In Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with Kidney system, Water, and black colour in nutshell.
Winter is like the night part of our 24hr day.
In a little more detail, winter health = Kidney system is closely linked to Kidneys, Adrenals, Bladder, Bones, Reproductive health, vitality, as well as growth and aging.
First let’s go over some common symptoms of Kidney System imbalances.
Head/face: occipital headache (back of the head), low pitch tinnitus (ringing), hearing loss, grey hair, dental issues, dark circle around the eyes, Insomnia etc.
Chest: asthma, dry cough with unproductive cough, heartburns
Abdomen: loose stools, diarrhea (especially 3-5am), constipation
amenorrhea, scanty menstruation, dysmenorrhea, infertility, miscarriages, menopause, excessive or low libido, vaginal dryness, seminal emission, impotence, profuse urination, night time urination, bet wetting etc.
Body: low back pain, knee pain, bone issues such as osteoporosis, swelling around the ankle, weight gain or loss etc.
Energy: dip around 3-5pm
Emotions and spirits: Fear and flight, stubborn, will power, determination
Other: congenital disorders, cognitive disorders such as dementia & short term memory loss etc.
Kidney system doesn’t do well overtaxation. The best way to tender it is to do something before getting exhausted.
Let's explore some Winter Health Tips to support your Kidney system.
Winter Health Tips Based on Chinese Medicine
REST (Hibernation/conservation) Winter is to restore and nourish, so that you can come out strong to flourish in Spring. Make sure to have plenty of rest. It is ok to put some weight, lounge, and sleep more!
BREATHING In the winter months, focus on deep abdominal breathing with extra emphasis below the belly button. Feel the warms emerges in the deep lower abdomen as you breathe.
ENERGY & STAMINA Winter/Kidney system is linked to Adrenals The common adrenal fatigue symptoms is the drop in energy around 3-5pm which is the time for Kidney in Chinese Medicine Stress and overextension (mental and physical) definitely affects adrenal function. Learn to do less and find strategies to reduce and/or cope with stress
WINTER QI GONG Knock or rub your the sole of your feet Rhythmically twist your waist in both ways to allow your arms to swing. Gently tap your lower back (between ribs and hip bone) with your loose fists as you twist your waist. You can rub your lower back with your palms as well. Stretch your inner thighs This is relatively a safe set of Qi Gong exercise and many pregnant individuals find it helpful. However, it is always good to consult with your acupuncturist if you are pregnant or have any other health concerns.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH Fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum/lactation and parenting are VERY taxing to our body particularly our Kidney system Make sure to nourish yourself extra well if you are considering getting pregnant, or you are pregnant or recovering from birth. Get support from people around you so that you are not the only one doing everything. Also worth noting that, spring comes after winter, your off-springs will appreciate your healthy winter habits!
FOOT HEALTH Nerves that innervate the pelvic region branch off at the lower back and sacrum, and other branches reach to the feet. When you warm up your feet you are actually doing a favour for your pelvis. It can ease tension, increase blood flow, and calm down the nervous system. Wear socks even at home. Avoid walking barefoot. Soak yourself in a hot tub frequently, or at lease do foot soaks. You can add herbs or essential oils. Ask your acupuncturists for their recommendation that works best for your specific condition(s).
KNEE & BONE HEALTH Bones are linked to Kidney system. And knees have extra strong associations. Keep your knees from cold and moist/damp air. Wear a long jacket or extra layers of pants so that you don’t feel cold in knees.
LOW BACK HEALTH One of the major signs for Kidney system imbalance is low back pain. Keep your abdomen and low back warm by putting an extra layer around. This can support your digestion and ease symptoms in your pelvis.
WINTER FOOD Black coloured foods are rich in antioxidants such as polyphenol and anthocyanin etc. which are so important for health especially things related to aging. Make sure to incorporate black or darker coloured food. Vegetables: Asparagus, black mushroom, cabbage, celery, spinach, sweet potato and yum Fruits: Black currant, Blueberry, cranberry, fig, goji berry, grape, lemon, mulberry, pomegranate, strawberry, watermelon Legumes & Grains: Black bean, fava bean, kidney bean, lentil, millet, oats, quinoa, wild rice Nuts & Seeds: black sesame seed, chestnut, pistachio, walnut Meat: duck, lamb, pork Sea vegetables & seafood: anchovy, cuttlefish, mackerel, salmon, sardine, trout, kelp, seaweed Other: black fungi Anything that contains Vitamin D and calcium is always appreciated especially in the winter time.
WINTER SPICES & HERBS Use spices and herbs wisely: clove, fennel seeds, cinnamon bark, DRIED ginger, licorice, marjoram, star anise are some winter herbs/spices. Taste wise, little bit of salt can be helpful. Bitter flavour helps eliminate excessive fluids from the body via urine Tea Suggestions: Chai tea, nettle, rose hip, elderflower etc. Sounds like chai tea with salted dark chocolate is a thing in winter :)
COOKING TIPS Winter body prefers warmth. In general, it is recommended to cook food for winter, and better with longer cooking time (stews, soups, steam roast etc.), and advised to refrain from fresh, uncooked, cold temperature food during winter. Replace ice cream or yogurt with warm oatmeal or rice porridge (congee). Make lots of soups and enjoy bone broths.
WINTER DETOX Kidney system (including urinary bladder) handles water in our body. Best to work on your water aspect during water in the theme of detox, so that if you ever want to do liver detox or weight loss of some sort, you can actually have a route secured for that (and read my fall health tips as well). No juicing, cleansing, or fasting based detox YET, please! Switch your smoothies to warm soups, and fresh juice to bone or vegetable broths.
PEE/WATER Kidneys control our mineral balance while making sure to eliminate what’s excess including fluids. Drink filtered water and avoid tap water or bottled water. Invest in a great water filtering system. Drink warm water that’s at least at the room temperature, and avoid chilled or icy water or drinks.
EMOTIONS Is there anything that’s holding you back? Are you fearful of something? Work on your kidney system while also exploring such emotions.
HERBAL HEAT THERAPY (Moxibustion) There are tools you can use at home to do moxibustion on acupuncture points safely. Ask your acupuncturist how to do it.
ACUPUNCTURE/CHINESE MEDICINE (Professional Support) There are many ways to help winter health via. personalized acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine.
There are a lot more...
How many items do you think you can incorporate at home for your winter health, starting today?
And it is always good to get educated and guided by a professional for customized health strategies for your particular health status. Reach out to your acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner near you!
Happy Winter, everyone! Akari