We are having a brutal winter in Chicago. I hear from my family in the East that they are also experiencing rough weather. It is only my relatives and friends in California (they are NOT farmers worrying about drought) who are bragging about superb temperatures. So, this next article is for those of us living east of the Rockies.
As some of you may already know, in Chinese Medicine there are five elements; wood, fire, earth, metal and water. These five elements are metaphors for describing how different aspects of our world interact and relate to each other.
As we in Chicago know very well, winter arrived with dramatic force! It is not always a dramatic season. Often, winter is a time of stillness and rest (think hibernation), during which energy is conserved and stored. Water is the element of winter. Therefore, this is a great month in which to discuss it. Water is one of the most powerful elements (and my favorite). In Chicago, we are seeing water frozen and still, only one form of water’s dangerous wrath. It can also move with speed and deadly force. Remember the tsunami in Southeast Asia? Yet water is also patient and slow. We know that water can slowly smooth the surface of a rock by years of continual gentle persistence. From these examples, we understand that Water represents fluidity or the ability to “go with the flow.” I really appreciate this aspect – water is adaptable, still, and patient, yet unyielding, determined, and unstoppable.
What does this mean for us who are experiencing the polar vortex? Living in harmony with the seasons is an ancient Chinese belief. Winter urges us to slow down. This is a natural time of year to replenish energy and conserve our strength. In Chinese Medicine, each season is also associated with a specific organ in the body and winter’s organ is the kidneys. We need to consider our kidney Qi because, in winter, our body’s energy stores are depleted. We get down to our reserves. Think of kidney qi like gas in our car’s tank. We all know that when our gas tank gets close to empty, it is more likely to freeze.
Chinese Medicine believes that cold invades our body, exposing us to chills, colds, and headaches. To drive out the cold, phlegm, and keep you at your best this season, remember the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Seasonal acupuncture treatments in winter serve to nourish our kidney Qi which greatly enhances the body’s ability to thrive during these frigid days. Acupuncture and herbs ease stress, aid in healing, prevent illness and increase vitality.
4 Easy Winter Health Strategies
1. Go to bed earlier; you aren’t missing anything. Winter is a perfect time to conserve your strength and get extra rest. Think like the bears and do a little healthy hibernating.
2. Stay warm. We all know this, but in Chinese Medicine it is considered especially important to keep your back, neck, and upper chest covered when you go outside. Keep your feet warm at home. Wear slippers, cold comes up through the floor and into your body. This last tip is especially important for women who suffer from PMS or who are trying to conceive.
3. Adapt your diet. Stay away from too many raw foods because they can cool the body. Eat warm, hearty soups, whole grains, steam your veggies instead of salads, roasted nuts (walnuts and chestnuts are both especially effective for nourishing Kidney Qi), squashes, root vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables, kidney beans, and black beans.
4. Drink water. Winter’s body organ, kidneys, are associated with the water element so drink plenty of water but keep it warm or at room temperature instead of cold and drink throughout the day. A hot cup of tea, with honey and lemon is also a wonderful idea.
Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Dubowsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from University of Illinois in Chicago and her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. Dubowsky has researched and written articles on Chinese medicine and has given talks on the topic. She maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture Blog Chicago. Adventures in Chinese Medicine is her first book. You can find her at www.tcm007.com.
*Image of “girls” via Shutterstock