It's Possible To Thrive in Winter, Here's How According To Chinese Medicine
Winter season affects the human body just as it does every other part of nature. Our organs function differently, and our bodies respond to the change in energy whether we like it or not: but, are we really doomed to suffer the cold?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (or, TCM) says no -- we are able to thrive in this season if we know how to observe the natural changes and work with the different energy. Then it cannot work against us. That’s harmony. In TCM, winter is the season that rules kidneys, and the element of water: it is a ‘yin’ season that rules the darker, colder, slower and more internal energy. So it’s the most important time to look after our kidneys, and make sure our bodies don't fall too deep into a yin state.
Kidney Energy is our ‘essence’ according to TCM: our most basic and fundamental energy. It controls the immune system, bones, bone marrow, brain, body fluid, sexual energy and reproduction. Our longevity is greatly determined by how well we balance this energy. In other words, balance your kidneys to delay the aging process! Things like dehydration, excess salt, and excessive behaviours weaken our kidney energy. We should be drinking more hot liquids, reducing salt intake, and balancing the quantities and types of foods we eat (think: eat the rainbow). When things get too yin, we need to add back some yang. Yang energy is warming and stimulating, and foods that nourish our yang energy are essential to supporting kidney health in a season where kidney yang gets depleted. An excessively yin body is a cold body: the kind of environment that unhealthy, cancerous cells love.
Research confirms that a higher body temperature can tremendously increase immunity, strengthen the endocrine system and boost the body’s basal metabolic rate. The Chinese were right about excess yin all along. So, the perfect foods for this season to nourish our kidney yang are: black beans, black mushrooms, black sesame seeds, blackberries, black tea (kidney energy corresponds to the color black); walnuts, seeds, asparagus (bitter foods nourish the kidneys); and some seaweeds (because they’re moderately salty, and anti-aging). Cut back heavy meats, sugars, sodium and excessively cooling foods. Give your body a balance of what it really needs: warming, grounding, nourishing foods.
It is also important to look after your lower body, as it is the yin part of your anatomy. Because warmth is equally important for health. Add some warming spices like ginger for extra warmth and stimulation! And finally, balancing kidney energy goes beyond the physical plane: it is essential that we balance our emotions as well. The emotion of fear relates to the kidneys and a body holding too much fear can weaken the organs just as much as improper nutrition can.
A balanced body in tune with the natural environment is free from stuck energy and excessive emotions: so don't ignore your fears! But let the introspective winter energy help you to release them. We now have the opportunity to slow down, reflect, meditate and go inwards. Your body wants you to slow down, and when you let it, it will actually become stronger for you! Identify what it is you may have fear towards, and acknowledge it: then maybe you can release it.
More importantly: balance stress levels, and make sure you are getting enough sleep...there’s a reason the days are shorter this time of year. Go to bed a little earlier, and aim to also wake up a little later if you can -- we give you full permission! No need to expect colds, depression and boredom when winter hits. Following nature's changes and adapting a little is all it takes to maintain vibrancy, joy and health this season!