How to Stay Healthy in the Winter

If we are to live by nature, in the Chinese Medicine 5 Element system we are coming to the most yin time of year. The time of year when the days get shorter, the air gets colder, and animals go into hibernation. As the animals take time to rest, and restore themselves for the warmer months, we should do the same. This means we should be rising later, and going to bed earlier. We should be bundling up by the fire, and staying inside. Since we are less active we should be eating foods that are warm, and high in nutrition and low in calories like soups and roasted winter vegetables.  

On the five-element map, winter correlates to the water element, and thus the organs paired with the season are the bladder and kidneys. The kidneys in Chinese Medicine do more than just help to detoxify your blood, they control your vitality, how you age, pain felt in your knees and low back, and they are the rulers of the bones. This is an especially a good time of year to look after your bones. A body in motion, stays in motion as the saying goes so exercising is great to maintain bone health. Indoor activities like yoga and tai chi are best suited for the winter months. Taking omega-3's are also a great way to look after your joint health. Additionally, it is thought that kidney energy can escape through your feet if they get cold. It is best to put all of your sandals, and strappy shoes away for the season, and only wear closed toed shoes. Wear slippers around the house, and if your feet get really cold, make sure you are wearing socks to bed. Another way to conserve your kidney qi is by soaking your feet in a tub of warm water at night for thirty minutes.  

Even with conserving your energy, regular acupuncture treatments, and moderate indoor activity you still won't feel your best unless you are eating correctly. Again, we don't need as many calories in the winter because we aren't supposed to be as active, thus eating highly nutritious food that is low in calories is ideal. Since it is the water time of year, foods that come from sea are recommended since most foods from the sea are high in nutrition and low in calories.  

One of the foods that everyone is afraid of is Celtic Sea Salt. I agree that regular table salt, and salt on prepackaged foods are bad. Celtic Sea Salt has many minerals and can help you to stay hydrated. Sometimes patients show signs of dehydration although they are drinking plenty of water. Their bodies are not absorbing the water. Although if you have too much salt it can be damaging to the kidneys and you can retain fluids. If you find you are retaining fluids then try making parsley teas. It is great for flushing the kidneys. Boil water like you would for tea, removing the water from the burner seep a handful of parsley for fifteen minutes. Another great use for salt is Epsom salt foot baths. Take a large container, a quarter cup salt, warm water, about let your feet soak for thirty minutes. Do not do this too frequently though since salt can be drying and we already have to deal with a lot of dryness in Colorado. 

Microalgae supplements like Spirulina and Chlorella are a great food supplement for optimal health as well. They detoxify the body, cleanse heavy metals, balance blood sugars, support weight loss by controlling sugar cravings, some say that the decelerate the aging process, they may be beneficial in treating and preventing cancer, and they are high in plant-based protein. Both are great superfoods, and I have both in my cabinet and take them all year around. Spirulina has a fishy green taste, and chlorella tastes like grass to me. Both can be covered with lemon and a sweetener of choice. If you don't want to take supplements, you can eat seaweeds. Seaweed is full of vitamins and minerals especially Kelp. Kelp is great for thyroid health, balances blood sugars, helps to improve the immune system, reduced inflammation, and can help with water retention.  It is great for women as well since it is great for bone density.  

Another nutrient that is great for our bones as mentioned earlier is Omega-3s. This supplement is also beneficial in protecting the brain, supporting our vision, and decreasing inflammation the body. Some believe that despite the vitamin companies best efforts, that all fish oil goes rancid at some point and it is best to eat fish for those omega-3s. The best sources are the fatty fish like salmon, herring, anchovies, and sardines. The fattier fish are also high in Vitamin D, another important nutrient. Make sure that all of your fish is wild caught, and be aware of marketing schemes that advertise "Wild Salmon" that is actually farm raised. Look for the label that says "wild caught." 

Kidney beans are also really great for you, they are high in fiber, high in vegetable protein, and lower in calories. In Chinese Medicine there is a close relationship between the heart and the kidneys. Beans are great for lowering cholesterol and reducing heart disease. Beans also help to control blood sugars since they are high in fiber and are broken down in the body slowly. Mung beans also have many of the same benefits as kidney beans as well as helping to preserve and protect your actual kidneys. They are also the easiest bean to digest which leads to less gas.  

I hope this helps you to stay healthy this winter. Remember to go to bed early, and rise later. Take care of yourself, get treated regularly, eat right with plenty of highly nutritious foods that are lower in calories, exercise indoors, stay hydrated, and keep your feet warm.