Each new season offers an opportunity to take stock of our health and realign with our natural rhythms.
“Winter is the end of all the seasons. To unify with winter, one emphasizes the Yin principle to become more receptive, introspective, and storage-oriented; one cools the surface of the body and warms the body’s core. Cold and darkness drive one to seek inner warmth. It is a time to rest, to meditate deeply, refine the spiritual essence, and store physical energy for the cold season. Even though the slow Yin processes predominate, one must stay active enough to keep the spine and joints flexible.” – Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods
Winter is correlated with the natural element of Water – considered the foundation of the other elements. Winter is also the season of the Kidneys, Urinary Bladder, and adrenals. According to the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, the Kidneys are considered the source of all energy (Qi) within the body.
The Kidneys store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.
During the winter months it is important to nurture and nourish our Kidney Qi. It is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter – rest, reflection, conservation, and storage.
The health of our Kidneys can be seen throughout the body. Hair loss, premature graying or split-ends all signal a Kidney imbalance. Weak or painful ankles, knees, and lower back often signal an issue with these meridians. Teeth are also related to the Kidneys and dental problems can signal an imbalance. Many ear problems (hearing, tinnitus, vestibular issues) can be linked to the Kidneys. Finally, the health of our Kidneys directly impacts reproduction and sex drive.
Baby It’s Cold Outside…
The winter cold can easily leech into our bodies. Cold causes things to slow down and contract, which can make us even colder. This typically shows up in winter as poor circulation, aches and pains, asthma, and osteoarthritis.
Keep your feet warm and your head cool
Keeping the feet warm through winter is essential in order to nourish Kidney Qi. In Winter, more than any other time of year, warm-water footbaths are recommended just before going to bed. In Chinese medicine we believe the head should be relatively cool and the feet warm for proper fluid and energy circulation.
Take it easy at the gym
This is the season to go easy on the workouts. Excessive exercise is cautioned against during the Winter months as it saps Qi from the body and lowers immunity. Light indoor exercise (yoga, tai chi, pilates, etc) or outdoor activities (walking, hiking, snow shoeing, skiing) are recommended. Cut down the mileage significantly in winter if you’re a runner…. If you sweat, be sure to change out of wet clothing as soon as possible.
Save the long / tough workouts for the Spring and early Summer when Yang is on the rise and the body is better prepared.
The salty flavor is associated with the Kidneys and the water element. Salt is Yin and cooling. It moves energy down and in. It has a grounding effect and moistens dryness, softens hardness (such as muscle knots and cataracts), enhances digestion, eases constipation and abdominal swelling, increases appetite, is calming and improves concentration.
A little salt is good, but more is not better. Salt slows the circulation of the blood, which is especially problematic for people with heart problems or high blood pressure. It also increases fluid retention and appetite, which makes it hard to shed extra weight.
Age-old preservation methods such as salting and souring bring the energies of food into the core and are suitable for winter. Make the most of pickles and sauerkraut during this season.
Eat warming foods in winter – particularly soups and stews. Energetically warm foods include bay leaves, chestnuts, chicken, coriander, fennel, leek, mussels, nutmeg, pine nuts, rosemary, sweet potatoes and walnuts.
Foods that benefit the Kidneys in winter include sweet potatoes, kidney beans, squid, millet, sesame seeds and lamb. In general, grains, seeds and nuts have an inward moving energy and are good for winter. However, for children it is important not to overdo wheat intake. This can easily cause phlegm in the system showing up as runny nose, colds, ear ache and respiratory problems. Especially for younger children, emphasize vegetables or rice rather than grains or meat, which are harder to digest.
Yes, acupuncture (and herbs) can treat that….
If you find yourself with a cold, flu, pain in the ankles, knees, low back, any form of osteoarthritis, constipation, or any of the other common (or not so common) issues and ailments of the season, please call, text, or email. Needles, cups, oils and herbs can help!!!