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Go Deeper – The kidneys

4:56 pm 15 July 2022 Christine-Shen 0 Comments

The organs in Chinese medicine are more than just a physical representation. The organs include both their physiological function and mental, emotional, spiritual and elemental qualities that align with nature and the seasons. Let's explore the kidneys.

The kidney element in Chinese medicine governs water and is associated with winter, where the energies turn from the hotter yang months to the more yin of winter.  Each organ has an element: liver and wood, stomach and earth, kidney and water, for example. There is also an emotion, a colour and a flavour associated with the organ system. For the kidneys, the feeling is fear, the colour is dark or black, and the taste is salty. It also opens to the ear, has the direction north and is paired with the bladder. The kidney element houses willpower and manifests in the teeth and lustre of the hair.

The kidneys are the body's root and contain yin and yang energies. 

Yin is associated with dark, still, cold, feminine, and inward. 

Yang is more outward, hot, bright, moving and masculine. 

The kidneys control reproduction, growth and development and are associated with bones and marrow. 

The kidneys are said to store jing, which is likened to essence, what you're born with and inherited from your parents.

There are two types of essence:  

1. Pre-natal is from your parents and can be likened to one's basic constitution and DNA.

2. Post-natal is what is transformed from the food you eat and your lifestyle.

Second, you have more control health-wise. Ideally, there is a nice balance of kidney yin and yang energies. Still, if there is yin deficiency, there will be symptoms such as heat, sweating, dryness, irritability, insomnia and low back pain. If there is yang deficiency, there are more cold signs such as cold extremities, cold and painful lower back, increased urinary frequency, fatigue, premature greying, water retention and low libido. There can also be an emotional component manifesting as increased phobias and anxieties. Many of the symptoms mentioned above can be tied to Western medicine's thyroid and adrenal fatigue.

How to care for your kidney this winter:

Keep warm: The kidneys are affected by exposure to cold. Try a lovely scarf to protect your neck from the elements, and keep your feet and low back warm in those frosty winter months. Moxibustion, heated mugwort, is a beautiful supplement to acupuncture that warms particular acupuncture points on the body.

Eat warm: Foods that are beneficial to the kidneys (in moderation) are dark in colour, such as black beans, sesame seeds, seaweed, kelp, lamb and beef. Other beneficial warming foods include ginger, cinnamon, miso soup, soybeans, walnuts, chives and Goji berries. It's best to see your acupuncturist or other health care professional to get an idea of foods that are good for your particular constitution. Some foods can be harmful if taken in large amounts (kelp and seaweed, in particular). It's also best not to eat too many raw vegetables or cold smoothies. Also, try to ingest food and drink at room temperature. There are fantastic herbal formulas to assist the kidneys that your acupuncturist can include in your treatment plan.

Light exercise: Light exercise such as Tai Qi, qi gong, or walking has excellent health and anti-aging benefits and won't cause exhaustion.

Avoid overwork, overexertion, and high stress: Overdoing it depletes your kidney energy. You might experience ill effects of burnout that are usually associated with adrenal fatigue. Ancient Chinese medical texts also recommend curbing excessive sexual activity to keep kidney energy strong and vibrant and to increase longevity.


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