Winter corresponds, in Chinese medicine, with the element of water and the Kidney and Bladder organs. It is a time to rest a little after all the activities of the preceding seasons and rebuild your reserves.
If you don’t allow your body to rest and rebuild but continue with prolonged periods of overwork, stress, and pressure from daily life you may end up with Adrenal fatigue. This occurs when your adrenal glands become overworked and is different from Chronic fatigue which tends to be post viral.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and their role is to govern your fight or flight response and get you ready for action. They do this by producing important hormones including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Too much or too little of any particular hormone can cause havoc with your health.
The symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include a constant tiredness, even after sleep and rest, and a need for regular afternoon naps to “recharge your batteries”. This tiredness can result in an inability to cope with stress, reduced libido, low back pain, reduced immunity, irritability and moodiness.
Suffering this type of listlessness you may turn to caffeine, carbs and sugar to get through your day but this is equivalent to jump starting a dead battery. You need to fix the battery which, from a Chinese medicine perspective, means nourishing your kidney energy.
In winter it is ok to go to bed a little earlier and the occasional nana nap is fine. It is generally harder to wake in the mornings as it is still dark out but adrenal fatigue goes beyond this. To support your kidney energy and adrenals here are a few things you can do:
1) Look at how you can better manage your stress. Acupuncture is a great way to do this as are Yoga, Tai Qi, meditation, or time in nature. Any stress relief measures will benefit you and your adrenals.
2) Remember to balance activity with rest. If you have a big week at work then have a quiet weekend. If you have a big weekend then have a week of early nights.
3) The emotion that corresponds with the kidney is fear. Have you ever considered that fear might actually be able to help you orient yourself, connect with your instincts, and keep you safe? I highly recommend Karla McLaren’s post on fear for building a new relationship with your fears so that your adrenals can have a little rest. In my Think Well, Feel Well workshop you can find out even more about how your thoughts and feelings affect your health.
4) The physical realm of your Kidney is your lower back and knees. Stretching and exercises to strengthen your lumbar area are helpful in supporting your Kidney energy. You can also stimulate the blood flow to your Kidneys by patting or massaging your lower back area. Be sure also to wear clothes that will keep your lower back warm and keep your feet warm with socks, shoes and slippers in winter.
5) Foods that are particularly nourishing to your Kidney energy include those that are very dark (even black) in colour. These would include dark fruits and vegetables, and foods like black beans, black sesame seeds, and black walnuts. The water element comes into play when choosing foods for your Kidney energy, too. Foods from the sea, such as fish, shellfish, seaweed, kelp, and sushi are all excellent Kidney energy tonics. If you are going to have sushi in winter be sure to have the pickled ginger to keep you warm. Find out more about nourishing foods in my “Eat Well, Be Well” workshop
6) Regular acupuncture and a course of Chinese herbs can help you nourish and strengthen your Kidney energy and Adrenals. It is also a good idea to discuss with your local practitioner a lifestyle and meal plan that will not only protect your Kidney energy but help to support overall good health. So see your local natural health care practitioner today and restore your kidney energy and adrenals to full health.
Your feedback and questions are always welcome so please leave a comment below.
For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Tania Grasseschi (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs and Wholefood counselling). Tania is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (AHPRA registered) in Kingsford