Chinese medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the seasons. In Chinese medicine theory, there are five seasons- winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. Each season helps us to change our habits so that we may create more balance between the external environment and our bodies. The foods and lifestyles that follow the Chinese Medicine aid in keeping one healthy throughout the year and provides the tools to keep the immune systems and organs strong to ward off disease.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter, is associated with two major organs, the kidneys and urinary bladder. The kidneys hold most of the body’s most basic and fundamental energy, whereas the urinary bladder supports water metabolism and maintaining homeostasis. During this period rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in winter.
The sense organ, ears, are associated with the kidneys, and our ability to hear clearly is related to kidney health. Winter, with its quiet and stillness, allows us to hear more of the world than the buzzing activities of summer. This forces us to slow down, rest, and relax.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter belongs to the water element which is ruled by the kidneys. This cold and dark season is a time to store energy and inner warmth. To align your body with Nature’s energies, try eating these foods in the winter:
Seasonal: roots, tubers, squash
Slow-Cook: hearty soups, lamb stew, bone broth, congee
Support Kidney: dark beans, black sesame seed, walnut, chestnut, pork
Acupuncture and herbs for prevention and treatment of cold/flu
Restore Adrenals: rest deeply, reduce stimulants and stress
Yoga: for flexible joint and spine
As we age our bodies begin to dry out because we lose water. Our bones and hair become more brittle, our skin loses its elasticity, our minds may lose their familiar flexibility. Traditional Chinese Medicine gives us several mental, physical, and nutritional tools to help slow down the progression of the natural aging by offering ways to increase the water reserves within us.
The Kidneys have a cooling and lubricating function that ensures that all the structures within the body and mind are lubricated and misted keeping the body and mind flexible and preventing excessive friction from building up.
The kidneys regulate water metabolism and stabilize the heart and blood, and according to Chinese medicine, kidney energy also is responsible for healthy teeth, bones, and bone marrow. Because the brain and spinal cord are considered extensions of the bone marrow, ancient Chinese medical scholars believe, the Kidney rules the skeletal structure and function. This includes power over intelligence, reason, perception, and memory.
Acupuncture and herbal remedies can be used to strengthen the organ functions, and attention to diet, exercise, and meditation can help restore its healthy functions.
Symptoms Associated with Imbalances in Water/Winter
Lower back pain—chronic or acute
Knee pain and weakness
Problems with urinary retention
Fatigue and shortness of breath
Vertigo or dizziness
Anxiety and excessive fear
High blood pressure and/or headaches
Inflexibility and resistance to change
Dr. Jane Catania, DACM
Board Certified & Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist Trained in China & U.S.