Kidney Health in Winter

December is the darkest, coldest month of the year. The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year, and this time of winter is akin to the concept of yin in Chinese medicine.  In Daoism, yin is the complement to yang; yin is associated with nighttime, contraction or moving inward, slow action, coldness, moisture, and nourishment. December is a time to go inward, reflect, and renew before springtime.

Winter is the time of the year when the kidneys are the most vulnerable to disorders. The kidneys have several functions in traditional Chinese medicine.  The kidneys are associated with water, and they control urination. The kidneys govern the bones. The kidneys are also associated with willpower and fear.

Some common symptoms of kidney imbalances include incontinence, low back pain, knee pain, morning diarrhea, constipation with dry stools, water retention, hot flashes or night sweats, cold sensations in the limbs, bone pain, loss of libido or impotence, fatigue, anxiety, and apathy.

Acupuncture and herbal therapy can be used to help protect your kidneys. Meditative, slow-moving exercises performed indoors (as opposed to vigorous outdoor exercise) will also help maintain your kidney health.  There are also many foods that will support the kidneys.  If you enjoy seafood, oysters, lobster, salmon, tuna, and shrimp are excellent kidney tonics.  For those who don’t eat fish, lentils, millet, black soybeans, walnuts, and black sesame will also support the kidneys.  In general, it is best to avoid raw and frozen or cold foods and refined sugar in favor of warm or hot foods with a slightly salty flavor.

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