Kidneys; fluids, warmth and inner joy
Winter is the season of Kidney and Bladder systems in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This system is connected to water, salt, fear, will power, reproductive functions, elimination of fluids, our bones & brain and provides the foundation for all other organs in our system. Kidney Qi, Yin and Yang is the support for all Qi, Yin and Yang in our bodies. Yep, you got it, it's a big deal kind of season. This article from straightbamboo.com below does a real good job of laying out the details of how this works.
In addition to understanding how and why the Kidney system is foundational, here are some tips for supporting your mind, spirit and body this winter:
Balance warmth and respect the channels
The Kidney channel runs from the sole of the foot, along the back and inner aspect of the leg, penetrates deep to the kidneys and then emerges through the lower abdomen to then run up the front of the body ending just below the throat.
Conversely the Bladder meridian begins at the inside of the eye, runs across the top of the head, down the neck, back and buttocks and continues down the back of the leg, ending at the tip of the baby toe. This channel is the longest, having 67 points in total. All channels run bilaterally on both sides of the body.
So when I say respect the channels, what I mean is, try to keep these channels covered, just warm enough and protected from chilly cold winds as much as possible. This means you might need long johns, two pairs of pants or snowpants every day, along with a scarf, a hat that covers your forehead and warm socks! yep, it's time to make warmth as fashionable as possible. My favourite way to do this is to wear thin snow pants on top of my fabulous outfit, ensure I have a warm hat, gloves and socks and enjoy the revealing of my low femme fashion when I get to work!
Understand your unique temperature - what to wear
Another truth here is that we each have a unique constitutional and circumstantial inner warmth we are working with. Some of us are hotter than others, some of us get hot at night but are cold in the day, and others of us are more cold than hot most of the time. Having a sense of this can help you choose what to wear and what to eat.
If you are...
Hot all the time You still need to cover up and respect the channels, but you might choose lighter scarves, hats etc... You may also want to wear clothes that can easily come off and on so when you are outside you can bundle up, but when you are on the ttc, or inside briefly you can undo a jacket or take off a layer easily so as not to over heat.
Hot at night but cold in the day (or unusually cold at night) For sure you want to prevent too much sweating as sweating can deplete our Yin fluids and this can lead to weakening of the Kidney system making us more hot and sweaty at night or unable to balance temperature at night. Kidney is our main foundation of both Yin and Yang. Yin is, simply put, our body fluids, so we want to prevent sweating as much as we can. Conversely, when we are cold inside we really need to stay warm on the outside. For anyone who is cold or even temperatured but gets hot or sweaty at night we need to ensure deep warmth in the day but really prevent sweating. This means we need to have really warm or two pairs of socks, as warm as we can afford winter boots and try to be in an environment that is on the cool side in which we can add layers to stay warm. We want to keep ourselves warm below and cool above to counteract the cool below and hot above that can be this particular pattern.
Cold all the time Dear one, please wear those long johns everyday all the time. Cover up your ankles and lower back with extra layers and warm yourself with a hot water bottle, warm water foot soaks or a warm hairdryer on your cold face, hands and feet when you get home. Being cold all the time in winter requires some extra effort to warm up as often as possible throughout the day.
Understand your unique temperature - what to eat
Generally in winter we all need to eat less salt and be eating cooked food, warm food and lots of stews, soups or baked yumminess. Still there are unique aspects to these food truths and eating to meet the inner and outer environment can be an explorative way to embrace harmonizing our foods with our unique selves and the environment. If you are...
Hot all the time You will want to try avoiding really spicy food, but still eat all food warm and cooked. Using Yin based foods such as seafood, lighter toned beans (lima, chick peas, mung beans) and root vegetables (turnips, parsnips), and a good amount (30-40% of each meal) of dark leafy greens (steamed or baked into food) will help support the balance of Yin and Yang unique to your warmer constitution.
Hot at night but cold in the day (or unusually cold at night) Much like the suggestions above you'll want to avoid really spicy food. You may also want to try balancing your food by eating darker toned foods (kidney beans, black beans, red meats, beets, yams, purple potatoes) during the day and switch to lighter toned foods for your evening meal and snacks. About 20-30% of cooked dark leafy greens will help support your yin while not taxing your yang system to much. Try to avoid extremes, no really cold food, no really hot food. Fun with a fine balance is what's needed here.
Cold all the time Bring on the spice (if your digestion is up for it!). Using warming spicy food can really support you at this time of year. Some spices are cinnamon, cayenne, pepper, garlic and paprika. Adding these to each meal can ensure you are sending in warmth to your deepest core (your digestive system) thereby taking the pressure off of your Kidney Yang doing all the warming. In addition, all food should be cooked, baked is ideal and never drink cold drinks. Avoid ice and cold desserts for this season.