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Monday Motivation: Winter Health: Acupuncture and the elements

Thrive Carolinas / Acupuncture  / Monday Motivation: Winter Health: Acupuncture and the elements

Monday Motivation: Winter Health: Acupuncture and the elements


Scott Greenapple D.C., C.C.S.P., F.I.A.M.A.

In winter, nature seems to be at rest. Within the darkness and hibernation, we can rest and recharge.

Slowing down, conserving our energy and working on our internal balance or more “Yin” energy. In traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the element associated with winter is water and the two meridians and organs associated with the water element are the kidneys (Yin) and the bladder (Yang).

The kidneys and the bladder control water metabolism and maintain homeostasis.

Earth is made up of 75% water and approximately 60% of our body weight is water.

In western medicine the kidney’s control and stabilize blood pressure, filter and eliminate fluid waste.

With aging, we tend to lose water. Our bodies become less flexible, our skin loses its elasticity, and bones become more brittle as does our hair. Even our minds become less flexible. With TCM, we have many physical, mental and nutritional tools to help restore and replenish the water we lose.

The emotion that is attached to the winter or water element is fear.

This makes sense to western medicine as well. Above the Kidneys, are the adrenal glands. The adrenals secrete the hormone cortisol which is reactive to fear and can lead us into overactive sympathetic or the fight/flight response. Fear leads to an increase in adrenaline, an increase in heart rate and can tighten our muscles.

Fear can actually have some benefits as an emotion.

It can lead us to the direction of taking action and having the courage to overcome things we may be afraid of facing. Fear can awaken us and give us a sense of warning to take action. What Eastern Medicine is based on is a balanced or homeostatic/holistic approach to health: including the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of well-being.

In Eastern Medicine, from an emotional aspect, fear is directly tied to kidney energy.

Acupuncture and Qi Gong, (meditation in movement and acupuncture without needles) are the most central elements in the kidney energy. It is the vital energy of the body. The kidney’s store our “Jing”, think of Jing as the “essence or vital energy” that is inside of us.
In Eastern medicine, the kidneys control the teeth, bones and bone marrow. In Chinese medicine, it is thought the brain and spinal cord are extensions of the bone marrow. The kidney’s rule the skeletal muscle and function, and help with the function of memory and intellectual reasoning. It creates the ignition switch for our body, mind, and spirit.
When out of balance, water stagnates and your body can fill with toxins that can affect your mind and body with things like depression, fatigue and you may experience difficulty adapting to new experiences or environments.

Classic symptoms of imbalance can present as:

  • Low back pain
  • Knee pain
  • Urinary retention
  • Sexual problems – Vaginal dryness and premature ejaculation
  • Anxiety or fear
  • High blood pressure
  • Occipital Headaches
  • Resistance to change
  • Kidney stones
  • Fatigue
  • Always cold, inability to get warm

Winter is the time for internal work. The time to gather strength, repair and replenish your physical and mental being. Go to bed early and wait for the sun to come up before rising.

Eat warming foods. Soups, cooked vegetables, and herbs such as:

  • Squash
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Root vegetable
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger

Surround yourself with warming colors, candles and curl up next to the fire.

Most problems in the body according to TCM, start with an imbalance in the Kidney channel.

Acupuncture is a great way to create balance, clear stagnation and increase the energy, or “Qi” (energy and life force) to the body.
Think of the kidneys and bladder as lubricating your body and add movements and exercises such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Mindful meditation and Qi Gong can help with quieting the mind and creating balance with your emotions and mental status.

Wintertime is the time to nourish and replenish our kidneys.

A time to stimulate their function, balance their emotions and help stimulate the Healer Within and help with any challenges this time of year presents. Have a healthy, happy and balanced winter/water element season.

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Stephen Fogg

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