According to acupuncture theory, the storehouse of a person’s inner emotional and spiritual potential is the Kidneys. When our lives are closer to being in balance, we are able to bring this inner potential out into the world in a healthy, productive way—what is called “fulfilling destiny.”
On a physical level, the health of the endocrine system depends on the vitality of Kidney Qi, or energy. In Chinese medicine the Kidney system controls the brain, is responsible for bone health, helps regulate the thyroid, balances the digestive process, and strengthens the reproductive system.
The following information is from “Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition” by Paul Pitchford, a wonderful resource.
To benefit the Kidney system and build vitality in general:
- Cook foods longer at this time of year, at lower temperatures, and with less water.
- Salty and bitter are flavors for the winter, but use salt with care.
- Chew food well; it creates warmth, plus salivary secretions in the mouth help break down the food and release nutritional value. Paul Pitchford recommends chewing each bite 30-50 times.
- Have small, frequent meals.
- Avoid microwaving.
- Avoid overeating & eating late at night.
- Avoid sudden, extreme diet changes.
- Limit or avoid foods that weaken the Kidney system such as refined sugar, coffee, alcohol, too much salt, heavy meats, and highly processed foods.
- Restrict cooling foods such as too many raw vegetables, fruits, and juices—use in moderation.
- Add seaweeds such as kelp, kombu, and wakame to diet because they’re rich in organic minerals that slow aging of cells.
- Focus on gratitude, which can be defined as the ability to accept and learn from circumstance.
- Address sources of anxiety or ambiguity that might be contributing to an imbalance.
BITTER FOODS—which Pitchford says are usually not entirely bitter, but combinations of bitter and other flavors:
KIDNEY YIN DEPLETION
Symptoms can include low back pain or sciatica, hot flashes and/or night sweats, hair loss, insomnia, dizziness, anxiety and/or fear, ringing in ears, dry throat or mouth, weak legs, hair loss, brittle or cracked nails, easily broken bones, irritability, forgetfulness; sometimes moving from one problem, place, or relationship to the next without facing the root issues.
Foods that nourish Kidney Yin are those that are neutral or cooling:
- String beans
- Black beans and kidney beans
- Melons, including watermelon
- Blackberries and blueberries
- Water chestnut
- Black sesame seed or oil*
- Sardine, crab, and clam
*especially good for dry stools or constipation
**only in small amounts
Limit warming foods/substances such as coffee, alcohol, lamb, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and other hot spices; avoid tobacco.
KIDNEY YANG DEPLETION
Symptoms can include aversion or sensitivity to cold, cold extremities, irregular menses, weak knees and low back, bone spurs, arthritis, mental lethargy, dry mouth with thirst, reduced libido, frequent urination or inability to sustain urination, edema, asthma, lack of will power or productivity, indecision.
Foods that nourish Kidney Yang are those that are warming and improve “digestive fire”:
- Onion family (garlic, onions, chives, scallions, leeks)
- Fenugreek, fennel, and anise seeds
- Black peppercorn
- Cinnamon bark
- Black beans
*a good remedy for chronic cough, wheezing, and other asthma symptoms (but too many can cause canker sores)
Limit cooling foods and fruits, raw foods, excessive salt; use seaweed cautiously.
And there you have it!