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Winter Wellness

Winter is the season of 'deep storage'. The yang energy of the body dives deep into the interior to be safeguarded through the cold months. This energy will erupt again in the spring in fresh growth. If self care in fall was not sufficient there may be an insufficiency of yang (resulting in cold conditions such as they symptoms of Reynaud's) or there may be an excess of yin (resulting in edema or damp/phlegm type conditions). The organ/meridian systems that belong to winter are the Kidney and Bladder systems. Other correspondences for this season include: water, salt, cold, bones, teeth, marrow, and head hair. The sound of the season is 'groaning'- think of the sound ice makes on a river- or of the sound you make when you get those holiday bills! The emotion of the season is fear. The element of winter is water. Correspondences help to explain certain illnesses that can come at this time of year- as well as in the spring and summer because 'water' is the controller of 'fire' (element of summer), and is also the mother of 'wood' (element of spring). Think of the elemental relationships this way: if there is not enough water engendered in winter there won't be enough to encourage the growth of wood in spring, or to control the raging of fire in the summer. If there was too much water then wood may grow uncontrolled and fire may be smothered before it can become healthy flame.

Winter foods: Some foods are traditionally eaten during this time to increase health and wellness during the cold months. These foods help to keep the banked fires of our Winter Qi strong and healthy and prepare us for the rising of Spring Qi . Of course different individuals will need different foods at any season and this is just a basic guide that may not be entirely appropriate for your particular health situation. Please contact your acupuncturist for a detailed list of foods specifically appropriate for you!         

  • Cooking method for Winter: Hearty  well cooked Stews 
  • sweet potato
  • potato
  • parsnips
  • fennel bulb
  • onions
  • carrot
  • daikon
  • roasted chestnut's
  • sesame seeds (especially black)
  • Black rice
  • Sweet and Sour tastes together nourish the yin
  • sour and spicey tastes together nourish the yang
  • Goji berries

​Winter Excercise: Avoid excessive sweating in winter. This is a dry time of year and problems due to dehydration are common. If you must sweat make sure that you are drinking plenty of room temperature water. You don't need to go out in the cold with a belly full of cold water. That's a great way to injure your yang. Running is a preferred excercise for winter, but this is a type of running that is more like jogging- slow and without too much sweating. If you must run outside in cold weather remember to cover your nose and mouth so the air is warmed before it damages your lungs. There is a lot of great cold weather gear available today that can keep you both warm and dry.

​Winter Clothing: Protect your inner yang with appropriate clothing. Keep your back and neck warm and covered. Dress in layers and adjust to avoid sweating. Keep warm during cold bouts. Keep head covered to keep heat in. Wear good warm gloves, socks, and footwear. Never put your poor feet on a cold floor - this can cause JUE!! Don't even get me started on Jue- health problems galore! Remember the slippers that your grandma used to wear? Yeah they are old fashioned but she was smart. Go get yourself a pair and use them!

Meridian Points to massage:                                                                                     Kidney 1/ calms the spirit and descends Qi from the head                                    Kidney3/ nourishes the yin and yang and anchors the Qi                                             Kidney 6/ benefits the throat, nourishes the yin and calms the spirit                         Kidney 7/ Benefits Qi, treats edema & sweat, treats lumbar for back pain                  Kidney 27/ treats cough with phlegm and wheezing

Winter Habits: Calm and Quiet are needed in the winter season. Try to cultivate a home atmosphere that is quiet and calm, and keep an attitude of serenity. Sleep should be increased if at all possible to around 10 hours. Shower time should be kept to a minimum especially for the old, the young and those who are not strong due to illness etc. Soak the feet before bed in hot water with either ginger root or mugwort. Enjoy some Kidney Tapping: Stand- relax your arms and put your hands into loose fists, turn back and forth like a two sided child's drum and allow your arms to fling around your body and connect with your trunk. They will always tap the kidney area's in the back, and the rib cage in the front right over the liver/Gallbladder and the spleen. This wakes everything up and keeps everything moving. Kidney Warming: warm your kidney area on the back daily/ about 20 minutes of gentle warmth a day to build your yang energy and battle fatigue. Try going to a Qigong class, or get some Acupuncture treatments to help balance the body and address potential problems before they get bigger.

 Winter Health issues: The MingMen, or ministerial fire belongs to the kidney meridian, this is second only in importance to the Emperor (Fire/heart)- so right away you can see how important the kidney meridian is. Kidney meridian problems can include insufficient essence (Jing) and this can cause impotence, infertility, underdevelopement in children and premature senility. The kidney meridian also grounds very important meridians like the heart and lungs: thus a deficient kidney meridian can cause heart (palpitations etc) or lung problems (mostly inhilation type problems). Generally health problems in winter will be related to the kidney and the bladder meridians. The kidney meridian is far more often deficient than excess and this can cause such symptoms as low back or knee pain, pain anywhere along the kidney channel, problems with bones, teeth, or marrow (marrow here means marrow in the bones- but also the brain, spinal chord, and the nerves), problems with head hair (loss or premature graying), a tendancy toward fearfulness or anxiety, possibly with accompanying depression due to lack of basic energy (can't get out of the bed- can't get motivated or stay motivated to do anything)- this is a lack of Zhi (pronounced djurr) or willpower. Zhi belongs to the kidney and is housed in the kidney meridian. Now since the Bladder meridian gets it's Qi to transform fluids from the Kidney meridian, if the kidney meridian is deficient there may be areas of the body that are too dry(deficient yin), and areas that are too wet (excess yin). Symptoms can include edema, copious phlegm in sinus or lungs, or dampness or dryness anywhere in the body. Salt also belongs to winter. Partaking of too much salt can damage the heart or circulatory system, and can even impede the proper flow of nerve impulses. Too little salt intake- same problem. though most American's eat far too much salt. The Kidney and Bladder organs belong to winter as well. The kidney organs can have dysfuntions including burning urination, kidney area back pain, urgency, incontinence , or kidney stones- to name a few potential issues. The Bladder is a yang organ and generally the yang organs don't have a long list of potential problems. However, since the bladder meridian is the longest meridian in the body and litteraly goes from the inside corner of each eye, over the head, down the neck, through the back twice, down the back of the legs and ends at the pinky toe; and it can have pain or dysfunction ANYWHERE along it's path- you can see how influential this yang meridian is. Plus problems with the bladder organ are also no picnic. Excess in the bladder organ itself can cause inability to urinate, or excessive urge to urinate, as well as possible growths, etc.  Insufficiency can cause lack of ability to hold urine, or to urinate. Seasonal health problems include: chillblains/frostbite, dry chapped skin, dehydration, dry mouth, nose or throat, slow metabolism, constipation, cough (either caused by the cold, or by lung heat from dryness ( this can eventually become damp). Over exposure to dry weather can cause kidney yin deficiency, as can diarrhea, stomach deficiency , prolonged or profuse sweat, smoking, or prolonged lack of Ki yang.

Spring and Summer health issues due to mismanagement of health in winter: Think of the elemental relationships this way: if there is not enough water engendered in winter there won't be enough to encourage the growth of wood in spring, or to control the raging of fire in the summer.  This means that the spring emotion of anger may fail to protect you when it is warranted (that person that never sticks up for themselves), or the ability to make a descision may evade you. But there are many physical symptoms as well that include deficiency of the liver causing neck pain, or inability to cleans the blood and process fats. Eventually this can cause problems in other aspects of the body- such as the heart in summer (symptoms of heart attack due to lipids being processed poorly in western thinking- we would say not enough water to control fire). In the summer,  heat conditions may be exacerbated- or bloom where none existed before. Such symptoms may include insomnia, red face, heart attack, stroke, angry red skin rashes, and much more. These heat symptoms generally occur in the upper part of the body. But may not be limited to the upper body. If there was too much water engendered in winter then wood may grow uncontrolled and fire may be smothered before it can become healthy flame. This means that the spring emotion of anger may grow out of control (think road rage), or pain and symptoms anywhere along the GallBladder and Bladder meridians may be acute. This is what happened after the non winter of 2012. My office was inundated with such cases, as were the offices of my colleagues. If fire is smothered think heart palpitations, pallid complexion, lack of energy, insomnia (due to the shen or spirit being unable to settle in the heart), or symptoms of COPD - litteraly too much water smothering the flame of the heart. Of course this is a short list of potential problems- but it gives you the idea I think.

Winter Wellness -

Winter Wellness -

Toni M King MS LAc, NCCAOM Dipl. Ac