Preparing For Winter In Chinese medicine

Preparing for Winter with Chinese Medicine

Dr. Lauren Dulberg DACM, L.Ac

Chinese medicine came to be thousands of years ago by observing the subtle changes in nature and the beautiful cyclical changes in the seasons. The medicine teaches us that by living in harmony with nature we are then in fact in greater harmony with ourselves and our bodies. Winter is when we nourish our kidneys and the water element, stoking the fire and preparing the hearth within.

Chinese Medicine + Winter

Water - The element of the Kidneys (Yin) and Urinary Bladder (Yang)

Season : Winter

Emotions : Fear ( imbalance)  Perseverance, Strength (balanced)

Flavors : Salt, Bitter  

Physicality : Bones,  Ears

Color : Black

Direction : North

Kidney time : 5-7 pm

Kidney Function in Chinese Medicine

  • Stores Essence which governs birth, growth, reproduction, development and aging

  • Nourishes and produces marrow and fills the brain

  • Controls bones and helps govern the water metabolism in our body

  • Controls the reception of Qi ( ex. If someone has asthma and their difficulty is breathing in we treat the kidneys and the lungs )

  • Opens in the ears ( hearing, tinnitus)

  • Manifest in the hair ( greying and thinning, thickness of hair)

  • Houses our Will Power

  • Controls the Ming Men Fire which is located between the two kidneys

Pathological Imbalanced manifestations

  • Depleting Kidney Jing creates accelerated aging - Rock star life, night shifts, not nourishing yin, overworking

  • Imbalances : Mostly associated with kidney, urinary bladder issues of all kinds as well as brain function, nervous system, alzheimer's, dementia, dizziness, Headaches, Migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, Stroke.

  • Infertility is also one of the major issue treated in Chinese medicine by way of the Kidney Qi or Jing which is what gives way to our “Essence” and our ability to carry on and obtain Qi to create a new life. Strong Kidney Qi is very important for this, which is why in Chinese medicine we always nourish the kidneys when a couple is trying to conceive. Our Kidney Qi is also the fundamental energy that contributes to growth and development

Things that can Damage our Kidney Qi and Water Element

  • Anything in excess ; Drugs, alcohol, exercise, emotions, work

  • Too much salt

  • Not enough water

  • Too many consecutive pregnancies

  • Prolonged and Intense Fear

  • Stress

Winter Food Therapy

Foods that Nourish the Kidney and the Water Element

Food should be cooked, we should refrain from eating cold and raw foods during the Winter months since our bodies are at a colder temperature internally and externally. Cold also can damage the Spleen in Chinese medicine and the Kidneys .Stews, Soups, Roasts, Steamed greens, Oatmeal are ideal for Winter months

  • Bone Broth

  • Celery, Alfalfa, Asparagus

  • Small dark beans, black beans

  • Roast Nuts

  • Steamed Winter Greens

  • Lamb

  • Quinoa, Rye, Barley, Amaranth, Millet

  • MicroAlgaes, Seaweeds

  • Watercress, endive, escarole, turnip

Chinese Medicine Winter Health Tips

Tap Into Your Emotions : Winter is associated with the emotions of fear and courage, which are opposites. Just like ice, when water freezes, fear is the contraction away from the infinite into the ego in a way that actually freezes potential. Fear can creates obstacles that do not actually exist and get in the way of many things in our lives from relationships, to choices to how we react to other people.

Courage and willpower are the opposite of fear. Harnessing your inner ninja and feeding you courage and will, create the ability to move through your journey of life and fullfill your true potential without obstacles that you may create for yourself.

The idea is to be like water. Water is one of strongest forces of nature. It can penetrate even the hardest ground and change the form of stone.

Softness. Strength and resilience within the softness. To go with the flow

Let go of Resistance.  

Take it easy + retreat -  As summer is the time of Yang and outwardness, it is when the earth is telling you to tap into your best extrovert. Winter is the opposite. It is the season to go within, find your inner introvert and go with it. The image is that of the hearth, a grand fireplace glowing in a darkened room. You’re wrapped in wool blankets writing poems, drinking tea with honey, Joni Mitchell is playing in the background and the snow is falling outside. What more could you ask for..  hibernate, meditate, take it easy, restore your energy and healthy you will be!

Warm Nourishing foods - Only! - This is a very important part of staying healthy in winter. In Chinese Medicine this is the time of the Kidney and when the Yang Qi is very low. In order to preserve and strengthen our system, we must eat warm nourishing food. Soup and stews are your best friends! Here are some of the best ones to supplement those Kidneys, warm the body and  protect your immune system.

Foods to limit: Salads, smoothies, cheese, raw fruits and veggies -  Why? Because our Spleen and Kidney Yang decrease in the winter and cold foods can damage them even more. The spleen is a cold wet organ in Traditional Chinese Medicine and when you give it cold food during cold months it can impair the digestive system and the ability for the spleen to do it’s job which is to make Qi ( life force energy) and metabolize our food properly.

Sleep more - The sun setting earlier is no coincidence. Try and preserve your Qi by going to bed around 11 pm the latest since our bodies need to work extra hard in the Winter months and need those extra hours of sleep. So get under your warm blankets and enjoy your Winter dreams.

Acupuncture for immune support! - Did you know there are special points on the body that have been researched and proven to increase your immune system.  Not only can Chinese medicine prevent you from getting sick by strengthening your immune system but it can also help you get better, quicker. We have special points that nourish the lungs, get what we call “ heat” out of the lungs or “cold”, vent out sickness and also points that dramatically decrease fevers.  

Enjoy the season, stay warm and healthy!