Headaches Part 5: Blood Deficiency

A. Blood Deficiency, also commonly called “Liver Blood Deficiency” or “Heart Blood Deficiency”

The pattern of Blood Deficiency usually stems from a Qi Deficiency (which is discussed in detail on page 22), especially the Qi of the Spleen and Stomach, in transforming and transporting food. This manifests as digestive dysfunction or weakness. This could present itself as simple indigestion, fatigue, loose bowels, low appetite or fullness/tiredness after eating in the early stages; or as a more advanced pattern which can manifest as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s Disease (an inflammation of the bowels), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia (multiple sites of muscle and connective tissue pain), Candidiasis (an overgrowth of yeast like bacteria in the intestines), and many other digestive dysfunctions leading to fatigue and muscle pain (yes, they are closely related). In the advanced cases, there will likely be some of the symptoms below. Blood Deficiency can also result from an excessive loss of blood (including menstrual bleeding, uterine bleeding, childbirth, trauma, blood transfusions or donations, chronic internal bleeding from an ulcer). It can also originate from exhaustion due to a prolonged or chronic illness, especially hepatitis, alcoholism, or drug addiction, for instance. You can also check the symptoms of Qi Deficiency on page 22 to see if you fit this pattern as well, as this will often be the case. The key is to determine which pattern is predominant. The Blood Deficiency type of headache tends to be more severe than Qi Deficiency. The key symptoms showing that the headache is caused by a more advanced pattern of Blood Deficiency and not Qi Deficiency, would be that the headache is worse in the afternoon or evening, is accompanied by forgetfulness or memory problems, and it is worse after one looses blood.

1) This headache is often and classically on the top or vertex of the head. It can also manifest as the whole head, or back of the head, but if it is only on top of the head this is a significant symptom of a Blood Deficiency headache. Make sure it is not from Cold Stagnation in the Liver pattern (page 16) as it also manifests as a vertex headache. It can, however manifest in other places as well.
2) Dizziness or vertigo can also be a main complaint and is a key symptom
3) This headache can be worse in the afternoon or evening, and is often after a menstrual cycle for women, since the loss of blood makes the headache worse.
4) The headache is often alleviated or reduced by lying down.
5) Poor memory, forgetfulness, or poor concentration, also called cognitive dysfunction.
6) A scattered personality with disorganization, inattentiveness, or easily distracted.
7) Dull, pallid, lusterless complexion, or dryness of the skin.
8) Paleness of the tongue, lips, inner eyelids, or complexion in general.
9) Weak, dull, dry, cracking nails possibly with other imperfections like ridging or white specs in the nail matrix.
10) Emaciation or excessively low body weight, thinness (including anorexia, bulimia, etc.)
11) Dry eyes, can be with blurred vision or night blindness
12) Spasm of the tendons, weak tendons, tending toward tendon type injuries, tendonitis, tennis or golf elbow, etc.
13) Numbness or lack of sensation in the extremities (hands and feet) or limbs, may include tingling sensations. This is the blood failing to nourish the channels.
14) Tremors of the hands and feet, or spasms in general, like “restless leg syndrome”, and in severe cases epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions with tremors or convulsions. These symptoms actually fall under the pattern of Wind, as in Turbid Phlegm Wind discussed below (page 19), but mild tremors can often start with this pattern of Blood Deficiency.
15) Constipation with dry stools; difficulty in going to the toilet. Usually the stools are not small or clumpy like pebbles (this would indicate Liver Qi Stagnation on page 14).
16) For women the symptoms can manifest as infrequent or very light volume/color of menses, often with a 35 day cycle or more (oligomennorhea), or no menses (amenorrhea), vaginal dryness, pain during sex; could also but less commonly manifest as irregular menses or (metrorraghia), or excessive menses (menorrhea).
17) Anemia or low red blood cell count.
18) Bruising easily, or bruises not going away after a normal amount of time (a few days).
19) Eczema, psoriasis, and many other skin conditions, especially if they show as dryness of the skin.
20) Other blood disorders including thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), hemophilia (blood not coagulating properly), lack of clotting factors, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (which is a combination of eczema, thrombocytopenia, and immune deficiency, often with bloody diarrhea) which by the way are all symptoms within this pattern of Blood Deficiency; vitamin K deficiency. If the disease of the blood has a lack or deficiency of any normal components, we would call this Blood Deficiency in Chinese Medicine.
21) Immune deficiencies of all kinds, ranging from catching colds easily or often to HIV and cancers.
22) Diabetes both type I and II, although this is usually evolves from a longstanding Qi Deficiency (page 22).
23) The classic tongue is pale with a thin white coating, especially pale on the sides of the tongue.
24) The classic pulse is taut and threadlike, so basically feels like a thread or thin guitar string pushing up, instead of a smoother, softer pulse.

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