Chinese medicine considers that the human being is part of nature and therefore affected by seasonal changes. Winter according to the 5 element system is associated to the kidneys, bladder, bones, ears, the water element, the color black, cold, and the emotion fear. Winter’s cold temperature and diminished light drives us to seek inner warmth, and storage of physical energy.
This is the season where we are called to reflect on the past year to let go of what is no longer conductive to progress, allowing for new possibilities.
The kidneys, in Chinese medicine, house our vital essence responsible for the functioning of the organism and the manifestation of potential through life. This vital force is inherited form our parents and limited by constitution. It’s in high demand and difficult to replenish. Exercises like TaiChi and Qigong, very popular in the orient, are specifically designed to restore it.
The emotion associated with the water element is fear, its virtue wisdom. The basic energy of the cosmos is change; we see it constantly in nature where even the highest mountain will become sand one day. Fear prevents us from accepting change, either paralyzing our life force by keeping us looking into the past for security, or by creating a world of fantasy where we can accomplish things without effort. Fear of the unknown is inherent to human nature, overcoming it comes down to how much we can ignore being hurt, failing or being humiliated. Wisdom tells us that ultimately the only things we’ll regret is not having lived life boldly and not having loved enough. Cultivate wisdom and as Buddha said: “Live life like a mighty river”.
Bitter and salty foods are appropriate for winter. Bitter foods include: watercress, lettuce, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, oats, rye, quinoa and amaranth.
Salty foods: miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, salt, millet, barley.
Stews and curries are especially nurturing and warming during the winter months.
Tips to stay healthy during the winter
- Reduce carbohydrates and sugar. Sugar and carbohydrates are lately considered at the root of many modern diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s.
- Don’t use processed oils. Canola, corn, safflower and soy contribute to create plaque in the arteries.
- Eat organic. Try to avoid meat from corn fed animals and highly processed foods. Follow the 4 ingredients rule, if it has more don’t eat it.
- Exercise. Cardio, some weight lifting for bone density, yoga or Pilates for flexibility
- Eat at home. Cooking promotes better nutrition, family dynamics and prevents obesity.
- Manage stress. Stress is the cause of 85% of hospital admissions. Take time off, meditate, get acupuncture, go to counseling.
- Don’t skip meals. Especially breakfast, have a little protein with some fat to start the day.
- Get good sleep. The body heals itself during sleep.
- Coming down with a cold or flu? Don’t wait, start acupuncture and herbs in the early stages. It may prevent you from getting sick or considerably shorten the time of illness.
- Your children getting recurrent colds and ear infection? Consider using dietary therapy and herbal medicine instead of antibiotics.
Acupuncture Today Journal, George Dvorsky & Marlene Merrit, DOM, LAc, CAN
Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford
Nourishing Destiny, Lonny Jarrett, Lac
Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies, Leon Hammer, MD
The Naked Child, Ted Hughes