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Simple Steps to Stay Healthy in Winter

Published on
December 17, 2019

Emily Navas

We are constantly in communication with everything; the sun, the water, the air, the earth, etc.. And, in order to live a healthy and a balanced lifestyle, the key is to live in harmony with the seasons. This philosophy is deeply entrenched in Chinese medicine. Each season has many associations, which help us to change our habits. As the seasons change, so must we, to create a more synergistic and harmonious alliance between ourselves and the external natural environment.

This outside world, the things we eat that come from the soil, the environment from which nature nurtures, has an inborn communication connection to our body's receptor systems that signal through every DNA molecule that creates our function. What a paradigm shift to realize that we are connected to nature and directly tied to these biological processes. Chinese medicine already has based it's philosphy to live with the laws of nature.

Each season we can take some simple steps to live more in sync with nature and keep our immune system and organs going strong to ward off disease. Things like, thinking about what foods we eat that season and what are available to us at that time of year, or being mindful about what time to get up, go to sleep, and what to wear are all part of our connection to nature.How do we stay healthy in Winter season? Support your "Yin" Energy as the days get darker earlier and colder weather is present, we naturally want to stay in and be less active and sleep more. In Chinese medicine, the Winter season is the most "Yin" season. The term "Yin," means stillness, solid, dark, cool, nourishment,etc. Just as nature dictates the trees to be dormant and the animals to hibernate, so do we have these same tendencies. There is a stillness in the air, and everything slows down. Nature shows us a mirror to the way our own natural state needs to be. Therefore, in Winter we adapt to enrich our "Yin" energy. Taking time to be quiet, rest more, look inward, reflect on ourselves,meditate, write, do Tai Chi or Qi Gong, etc.. All these inward practices raise our spirit and support the health of our organs and immune system. Ironically, the holiday season urges us to ramp up and do the opposite, and the results of that outward fast and busy nature leads us to possibly get sick.  Here is a Jeopardy question.  What do our bones, ears, bladder, kidneys and hair on our heads have in common?The kidneys in Chinese medicine are considered the "root of life" as they are responsible for many vital functions in the body. The kidneys are also called your "life battery pack" which is derived from each parent and is established at conception. The essence of our health and vitality throughout our lives, was directly related to the health of our parents at the time of conception. Therefore, birth, growth, reproduction and development of your bones, their strenght and the growth factor is directly related to the health of your kidneys. The hair and its growth on your head also reflect the state of health of your kidneys and in treatment, the use of herbs to support the kidneys help to reduce hairloss. The functioning and health of your urinary system/bladder is the partner to the kidneys. Taking care of your urinary health at this time is necessary and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome may also help. Slow Down! Your Battery is Almost Empty. Think of your phone or your computer's battery symbol. When running a lot of applications at once your battery begins to run out quickly. Similarly in life, overwork, excessive alcohol use, over use of drugs, eating poorly, not hydrating sufficiently, not sleeping enough, physical or emotional stress, exercising too much, etc.. results in depleting your own battery. Fortunately, getting better rest, taking herbs to nourish the health of the kidneys, getting regular Acupuncture treatments, eating well and more, can help to recharge you. Honoring the slowing down in this season is to live in sync with nature and promote good health. After all, we are nature too. Eat black foods, another one of the many associations made in Chinese medicine has to do with color. The foods we eat all have an association to a season and an element. The color associated with Winter and the kidneys is blue/black. Therefore, in order to strengthen and protect the health of the kidneys, eating black foods such as black rice, black sesame seeds, black lentals, black beans, purple potatoes, black garlic and black berries are key to sustaining the health during the Winter. All of these foods have the highest concentration of antioxidants and healing properties to protect against free radical cell damage, the effects of which lead to cancer and other serious diseases. My philosophy is to always eat the foods that are as close to nature as possible in that particular season, and the few I mentioned are some of the best to include in your diet during the Winter season.