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Question about a client with intense, persitient meat cravings


I have a question about a client I havebeen working with for some time.He shows alot of kidney yin/qi deficiency( exhaustedly tired but anxious/restless, insomnia, anxiety,sexual disfunction all made worse by lack of rest/alone time etc) as well as Spleen deficiency(craves sweets, worrwort, gassy, tendency to diahreah etc) He is recieving asian bodywork treatments from me for the anxiety/depression and fatigue, which were seeming to be getting progressivly worse .His tounge is pale, occasionally very slightly liver stagnation grey/purple, heavilly scalloped, with a slight clear moist coat, and a red tip.

This client also has CONSTANT nagging meat cravings especially red meat, that do not go away no matter how much meat he eats.He is rather conflicted by this, having had been an ethical vegetarian for a few years prior to seeking treatment.(he had been a "meat in potaotes kind of eater prior)He has been willing to give in to eating as much meat as his body seems to want/need, but even after several weeks of eating like a hunter gatherer, the meat cravings are still nagging him.The only thing that even sort of helps to alay them is eating very fresh wild meat like venison, and that only allays the cravings for a day or so.I had him see his western doctor, to make sure he wasnt anemic, or otherwise not assimilating B12 or iron, and nothing showed on the tests.

So I was wondering what sorts of underlying diagnostic conditions would meat cravings like this, or in general indicate,and what can be done from a TCM perspective to allay what underlying condition is creating them?

I have looked at various books on TCM nutrition(Paul Pitchford's being the notable one) and wasnt able to find anything, other than references to eating meat as a way of helping deficiency conditions, which this client is seemingly showing.

Any ideas as to what is happening here, and what can be done?

thank you



Well I think you are correct when you say eating meat is a natural way of helping deficiency conditions (particularly red meat). And it is. We actually prescribe it frequently and are not proponents of a full vegetarian diet (see "Eat Like a Human Diet"). Meat both provides a deeper source of energy and is also quite grounding which can be helpful in anxiety disorders and just in general. Meat is not the only way, but we consider a respectful moderation the best way for the vast majority of people.

When we recommend meat we are talking about the absolute opposite of how many westerners eat meat. We are talking about 1-6 ounces a week (possibly more in those weakened from chronic medical conditions) with the vast majority of the diet being just regularly unpackaged, unadulterated, natural foods. Eating meat daily is excessive, but it is something that I would imagine would pass in it's own time as the underlying condition improves. Vegetarians can get incredibly run down if they don't eat extremely well and some body types and people in certain climates do not do well on that diet. Ethically moderation is a far better answer (my personal opinion) than trying to eat a diet that doesn't work for us naturally. You don' t have to be anemic or robbed of B12 to feel like this. But anxiety (yin def - free floating qi) and deficiencies (sp, kd) are very common in vegetarians - we treat this mix frequently.

From a treatment perspective, you need to get the anxiety under control, but you also need to respect the deficiency and work on that as well. From an asian bodywork perspective I would ask more detailed questions about his diet overall. Is he just eating salads all the time and now eating meat, or does he have a balance. Try working cinnamon, ginger, garlic, turmeric, etc. into the diet (warming spices) and have more steamed/cooked vegetables and only very occasionally, if at all, have salad. More warming foods, lentils, root vegetables, vegetable stews, oatmeal, etc. and less cooling foods, excessive raw foods, etc. All of these changes will a little occasional meat and he should be fine.

Moxibustion would be appropriate and that is something he could do on his own daily, just watch to make sure it is not excessive as it -might- aggravate the anxiety initially until he his better balanced.

If you cannot help get the condition under control within a reasonable time frame he should see an acupuncturist and/or herbalist in addition to what you are doing.


HI, craig. I agree with Chad about the the warming spices and the nutritional plan that he suggested above. your client being (yin def - free floating qi) and deficiencies (sp, kd) must have for sure a very poor digestion and absorption of vitals nutrients like those that increase insulin sensitivity, such as B6, chromium, zinc , essential fatty acids and some amino acid ( such as alanine) a sub - clinical low thyroid and B12 deficient and utilization must be addressed. the craving for red meat must be due to a poor protein digestion due to a low level of digestive enzymes and HCL.

I personally believe that your client due to the imbalances mentioned above has a week immune system and he is being a victim of yeast ( candida) overgrow and intestinal parasites, that are triggering hypoglycemia. so if nothing get your client any better I would try a DETOX plan with herbs ( some anti - parasitic ones included ). clean his colon real good, and if it is possible some colon irrigation therapies.

If the DETOX plan is going to be done, it is very good idea to include the acupuncture protocol to balance the ( yin def - free floating qi and the deficiency of the spleen which are the primary cause of poor digestion and absorption of nutrient of your client. it is very important that he learns how to eat according with the yin / yang principles. like Chad recommended above warming food and spices for kd / sp yin deficiency.


From a scientific perspective meats are a poor quality protein source with many known toxic residual metabolites from digestion, ie arachidonic/uric acids. After cooking meats are only 10-30% protein.

If the patient is truly anemic, nettle tea/soup with 2-6 tbsp/day microalgae (chlorella/spirulina) are the best sources. The microalgae are over 60% protein, already in simplified amino acid form requiring no digestion to be translated directly from RNA into tissue.

Cravings of protein are often from blood sugar issues, as protein balances blood sugar. Salt cravings are sign of mineral deficiency, and sea algae are appropriate. To be vegan the patient must daily saturate the body with protein and minerals to reduce cravings.

Most cravings are emotional and meditation and emotional healing practices are necessary to resolve this issue.


Out of curiosity do you have any links to published studies on the use of micro algae as a treatment for anemia? Not first hand accounts, or personal experience, but published medical research. I've seen a study on it's use (in mice) to protect from hepatitis which illustrates some of the immune system benefits, but I've yet to find any that show (again in a controlled research setting) that it could be used as a treatment for anemia and/or measured B12 deficiency.

I realize there are plenty of first hand accounts and I'm not doubting some of the benefits of the spirulina, blue-green, etc. algaes. And I've read from huge proponents of the substance from the likes of Pitchford - yet personally and clinically I've yet to be convinced that it performs as well as small portions of red meat. From a Chinese perspective the differences I see are that meat is yang and algae is largely yin. But I'm less interested in that discussion and more in reading any published studies you might find to back up your statement on it's usefulness in treating anemia.


i didn't start out against vegetarianism, but i am now. my body literally cannot function on a vegetarian diet, and i've seen the layers of damage that vegetarianism did to many i knew in india. as a result of these experiences, i find ethical vegetarianism as misguided as factory farming. i also think that the remedies suggested have barely scratched the surface. has this patient been checked for crohn's disease? for lyme disease? this can be very tricky to diagnose. has he been checked by anyone who knows how to diagnose myalgic encephalitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (the british and american names for the same condition). these are the ones that come immediately to mind, and i'm sure that there are more.

diseases like these can increase protein needs greatly at the same time as they reduce the ability to digest cooked meats and many vegetables and non-meat sources of protein. during my weakest and most fragile times, i craved meat so badly that i had to eat it raw to feel satisfied. thank goodness for twice ground good quality meats, a steak tartare recipe and the antibiotic effects of the spices.

as for parasites, if the research in epidemiology continues to hold up as it has over the past 20 or so years, safe, well-rested, well-nourished people that are handling low-level parasite infestations have been shown to fare better when new and opportunistic infectious organisms come along than those whose bodies are too protected from those kinds of challenges. this makes sense to me. neither humans nor any other life form came into being in a sterile, squeaky clean world.


Hi. I'm a newbie here but this topic struck me, so here's an odd story re meat cravings.

Years ago I tried a Ginseng & Longon formula, on which I felt great stability and vigor. I got more done, colors were more radiant, etc. The weirdest thing, however, was an intense craving for red meat. Really intense. I'd not been vegetarian but suddenly I'd wake up thinking a juicy rare steak would be wonderful. If I was watching a National Geographic show on wildlife, it would cross my mind "that would be good grilled." It was an almost comical urge ... not unlike the cartoon Madagascar (I think it was that one) in which the lion thinks in thought bubbles that turn into steaks.

So after a month on that, and I might've lost 4 lbs. or so of overweight (not due to fewer calories than usual or fewer carbs), day 3 rolls around. (I'm female.) On day 3, I get on the scale and I'm 9-10 lbs. above the day before, and lethargy set in around that day and forward, to the extent that later that month I stopped using the formula on the theory that it had done something too powerful, or whatever. Lots of blocked/stuck feeling (not necessarily constipation). The weight did not disappear.

My history at length, for what it's worth, just in case anybody wonders what constitution was the setting for the above:

I've had a lifelong weight problem, was only able to lose weight as a teen (from 160 lbs. around age 11) by cutting back drastically on calories and carbs and staying on a diet that other people would vanish on. (Lesser cutbacks and exercise did nothing over long periods.) At this time my cholesterol went high (on a very low fat diet). With this and plenty of aerobic exercise I was able to maintain my weight into my 20s, and raising calories to 1200-1300 a day (still not a lot of carbs) I slowly gained weight, and that accelerated in my 30s. Midway in there I started taking thyroid hormone. I raised my calories to 1400-1500 a day and have been able to maintain with lesser exercise at a higher weight. These days, in my 40s, I'm 5'3" and about 180 lbs. I average around 100 carbs a day and still the same calorie range.

My birth mother was a type II diabetic as were many in her family, and died in her 50s from it. I've never in my adult life had the carb intake that a typical American diet has, and have had one doc suggest that is likely the reason I'm not diabetic now - I tend to concur. A couple other anomalies are that when I had a glucose tolerance test in the 1990s, I had a weird pattern that I could only find in one test book associated with pituitary source: Upon drinking the sweet drink at the start of the test, my blood sugar went up to the normal expected high, and then declined to the normal expected baseline. Except the decline was not over several hours as is supposed to happen, but in the first 15-30 minutes (straight up, straight down), indicating blood sugar being removed at a very rapid rate... indicating action of insulin. (I was on a low carb diet at the time surrounding the test though.) The other oddity is that I test borderline low in estrogen and have for years (no androgenic features though). I've had fat collect around my thighs, waist is relatively slim, quite a bit of accumulation of fat or edema on the back that seems to change from morning to night.

I'm currently undergoing fertility acupuncture treatments and the practitioner has found a low, weak pulse, tongue coat indicating damp heat (with red tip), and the attempt at raising kidney yang set off a cascade of faint flashes and heat and dryness, so the practitioner is now working on the theory of lots of resistant, damp heat with kidney yin vacuity (as well as kidney yang deficiency but needing to address the other two issues first or more greatly to avoid problems).

I sleep well and don't wake up in the middle of the night, hate getting up early in the morning, feel best in the evening, don't get really hungry, love a cool, damp climate but not cold, am pale/ruddy. Sometimes (lifelong) if I'm really fatigued a rare steak or medium-rare hamburger gives me instant energy that nothing else does.

I've had two unusual periods of effortless weight loss that did not seem to relate at all to calorie or carb intake, just that the weight loss switch turned on and I felt great: Once for a couple months while taking phentermine (which is speedy and I believe works with the epinephrine system etc.) The other after having dental work in which they had to give me massive amounts of numbing injections (I clear that fast) that have epinephrine in the shots. Once back home my adrenals essentially crashed for a few days and I could barely get off the couch as if just wiped out of power, my facial skin shed as if I'd had a strong acid peel (presumably peripheral blood flow was that impacted), and after thew few days of wipe-out I started losing about a pound a day or every other, until I'd lost about 15 lbs. and felt great with lots of energy. That stayed off two or three months then crept back on up to my prior weight before the loss.

OK, that's all I can think of!


Hey Chad,

There are many scientific citations (and entire books) of algae reversing/preventing anemia. Here is one: Spirulina has been found to increase weight gain and correct anemia in both HIV-infected and HIV-negative undernourished children. Simpore, J., et al. "Nutrition Rehabilitation of HIV-Infected and HIV-Negative Undernourished Children Utilizing Spirulina." Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. 49, 2005: 373-380.

Yes algae is more yin than yang, and so is blood, so correcting anemia makes perfect sense. In a vegan diet, yang energy comes from herbs and spices, plus the yang roots and veggies, and breath and exercise which provide plenty.

Any constitution can survive and thrive w/o meat, nutrition science of late clearly shows this is true.

Comes down to choice, and if you want to eat meat go for it!!

I personally choose to do without the toxic residual byproducts of meat digestion on a regular basis. Eat some wild salmon because I love and choose to!!

Gratitude for enough to eat today!!And prayers to those who don&#39t....



I agree with many of the nutritional suggestions above. Meat cravings are often a sign of distinct blood deficiency. Your patient has signs of possible blood deficiency (anxiety-can be SP/H blood def, pale tongue, yin deficiency in general). Even if he does is not dx&#39d with anemia he can still be deficient in blood from an OM perspective. Yang deficiency can also create a craving for very warming "yang" foods such as meat. Also, if a patient is sensitive to cold and lives in a cold climate, meat cravings can increase in the winter.

Eating meat is sometimes one of the dietary recommendations I prescribe. However, you need to make sure that meat is consumed in healthy quantities and is very high quality. I usually recommend 4 oz. of organic meat at a time, 3x per week for blood deficient patients. Best is to cook meat with ginger and the bones in a broth and then consume all the broth as well. You will also need to make sure that the patient consumes plenty of spleen-strengthening foods and dark green vegetables. Herbal remedies and treatment for anxiety + better sleep will also help with internal blood building.

Blood building does take time. If he has been in a state of blood deficiency (which can be exacerbated by being deficient in yang, sleep, essential minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins, etc. ) the craving for a food which is contains something he needs can last for a long time. Give him a healthy protocol and monitor his progress.

I recommend Paul Pitchford&#39s book: "Healing with Whole Foods".

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