In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidney and urinary bladder channels are most associated with winter. It’s important to keep these channels warm during the fall to prepare for winter. As it starts to get cold there are few things that we need to keep in mind.
The urinary bladder channel starts from your eyes and runs all the way across the back of your head down your spine all the way down to your pinky toe. Your kidney channel starts from the bottom of your feet and goes all the way up to your chest. These two channels combined are extremely vital in the winter to stay warm in order for you to maintain optimal digestion, optimal sexual function and the essence of uterus, especially if you’re trying to conceive. Keeping these two channels warm helps the body stay strong, energized, and supports the immune system throughout the winter.
Tips for keeping warm:
- Always wear a scarf or have a scarf in your bag so that if there’s ever a draft you’re prepared. You can also keep it in your car or office.
- Always wear slippers in the house or socks to make sure your feet never get cold.
- At the end of the day you might want to soak your feet with warm water and epsom salt. Doing this every day for about 10 to 15 minutes with warm water will also boost your immune system.
- Try to always keep your lower back warm. If you feel like you’re wearing a shirt or jacket that might give you a draft, always have a long scarf or a blanket and heating pad on hand if you’re at home.
These are all associated with our kidney and urinary bladder channels, which keep us healthy throughout the winter.
Illustration from A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman
During this transition, we also want to make sure that our digestive systems stay warm so that our bodies don’t have to work extra hard to break down our food. This keeps us healthy and keeps our immune system strong. If we eat cold foods, like salads, and drink iced drinks, what that does is it slows down our metabolism and it makes our bodies have to work harder, therefore not absorbing all the nutrients from our food.
Foods to start eating now and once the weather starts to shift:
- Roasted and grilled veggies, like eggplant, mushrooms, fennel, leeks
- Soups and stews, especially bone broth and congee
- Goji berries, grapes, raisins, figs, dates, plums
- Black sesame seeds, black beans, kidney beans, chestnuts, nutmeg, pine nuts, grains, seeds, rice
- Lamb, beef, chicken, goose, duck, eggs
- Naturally salty foods, like anchovies, wild fish, prawns, lobster, scallops, oysters and seaweed
- Bitter foods
The most important thing in Chinese Medicine is that there is constant free flow of Qi and fluid within your body. As soon as your body has any blockages that is the beginning of disease. You can think about a river – as soon as the river starts to get cold it starts to congeal and nothing can flow properly. You want to make sure that your body, which is 75% water, stays warm so that things can move freely and you stay healthy throughout the cold season.
As we start heading towards winter, it’s good to start thinking about decompressing earlier during the day. We want to follow the cycle of the sun and moon because we are very much connected to nature. The more in tune we stay with nature, the healthier and stronger our immune system will be.
When the sun starts to go down earlier we need to start winding down earlier by creating a nighttime routine. This can look like massaging your body or your feet and hands with essential oils, shutting off all electronics about a half hour before your desired bedtime, as well as turning off the lights around your house once the light outside starts to dim.
This is a really good time to start getting weekly acupuncture to boost your immune system and to make sure you stay healthy throughout the winter. This is especially important with so many viruses currently going rampant. We want to make sure that we stay healthy, so that we can go into the spring much stronger.