Seasonal Changes in the perspective of Oriental Medicine
With each seasonal change our bodies are subjected to different responses. During the winter the quantity of daylight diminishes and as the days become shorter some of us will notice difficulty getting out of bed, weight gain, tiredness, tight and painful muscles and seasonal depression. The cold weather affects us all in different ways, depending on our constitution and health condition.
If you dislike the cold winter weather you may represent the Cold Type that lacks the heating qualities of your system called Yang energy, and you may have a weakness in the lung and spleen energy. The outside cold can easily penetrate and cause respiratory and digestive problems.
If you prefer the cooler winter days and dislike the hot summer you are probably a Hot Type that lacks the cooling and calming yin energy. You may easily develop a weakness in the liver and kidney meridians and you should keep your feet warm as well as the lower back to avoid getting sick.
From the perspective of oriental medicine the winter is the time when the yin qi is highlighted and yang qi is subdued, it is the season of hibernation as the vital energy moves inwards and is associated with the kidney and bladder. It is the time to store- as in storing up for the winter, the time when everything is concealed, under cover. The kidneys work harder during the winter (and during the nighttime within a single day).
Essence or life comes from two sources- our genetic inheritance (Jing) and water and food intake, as well as the air we breathe. The unused essence we gather during the day is stored mainly in our kidneys and also in liver, spleen, lungs and heart.
The kidney rules the reproductive system, fluid distribution in the body, the glands, and bladder function. Bone marrow is linked to the kidneys, and it is not a coincidence that bone marrow is the place of abundance of the stem cells.
The fluids moisten the blood and are essential for the bones and bone marrow to properly function. The bones dry up and are easily fractured if there are insufficient fluids. Osteoporosis is said to be a result of a lack of calcium, but from the perspective of oriental medicine it is caused by kidney yin deficiency. Problems with the knee, lower back and teeth can be linked to kidneys.
As the kidneys affect body fluid, swollen ankles can be associated with the kidneys too.
Will is the power to continuously do something and complete goals. It is said that power to persist and persevere is found in the kidney essence. The emotion possessed by the kidney is fear. People who are easily scared and frightened tend to be kidney deficient. Constant fear can lead to alienation, the desire to be alone, and the belief the world is not safe. In the body it can manifest as arthritis, deafness and dementia.
Health of our kidneys can be signaled by the state of our hair, and can be experienced through our sense of hearing. Premature graying, hair loss, and split ends also ear infection and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) all are a manifestation of kidney deficiency.
The health of our kidneys directly impacts on reproduction and sex drive.
As kidneys are considered a gate of life and store our very essence, our longevity is directly related to the health of our kidneys. Supporting the kidneys becomes increasingly important as we grow older.
The famous classic of Chinese Medicine, the Nei Jing Books on Beauty (circa 200 BC) was written in question and answer form. The empress asked the physician how to maintain her beauty. The answer was - always tonify kidney yin and liver blood.
Kidney yin reaches the chin and forms the foundation of the facial bone structure (Jing). Liver blood is nourished by the kidney yin and fills the flesh, manifesting in facial plumpness, lustre and colour.
As the kidney is an organ of abundant yin ki, it is best for us to slow down in winter and remain resting quietly in order to prevent the depletion of the body fluids. In winter it is good to have a richer diet because the cold and wind is very drying. Winter is the season of regeneration and repair, so it is a perfect time to tone the yin.
You can build up the kidney yin by eating easily digested animal products such as eggs, duck, oysters, sardine , pork and cheese, but only in small amounts so that yin can build up slowly, rather than create mucus (damp) and blockages in the body, that will deplete the yin further. Rice is wonderful to build up yin more gradually. Congees, soups and stews naturally support yin.
The blood building and yin nourishing foods in winter include barley, beef, beans, beetroot, black sesame seeds, seaweed, sweet potato, wheat germ, millet, pumpkin, lotus root, coconut milk and chestnuts.
In order to promote full ingestion of the healing property of your winter stew use root vegetables that will only need a few tablespoon of water or oil to moisten your slow cooker, before vegetables start to release their own juices. You can add beef or lamb as they have the most warming properties and at the end of cooking add some flavor by using organic barley miso paste. For people who are weak and cold choose miso that is darker and has been fermented for a long time. Leave the food unstirred during the process to achieve a calming effect when eaten.
Avoid lying or sitting too long with a full stomach as this can lead to sluggish digestion. After a big meal, it is advisable to take a walk.
In Queensland, because of our climate you may pretend that winter doesn’t exist, but don’t be unwise, respond to the season by rugging up and eating nourishing soups and stews.
Acupuncture treatment can tune-up your yin and yang energy, balance the meridians- organs function, thus increasing your immunity, so you can cherish next season with better health.