What does Vegan Acupuncture mean anyway?

I first moved to Portland 10 years ago to attend graduate school for Traditional Chinese Medicine at OCOM. There were two things that greatly surprised me: that Portland was a vegan mecca and that I would face many challenges as a vegan at a school for TCM.

Unfortunately veganism is not something that is looked very highly upon in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncturists will often say that if someone is vegan or vegetarian that they are “blood deficient” or need to build up the blood. Why is that? It is because in TCM we look at the nature of the foods we eat as important to our health. If someone has a weak constitution or recovering from an illness or surgery they need strong, nutrient rich foods to build them back up… i.e.. animal products (this is the theory anyway). Now I am a vegan and was a vegan many years before I went to school for TCM and I have studied vegan nutrition extensively along with nutrition from a TCM perspective. There are many other foods that nourish the blood and are super nutrient rich that are plant-based. I will get to those shortly, but first I want to talk a little bit about the theory that makes many TCM practitioners believe you have to eat animal products to be healthy and build the blood.

In TCM theory our blood is made by the Spleen (this is obviously much different than what we know of the spleen in western physiology). The Spleen and our digestion need to have digestive fire in order to transform the foods we eat into the essence that will become the blood.  Animal products already have a warming nature (they are mostly warm-blooded and active creatures) so the pathway is shorter in that they turn into blood faster than eating plants. This is where the theory of TCM directly conflicts with my personal beliefs and clinical experience.

I get around this cognitive dissonance by eating plant foods that build my blood. Below is a list of foods that build the blood.

Blood Building Foods:¬†dark leafy greens (kale, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, parsley, cilantro, nettles, dandelion greens), beets, carrots, black sesame seeds, blackstrap molasses, goji berries, kidney beans, legumes, peanut skin, avocado, apricot, grapes, almonds, and brown rice. You can see from this list that it’s pretty easy to get lots of blood building nutrient dense foods in a vegan diet. My favorite way to get lots of those dark leafy greens is through green smoothies!!!

Enjoying a Green Smoothie

Clinical Experience: many people that I treat have chronic pain, allergies, fatigue, digestive issues, and trouble maintaining a healthy weight. These are all symptoms usually related to diet and lifestyle or inflammation in the body. When I can get someone to cut out processed foods and animal products the results are amazing! I get to see people totally transform and feel better than ever before. This is what inspires me everyday and makes me so grateful to be able to help people heal themselves.

My Ideal Day… Yoga, Buckwheat Pancakes, Green Smoothies and More!!!

Today started out by going to Yoga… there is a lovely yoga studio in town called Cannon Beach Yoga Arts. You can check out their schedule here. Anyway I took a Vinyasa yoga class to start off my day. All I had before class was some peppermint tea to help me hydrate and detox (ie. sweat more) in the class. In Chinese Medicine we use peppermint to release the exterior and it is slightly cooling in nature. Releasing the exterior typically means promote sweating, but it is also helpful in the first stages of a cold or flu. Western herbalism uses peppermint in a different way; to regulate peristalsis in the intestines and soothe an upset stomach. The essential oil is also helpful for headaches and clearing the sinuses too.

Okay enough on the properties of peppermint. Here is how my day was ideal… tea, yoga, and then on my bicycle ride back home it was slightly cool so I wanted something warm for breakfast. We had just gone to Bob’s Red Mill in Portland and had a ton of raw buckwheat, so I decided on buckwheat pancakes. We had the buckwheat in it’s whole form, so I blended it up dry in the vitamix for only 10-20 seconds and used the flour/meal to make delicious blueberry pancakes. After enjoying the pancakes I made a green smoothie and off to work I went. The pancake recipe is a small one so you may want to double it.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

  • 1 cup raw buckwheat (ground=1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • sprinkle of cinnamon (I almost always add cinnamon to blueberries or lemon zest)
  • dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • enough water to get the pancake batter consistency

Mix dry ingredients first and then mix in wet. The consistency you are looking for is like a runny oatmeal. Start with adding just a little water and then slowly add just enough for the right consistency. Use a large pan or skillet on medium heat and put some coconut oil in the pan to coat the bottom. Coconut can tolerate medium to high heat so it’s great for making pancakes. Flip the cakes when one side is browned to your liking and enjoy!!! I love maple syrup and sometimes I will take a small pan and heat up the blueberries and a little maple syrup to make blueberry syrup and it’s delicious!

Pear, Mango and Spinach Green Smoothie

Pear, Mango and Spinach Green Smoothie

Pear Mango Spinach Smoothie

  • 2 ripe pears
  • 1/2 ripe mango
  • 2 cups spinach packed (or other greens)

Place all ingredients in blender and add 1-2 cups of water, just enough to blend to a uniform consistency. This is my favorite smoothie to date since it tastes so much like pear, and I LOVE pears!!! It made 6 cups of smoothie, enough to have a couple cups in the morning and take a big jar to work for my lunch. After work I am going to make my favorite meal ever!!! Portobello mushroom steaks, yams, and greens… recipe to be posted soon.