Winter Seasonal Health

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Winter correlates to the Water element, and the Kidney/Bladder organ system, which looks after our waterworks, fertility, and bone health, among other things. The Kidney stores energy for us to use when we need to adapt to new situations or environments - when we are under stress. This energy naturally declines as we age or if we're under chronic stress, and is more easily depleted in the wintertime because we need to use more of it to maintain body temperature. Looking after the Kidney in the colder months is a great way to prevent winter bugs, colds, and the flu. Winter is all about resting and replenishing our physical and mental energy.

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Physical Wellbeing

At this time, keeping warm and staying hydrated is really important, when the weather can be cold and damp. Always keep your lower back and belly warm with long thermal tops and try not to stay outside for so long that you start to really feel the cold. Get plenty of sleep, going to bed earlier than usual if possible. Dial down on the strenuous exercise, especially things that are hard on the lower back and joints such as digging in the garden (oops… I’m guilty of that!). Replace this instead with gentle regular exercise, making the most of the short daylight hours. 

With the long dark and cold days of winter, it's a perfect time to reflect on the year gone by and the year to come, to read and meditate, and to listen to the world around us as it gets quieter.

Yoga and QiGong are excellent gentle exercises suitable for all levels of fitness. Try QiGong for the Kidney, or this 30 minute Yoga with Adriene sequence for the lower back and hips. 

Emotional Wellbeing

Fear is the emotion associated with the Kidney, fear makes Qi ‘sink’. When we're afraid we might literally pee our pants. We may feel light-headed or pass out, you can’t think straight. All your blood goes to your extremities so you can run away from the scary thing!

Think “It sent a chill down my spine”, “made my blood run cold”, “scared to death”, “scared out my wits”, scared s***less”... 

The Kidney is responsible for our willpower, self-confidence, determination, and perseverance. It gives us a sense of purpose, inspires us to set goals, and the drive to carry them out. An issue with Kidney energy might manifest emotionally as chronic fear and anxiety, panic attacks, a sense of impending doom, catastrophising, and feeling insecure. Those with Kidney issues might tend to start projects and never finish, or not know when to stop.

Some useful ways I have found to help process emotions are; journaling, meditation, and mindfulness.

Signs your Kidney is in need of some TLC

Common symptoms of a struggling Kidney/Bladder system (in the traditional Chinese medical sense, not the anatomical kidneys and bladder, although they do share similar roles) are:

  • Lower back pain
  • Joint pain, knee pain
  • Fertility and sexual health issues
  • Fatigue
  • Hot flushes
  • Greying or losing hair
  • Hearing loss
  • Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis
  • Panic attacks, anxiety
  • Isolation, no enthusiasm for life

Find out more about the Kidney 

Diet & Lifestyle Choices that support the Kidney

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Winter Lifestyle
  • Make time to reflect on your year, things you are grateful for, and things you would like to do differently 
  • Spend time in nature, always keep warm, and layer up
  • Exercise gently and often
  • Rest as much as possible, physically and mentally, leave the difficult tasks until spring

Winter Food
  • Eat warm meals, drink warm teas
  • Make hearty stews, with garlic and ginger
  • Bone broth is a must
  • Eat plenty of winter veggies; root vegetables, sprouts, cabbage
  • Reduce alcohol, spicy and overly salty food
Winter 3

Meal Ideas

Breakfast ideas:
  • Porridge; with cinnamon, honey, nuts, seeds, walnuts
  • Egg on toast, scrambled eggs, etc, baked beans, sweet potato, sauteed potatoes with eggs and greens
  • Warm tea (no cold fruit juices!)
Lunch ideas:
  • Soups; potato and leek, carrot and ginger, miso soup
  • Slow-cooked or stewed dishes (use leftovers from dinner the night before or batch cook)
Dinner ideas:
  • Stewed, slow-cooked, or roasted dishes with; wholegrain rice, potato, beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp, prawns, root veggies, leafy greens, ginger, garlic, parsnip, turnip, black beans, kidney beans, miso, fermented veggies 
  • Seasonings; rosemary, sage, thyme
Snacks:
  • Seeds, nuts, dried fruit (not in excess)
Sweets:
  • Stewed apple or pear with cinnamon
  • Oatmeal cookies, flapjacks with seeds and nuts
Drinks:
  • Ginger tea, fennel tea, jasmine tea, bone broth

Cooking Methods
  • Stew
  • Slow cook
  • Roast

I’m no chef - so I’m always looking for delicious recipes that nourish the Kidney using the foods and methods above! If you have any you’d like to share, please email them to [email protected]

Winter 4

Read more about the Kidney/Bladder system and its many functions