Water, Winter, and You
Upon observing patterns in nature, ancient Chinese healers and philosophers charted a natural cycle (5 Element Theory) that was believed to impact all things— our health, our daily lives, and even changes in seasons. The winter season is represented by the water element and is connected to the kidneys, urinary bladder, and adrenal glands.
The kidneys and bladder system in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes the testicles in men and the ovaries in women. Together they are responsible for a variety of functions (The Truth Behind Yin Yang Theory). Prenatal qi (jing) is stored in the kidneys and inherited from our parents . When there is an abundance of jing this creates a strong and healthy constitution, vitality and a resilient immune system. The kidneys are also responsible for water metabolism and bodily fluids like urine, vaginal fluids and semen. Your orifices (bladder and anus) are also regulated by your kidneys.
Other functions of these organs include:
Sexual and reproductive organs
Sensory organ: ears, hearing and listening
Tissue: bones, teeth and the production of bone marrow
The spinal cord and the brain are seen as extensions of the bone marrow
Hair and hair luster
Potential symptoms stemming from deficient kidneys in TCM:
Brittle bones, osteoporosis, and congenital developmental issues
Tooth decay, loose teeth
Ears ringing, buzzing, humming, tinnitus
Sticky ears, overproduction of earwax, ear infections
Hearing loss, deafness (hearing loss as we age shows the ebbing away of our kidney vitality)
Low energy, chronic fatigue
Lower back pain
Brian fog, absent-mindfulness, forgetfulness, memory loss.
Excessive urination, bladder infection, problems with urinating, urinary incontinence
Menstrual and menopausal problems
Loss of sexual appetite, infertility, premature ejaculation, impotence, vaginal dryness
Aversion to the cold, frequently cold
Vertigo, feeling faint
Practices to Strengthen Kidneys
In cold weather, keep the kidneys warm by wrapping up in warm clothing, and ensure that your lower back is not exposed to the cold. You can also use a hot water bottle or heating pad on your lower back, or administer moxibustion therapy over your kidneys for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Cooking with herbs can be a big boost to your kidneys and enhance its functions. Great warming herbs to supplement with when cooking include: basil, clove, fennel, cardamom, dill seed, cinnamon, chive seed, fenugreek, and nutmeg to name a few. Salt is the taste that nourishes the kidneys, so incorporate salty foods like miso, or add a good quality salt (Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt) to your cooking, but be mindful to not over salt! Water is essential for health, so support your kidneys by staying hydrated. Marrow bone broths, hearty vegetable soups, and seafood (prawns, lobster, smoked fish, oysters, tuna, and salmon) are also great to add to your culinary rotation when seeking to eat kidney nourishing foods.
It is also beneficial to consume foods that carry the essence of the kidneys and winter season– like color (black and blue) and shape.
Black foods: aubergine, plums, black grapes, black rice, black lentils, black garlic, black beans, black olives, blackberries, mulberry, elderberries, black currants, black sesame, seaweed, figs, and raisins
Blue food: blueberries
Kidney shaped: kidney beans, any beans with a kidney shape.
When focusing on kidney health it is best to avoid the following:
Unhealthy amount of any salt
Caffeinated coffee and tea
Eating late at night
Exercises to Strengthen Kidneys
Now is the time to go to sleep early and rise later. Preserve your energy. Do not overexert yourself. Some exercise is great, but opt for more restorative practices during Winter such as Yin Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong that focus on breath work and stillness. The Kidneys rule the psoas muscle, so any exercise such as Yin Yoga that focuses on the strengthening and flexibility of the psoas will be additionally beneficial for you during the winter months.
Meditations such as the Microcosmic Orbit can help you preserve and transform sexual essence (energy), and kidney energy.
Click here for a qi gong practice to nourish water
Courtesy of Mimi Kuo-Deemer
Inner Smile for Kidneys
With palms facing your body, cover your kidney area on each side with each hand
Draw an inner smile down to both kidneys and your adrenal glands just below your ribcage on the lower back
Fill the kidneys with the color blue, inhaling a warm blue light into the kidneys
Breathe in the positive emotions of gentleness, generosity, calmness, silence
Fill the kidneys with light and thank them for the work they do
Breathe out the negative emotions of fear, isolation, insecurity
Dispersing these emotions into the clouds for recycling
Healing Sounds for Kidneys
Start with hands resting on top of thighs, palms facing upwards
Bring the hands up to the kidneys
Lean forward and bring your hands together, interlinking the fingers and hugging the lower part of the knees
Look up whilst making a ‘choooooooo’ sound.
Purse your lips into an ‘o’ and exhale ‘choooooooo’, sounds like the word chew almost whispered
Acupuncture & Herbal Therapy
If you feel that you need some extra assistance and show signs that your kidneys need a bit of a boost, acupuncture & herbal therapy can make a world of difference for your health!
Perhaps you have been struggling with fertility issues like menopause for women or virility and sexual performance for men. Or noticing increased lower back or knee pain, urinary difficulties, hearing loss or tinnitus, premature loss or graying of hair, or just want to age as gracefully as possible– a skilled practitioner can tailor an acupuncture and herbal strategy that fits your specific needs.
Komorebi Center for Healing
Written by: Natasha Gaye