Chinese Medicine and Winter: Tips and advice to stay healthy this season
As you may be feeling it’s starting to cool off outside, we are now reaching for that extra layer and wanting to keep warm. Yes we are now in the season of winter, the most Yin time of our year. A time where the energy turns inward and we start to turn to more introspective activites like reading, watching movies, cuddling up in bed and so on. This is a very natural process, if you look at nature what do the animals do…they hibernate….they physically eat, stay warm and go to sleep. In reality this is what we should also follow, it’s a time for us to rest and rejuvenate before the fresh new burst of energy and life that comes with Spring. The ancient sages understood and knew of the importance of living in harmony with the seasons. They believed that for the cultivation of health or life one had to abide by this principle.
The Kidney and Bladder are the organs associated with the season of winter and emotionally it relates to the emotion of fear. Fear is a natural and necessary emotion for us when it arises appropriately. The issue arises however when we start existing and living our days in a state of fight or flight and our lives run by fear. As the Kidneys are associated with the emotion of fear this depletes their energy or Qi which in turn feeds this cycle generating more feelings of fear, panic and insecurity. The key to breaking this cycle and assisting yourself during these times is to de-stress. Stop, take a breath, slow down even just for a moment. Meditation is a perfect exercise.
Our diet, what we feed ourselves also has a vital role in our health. Eating foods that are local and in season are a great start. There’s no coincidence that foods that are naturally available during winter are beneficial to our body and in the winter particularly for our Kidneys. Eating warm hearty soups and stews, whole grains, root vegetables, roasted nuts, beans and legumes (such as adzuki and kidney beans and chickpeas), and warming herbs such as ginger and garlic are all beneficial. For the non-vegetarians it’s also the perfect time to include meat, in particular red-meat, as it’s very Yang in nature.
Another important tonifying food in the winter is salt. It is the flavour associated with the Kidneys and therefore in small amounts will help to tonify the Kidneys. Please take note on the source and quality of your salt however, the best being unrefined sea salt or Himalayan sea salt as they contain all the minerals in the same ratio as the minerals that make up our blood!
Other tips for winter include:
- Keeping warm, especially your neck, feet and low back
- Try not to sleep with window open as a draught while you sleep can lead to waking with a stiff neck or cold
- Get enough rest and down time
- Meditate, try yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi
- Avoid eating cold, raw food and eat more warm nourishing foods like soups and stews
- Try to avoid stress and overworking self….listen to thy body
- Have an Epsom salt bath
- Limit the peppermint and green tea and try chai or ginger tea