By Michael Hurley L.Ac. – Co-founder and Acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

Winter is the time of hibernation.  This does not mean that we should become anti-social and shut people out of our lives.  It means that we should take time to look within and really see if we are the people we want to be and if our lives are playing out to our satisfaction.  In my last article, Fall and your Health, I explained that Fall was for completing our creation cycle. Winter is for taking that first step in the next creation cycle.  That first step is planning.  Being able to view the last year and separate what went well and what maybe did not is an important part of our creation cycle.  Then deciding what will serve us best for the upcoming year.  An understanding of how our body responds to the season of winter may help us prepare and be better equipped to proceed through this pivotal stage.

In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), the body is made up of various channels or pathways that Qi flows.  These correspond to organ systems and have, over the years, been associated with certain characteristics.  For instance, the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder systems are associated with Winter.  The emotion of the Kidneys/Urinary Bladder is fear.  Maybe this fear comes from knowing we need to start something new.  Maybe we are not confident that we can do better than last year.  Whatever it may be, supplementing and caring for our Kidneys is very important to combat this fear.

As we get older, it is increasingly important to take care of the Kidneys.  The Kidneys are considered to be the gate of life.  Many things are dependent on the health of our Kidneys including reproduction, development, fluid distribution, and our longevity.  Signs of Kidneys becoming weaker can be seen in hair loss, premature graying or split ends.  Issues with the low back, knees, and teeth can be signs that the Kidneys need some attention.  The health of our Kidneys also impacts our sex drive.

To nourish the Kidneys, we want to keep our feet warm.  It is recommended that more hot baths should be taken as opposed to showers.  In the winter, cold tends to affect the body by constricting.  We can overcome this by adding light exercise into our daily routines.  This can help relieve some of the stagnation that develops from our bodies constricting.  It is also important to mention that staying indoors when the weather is especially cold and windy is a good way to prevent cold pathogens from entering the body in times of weak immunity.

We should eat foods that warm our bodies and nourish our hearts (to avoid the winter blues).  Examples of foods that are energetically warm are anchovies, bay leaves, chestnuts, chicken, coriander, fennel, leek, mussels, mutton, nutmeg, pine nuts, rosemary, spring onions, sweet potatoes and walnuts.  We should use slow cookers and make stews and congees to add this warmth to our food and aid digestion.  Digestion is very important in the colder months.  If we are having trouble digesting these winter foods, supplement with digestive enzymes.  This will help cut down on phlegm, runny noses, earaches, and respiratory problems.

So, the winter is a good season to listen to your body when it cries out for some of those nice relaxing nights with loved ones by the fire.  I hope that this article has been interesting to you and I also hope that some of this information serves to help keep you healthy this Winter.