Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion School
Blood and Circulation Health
IntroductionHealthy blood and good circulation are crucial for the proper functioning of every system, organ, tissue and even every cell in the body. In Western medicine, blood and plasma are treated as one. In Ayurveda, the blood (rakta) is considered to be its own tissue, as is plasma (rasa). However, the two are still intrinsically linked and work together, side by side. Rakta is the carrier of heat, energy and nutrients throughout the whole body while rasa acts as the protector, containing white blood cells, antibodies, and works with the lymphatic system to cleanse the body. Rasa is known as the essence or juice of life.
Together, rakta and rasa fulfil life sustaining functions. Rakta, the red part, is responsible for the transportation of oxygen from the lungs, energizing every part of the body (prana). Rasa, the plasma, primarily carries the end result of digested food (ahara rasa) from the digestive tract throughout the body. Rasa also plays many other roles, including removal of waste from the body as it transports carbon dioxide to the lungs for gaseous exchange. Rakta is hot, sharp, sour and penetrating. Rasa, on the other hand, is soothing and nurturing. It is mostly sweet, even though it contains trace amounts of the other five tastes as it is the first tissue that receives nutrients from the digestive tract.
The Ayurvedic ApproachAyurveda is very useful in assessing the general health and quality of the blood. One of the biggest contributions of Ayurveda is that is shows how systemic conditions in the blood are related to diet and lifestyle through the observation of different qualities (gunas). By identifying patterns in these gunas, a person can improve the quality of their blood themselves by modifying their diet and lifestyle choices accordingly.
The balance of the gunas in the blood is essential for general health maintenance as the blood affects the entire person. If you have an imbalance in the doshas, particularly in an early stage, you can often improve your overall sense of well being by addressing and correcting the blood. Good blood brings vitality to the whole body and enables your body to heal. Ayurvedic herbs are absorbed into the blood and transported to the required location.
What Causes a Blood Imbalance?The first step to healthy and vital blood is to identify what causes an imbalance in the first place. By knowing and avoiding the cause, you can work preventatively to maintain the health of the blood. As rakta is hot, sharp and penetrating, it becomes imbalanced when your diet contains too much of these same qualities - think hot, spicy foods, an excess of the sour and pungent taste, too much red meat, cigarettes and alcohol. The blood is already hot by nature, so taking in a heating diet will throw it out of balance. Similarly, spending too much time out in the hot midday sun will also overheat the blood.
Rasa will go out of balance if you are dehydrated from not taking in enough liquids or as a result of vomiting or diarrhea. It can also go out of balance if you are overhydrated, sleeping too much, eating a diet that is excessively heavy or light, or if you take in too much sodium or not enough electrolytes. Environmental and chemical toxins such as cleaning products, skin and hair care products, car emissions and air pollution will all alter the state of both rasa and rakta as they are the first tissues the toxins will reach. It's not only physical toxins that are harmful, toxic emotions such as jealousy, anger and stress will also alter the state of the rasa and rakta.
Common AilmentsNo two bodies will contain the exact same type of blood. Diet, lifestyle, environment and emotions can all alter the state of the blood and lead to a unique type of imbalance. Each individual's blood will be different due to their constitution and digestive type. The weaker the digestive system, the more digestive toxins (ama) will be circulating in the blood stream. Blood, therefore, has the power to circulate either nutrients or toxins to every part of the body.
Hot BloodOne of the most common imbalances in the blood is "hot blood." This develops when there is an excess of Pitta dosha due to improper lifestyle habits and eating heating foods that aggravate Pitta. All the spicy food and stress accumulates and can lead to an inflamed liver. An overheated liver can lead to conditions including reddening of the face, fever, bilirubin in the blood, and in turn, jaundice. Hot blood can also be seen on the skin in cases of eczema, psoriasis and acne and when someone is quick to anger.
Sweet BloodAnother common imbalance in the blood is "sweet blood." In this type of imbalance, the blood is generally thick, oily, congested and stagnant due to an excess of Kapha dosha. It is caused by eating Kapha provoking foods such as excess sweet, oily, fried foods and a sedentary lifestyle. Sweet blood can lead to conditions including high blood pressure, poor circulation, fatigue, high cholesterol. A person with sweet blood may also feel stuck in life or even depressed.
Dry Blood"Dry blood" is an imbalance typically associated with Vata dosha. The blood is thin and cold and is often teamed with deficient conditions such as anaemia and low blood pressure. A person with thin blood is likely to feel fearful and anxious and should avoid Vata provoking foods. This dry, thin, cold blood may slow down digestion, leading to gas, bloating, and constipation. Dry blood can be improved with the sour taste, such as a squeeze of lemon or lime in warm water with a pinch of mineral salt. This rehydrates the blood and helps balance electrolytes. The addition of easy to digest fats, such as ghee, can also reduce dry blood.
Blood TonicsSo what can be done to correct these imbalances in the blood? "Hot blood" is balanced with the use of alterative and bitter herbs. These properties cleanse the blood of excess heat and support the liver. Examples include aloe vera, neem, manjistha, brahmiand CCF tea. "Sweet blood" required bitters, pungents and diuretics to clear stagnation. Guggulu, cinnamon, dandelion root, neem, turmeric and gingerginger can all lighten the load of thick, oily blood. Or, try a homemade tea of ginger, lemon, and parsley. "Dry blood" needs hydration first and foremost, teamed with strength building herbs such as ashwaghanda or a cup of warm and sweetened golden milk. Small amounts of well cooked, red meat will help build deficient, dry blood, while demulcents such aslicorice root help rehydrate the body in dry, Vata conditions.
ConclusionHealthy blood nourishes every cell in the body. It flows through the body like a river, transporting essential nutrients and collecting waste. It ensures every tissue, organ and system has the fuel it needs. However, the pervasive nature of blood means, not only does it transport nutrients around the body, it also transports toxins. In Ayurveda, the main source of a blood imbalance is digestive toxins, known as ama. These toxins accumulate in the GI tract, and can build up to such levels they eventually spill out into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the entire body. Ama can cause an array of disorders, including a variety of blood imbalances. Ayurveda offers a practical theory of classifying blood disorders by qualities - like hot, sweet and dry - so the root cause can be corrected at its source in the digestive tract. The health of the blood, plasma and liver are all essential for proper blood flow around the body. Tonics can be used to replenish and strengthen and cleanse the blood. Balanced blood brings vitality, vigor and sharpness to the mind.
Find Ayurvedic health tips In these main areas:Water Regulation
Liver and Gall Bladder