A question for your panel of experts:
I have a vegetarian client who regularly sees a traditional Chinese doctor. The doctor does blood letting for many illnesses, the most recently was the flu, he has also performed blood letting for a injured shoulder and to promote regular menstruation. It seems a little random to be prescribing the same treatment to such different complaints. The Chinese doctor also does massage, acupuncture, the Chinese suction cup things, and prescribes herbs and Chinese medicines.
I know the practice of blood letting is also very common in the pacific islands and has been around for a long time. What does the research show on the benefits of this practice, is it beneficial, is it detrimental, does it actually make the person weaker and less able to cope with the stress of illness? As a vegetarian is she at risk of decreasing her iron levels, or other nutrients, to a level that will inhibit recovery. In my view she does seem to have a slow recovery rate to illness and injury.
I am supportive of people seeking non chemical/medical solutions, but to my logic I can not see the benefit of removing blood from a system that is already under stress.
Looking forward to your response
As you indicated, blood letting is still a popular treatment in far eastern countries where it’s referred to as Rakta Moksha, a process that “eliminates toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract.”
According to the tenets of Tibetan Medicine, blood letting purifies and “stimulates the antitoxic substances in the blood stream and develops the immune mechanism in the blood system.”
It’s commonly used to treat skin disorders including acne, eczema, rashes, hives and chronic itching. It’s also used for to treat gout, enlarged livers and spleens, and hemochromatosis - is an inherited disease that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron that can build up to dangerous levels that can damage organs (especially the liver, heart, and pancreas).
[Salonen JT, Korpela H, Nyyssönen K, Porkkala E, Tuomainen T-P, Belcher JD, Jacobs DR Jr, Salonen R. Lowering of body iron stores by blood letting and oxidation resistance of serum lipoproteins: a randomized cross-over trial in male smokers. J Intern Med 1995:237:161-168.]
Even in Western societies, simply donating blood (akin to blood letting) is sometimes recommended for patients with hemochromatosis. (PBS HealthLink Online reports Dec. 4, 1997. Program No. 132)
And at least one study has associated blood donation with a significant reduction in the risk of heart attack. [Meyers DG, Strickland D, Maloley PA, Seburg JJ, Wilson JE, McManus BF. Possible association of a reduction in cardiovascular events with blood donation. Heart 1997;78:188–93.]
Even some animal studies have indicated a link between dietary iron and an increased risk of cancer. (NEJM. Volume 319:1047-1052 October 20, 1988 Number 16. Body iron stores and the risk of cancer. RG Stevens, DY Jones, MS Micozzi, and PR Taylor)
Some evidence suggests that red meat – high in dietary iron - raises the risk for colon cancer. To view this Click Here.
So there is some preliminary evidence that decreasing the amount of iron in your system (through "blood letting" or other means) may indeed be beneficial in some cases.
Whether this is an effective treatment for your client and her particular ailments may be a different story, however.
Blood letting was once the recommended treatment (worldwide) for pneumonia until PCA Louis modernized Epidemiology by proving mathematically that blood letting was ineffective. (Researches into the effects of blood-letting in some inflammatory diseases and on the influence of tartarized antimony and vesication in pneumonitis. Am J Med Sci 1836; 18:102-11)
Your only resort is to look at the evidence. If your client continues to have a slow recovery rate to illness and recovery, you may need to tactfully suggest that she seek a second opinion whether "alternative" or "traditional."
You can also suggest that she get her iron levels checked.