass and micro algae such as spirulina and chlorella.  Other contributing causes could be worry, anxiety, overthinking, excessive work, excessive exercise, trauma, blood loss, drug use, and holding in emotions.

After learning this information, I put aside my beliefs around meat and began to supplement it in my diet.  See one things that I didn’t take into consideration while being a vegetarian was that the idea of “no harming” needed to start with me first.  Choosing not to feed myself regularly or prepare myself nutritious meals was reflective of the way I was feeling towards myself.  I was indeed harming someone…me.   So on my path to recovery, I began to eat small portions of meat here and there.  First with white meats and then attempting some red.  Over the past few years, I have cured myself of both the black outs and the insomnia.  Now don’t get me wrong, I can still get insomnia if there is something really bothering me…but it’s not the same.  I still feel that meat should be eaten medicinally and with reverence towards the animal’s life that was taken for your nourishment.  Americans consume far too much meat and without any regard to the impact it has on the environment or the quality of life the animal had.  So I am a recovering vegetarian.  Maybe at some point in my life, I will be able to be a vegetarian again and supplement my diet properly.  But for now, I will continue supplement with small amounts of meat and eat tons of veggies, fruits, and whole grains.

Signs of Blood Deficiency

Chronic fatigue syndrome
Eating disorders
Restless leg syndrome
Gynecological problems: fibroids, menstrual problems and pain, polycystic ovary syndrome
Problems with focus and concentration, being scattered, poor short term memory
Musculoskeletal pain: weak, mushy muscle tone, cold limbs
Insomnia, depression, anxiety

*Please keep in mind these are only approximations. Western disorders do not exactly correspond to patterns in TCM. In Chinese medicine, one disorder can have different treatments and one treatment can be different disorders. People have unique patterns of their own and are treated that way.

Foods that are specifically used to build blood include:

-animal protein: chicken/beef liver, lamb,beef, chicken, turkey, gelatin, mussels, oysters, sardines, eggs

-grains: rice, oats, wheat, bran flakes, millet

-legumes: lentils, beans (black, kidney, navy, pinto), garbanzo beans, mung beans,

-vegetables: green leafy veggies (swiss chard, spinach, kale), beets, seaweed, sprouts, artichokes, mushrooms, cabbage, celery, watercress

-fruits: cherries, all berries (blackberry, raspberry…), grapes, dried apricots, dried figs, prunes

-nuts and seeds: almond, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, cashew

-herbs/other: nettles, wheat grass, spirulina, royal jelly, mugwort, white peony root, angelica root, rhemannia root, blackstrap molasses

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