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Staying Healthy In Winter

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    Seasons change, and your body and mental outlook change with them in predictable ways. Oriental medicine combines knowledge of seasonal characteristics with your unique health situation, to balance your energy (chi) and help you adapt and thrive during the cold months of Winter.

    In this episode of Seasonal Health Tips,’ Kitty talks about how the Water element of Winter affects your health, and how to stay healthy and thrive during the cold months of Winter.

    (To get the most out of what Kitty has to say, open the 5 Element Theory chart in a new window while listening.)
    Length 07:32, Size 8.7 MB

    The Water Element
    Every season is associated with one of the Five Elements, and for Winter, the element is Water—the energetic force that governs the health and functionality of your Kidneys and Urinary Bladder.

    According to Taoist 5 Element Theory, the Kidneys play a key role in the health of the entire lower part of your body. This includes balancing and processing fluids, as well as, strong joints, healthy sexual function, and more.

    Pictures of Health

    Protect Yourself Against Cold
    To avoid getting sick, keep your wrists, ankles, and especially the back of your neck from being exposed to the cold. When you’re outside, be sensitive to how you feel and make sure your extremities don’t get too cold—especially your fingers and toes.

    When your Kidneys are working well, the proper amount of heat is generated in your body, and normal precautions like “bundling up” in the winter will prevent cold from entering and getting trapped in your body. When your Kidneys are out of balance, you’ll notice a persistent feeling of cold in your lower back and extremities. If this is the case, you need to strengthen them. Otherwise you’ll be more vulnerable to pathogens and illness.

    Did You Know ...
    Women living in cold mountainous climates wrap woolen sashes around their waists—with older women wearing more layers, and younger women fewer. Padding around the waist maintains the warmth your Kidneys and internal organs need to function healthily and supports your back when lifting heavy objects.

    Taking Care of Your Kidneys
    There are several ways to build and maintain the health of your kidneys.

    Chi Kung. Take 30 seconds to a minute—a few times during the day—and briskly rub your hands together to generate warmth in your palms. Then place your warm palms on your lower back, and feel the warmth from your palms penetrate into your kidneys. Then, gently massage your back. This simple exercise is an enjoyable way to invigorate your kidneys.

    Chinese Herbs. Traditional Chinese herbal combinations provide an excellent way to strengthen your kidneys.

    Acupuncture & Acupressure. These time-tested methods for improving the flow of chi (health-maintaining energy) in your body works to nurture your kidneys.

    Diet and Nutrition. This basic approach to health is a simple way to nourish your kidneys.

    Did You Know ...
    Vegetables are smart! While the air is cold or freezing, Winter vegetables send their chi (life force) down into their roots where it’s protected underground. Our ancestors were smart too, because they understood the life-sustaining value of these roots ... and we should too.

    Winter Food Tips
    Ancient wisdom tells us that “for everything there is a season ...”. With this in mind, here are some diet and nutrition tips for the Winter season:

    • Eat root vegetables like carrots, onions, potatoes, beets, and (unsweetened) Winter squash. Miso soup is a nourishing Winter soup that provides a healthy way to get the moderate amount of salt you need.
    • Eat foods that are high in calcium to strengthen your kidneys. aduki beans would be a particularly good addition to your Winter diet. Black beans, black “woodear” mushrooms, and black “cloudear” mushrooms will also add robustness to your Kidney energy.

    Winter Health Tips
    Here are some things to be aware of as you become more conscious about how to stay healthy in Winter:

    • Moderate the amount of salty food you eat.
    • Stay away from diuretic foods, like celery.
    • Remember that caffeine is particularly hard on the kidneys. (Consider drinking tea or decaffeinated coffee.)

    An In-Sight ...
    Notice if you find yourself craving salty foods during the Winter. If you do, your kidneys are probably weak and need some strengthening.

    Winter Remedies
    During those time when your immunity is low, and you feel cold- or flu-like symptoms, it’s time to take preventive action by enjoying one of these nourishing, natural home brews.

    Scallion Broth
    This simple broth will help you sweat lightly, and is an excellent remedy for preventing and getting rid of colds:

    • Take one scallion, and chop it up.
    • Boil in water for 5 to 10 minutes. (Keep the lid on the pot to prevent vapor from escaping.)
    • Flavor with tamari.
    • Sip it slowly, bundle up, then lie down, or go to sleep.

    Ginger Tea
    If scallion broth doesn’t suit your culinary fancy, try ginger tea:

    • Put a couple of slices of fresh ginger in one and one-half cups of water.
    • Boil for 5 to 10 minutes. (Time it based on how strong you like your ginger tea.)
    • Keep the lid on the pot to prevent vapor from escaping.
    • Add a little honey and lemon.
    • Sip it slowly, bundle up, then lie down, or go to sleep.

    Scallion broth is the more effective of the two remedies, but if for some reason it doesn’t appeal to you, ginger tea is a good alternative

    Get Help If You Need It
    If you experience any kidney-related symptoms—lower back pain, earaches, knee problems—or other symptoms that don’t clear up quickly, call BIOM for an appointment. It’s best to alleviate your symptoms while addressing the root problem—before it becomes more advanced.

    Related Links
    Seasonal Retreats at BIOM
    Winter Photo Gallery

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    IMPORTANT: All information on this Web site is provided for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of a local Oriental Medicine practitioner, biomedical doctor, experienced coach, or martial arts instructor.