[separator headline=”h1″ title=”by Mrs. Arwen Careaga, L.Ac., MSTOM”]
[pullquote align=”left”]’It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.’ – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes[/pullquote]I have been observing people in a clinical setting since 2008. That is just enough time to become accustomed to familiar tells: the change in walking that comes from chronic back pain; the knee replacement scar; the facial color suggesting poor sleep or emotional stress; the tension held in the eye area during a headache…Whether the person is my patient or not, and regardless of where our paths cross, some postures and ways of being tell a story.
Recently, between the grocery store, the Kentucky Railroad Museum and a Memorial Day gathering, I observed 3 young women with 2 things in common: all three had significantly thinning hair, and all three had babies. While these two things may seem insignificant or even unrelated to many observers, to my eye they point to a broad diagnosis in Chinese Medicine: blood deficiency.
Women are commonly told that postpartum hair loss is normal. This is often attributed to fluctuation of hormones as the body begins to regulate itself after giving birth. In Chinese Medicine, this hair loss can be seen as connected to the process of giving birth, during which much blood is lost. Blood deficiency may become more drastic if the mother is taxed by going out, either for work or for errands, too soon after childbirth, and if her sleep or nutrition are poor.
In addition to thinning hair, the blood deficient patient may experience signs such as dizziness upon rising, “floaters” in the eyes, dry hair and nails, fatigue. A person may feel as though they are unable to “keep it altogether” which makes sense because constitutionally, they do not have enough nourishment to keep themselves together.
It is possible to prevent much of this deficiency, and it begins with nutrition as far before pregnancy as possible. Kidney beans, black beans, meat, cooked greens – all of these foods can help to build blood. Postpartum, the mother can be restored by eating these foods and a special black chicken soup recipe*. She can be further nourished by resting as much as possible both physically and emotionally. These methods will also be helpful in more severe cases, although if the deficiency has taken root and the above symptoms are already showing, acupuncture and herbs appropriately administered can help to enhance recovery and shore off future problems.
Blood deficiency is not the only diagnosis possible for hair loss in patients, nor is hair loss a definitive symptom of blood deficiency. But taken in conjunction with other signs (including the connection to recent childbirth), it is a reasonable starting place for diagnosis. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is worth a visit with an acupuncturist (especially trained in the appropriate use of herbal formulas) who can do a proper diagnosis of your symptoms and help you decide on a course of action. While symptoms of hair loss, brittle nails, floaters and so on are not life-threatening, they tell the story of an underlying concern which, if addressed, can be rectified, with symptoms resolving as the condition improves.
*One such recipe can be found here http://mamatongsoup.com/herbal-chicken-soup/
If you can’t find every ingredient, get as close as you can.