We've talked about how every season is connected to one of our organ systems, and during its season that organ system becomes most active. You might remember that Winter is the time of the Kidneys (also the Adrenal glands and Bladder). In Chinese Medicine we refer to these organs together as the Kidney organ system. 💧
This means during the winter our Kidney organ system should have our attention. It is most vulnerable right now if there are imbalances already happening but also has the greatest potential for healing. The element associated with the Kidney system is Water, and water has a tendency to become cold and stagnant if it is not being acted up on by heat or source of movement. During the opposite season, Summer, the environment around us is rich with Yang (you can think of this as heat, life force, and energy) that helps to keep our Kidney organ system strong and balanced. If we don't generate enough yang (heat) ourselves, our external environment has enough to keep our water element warm and moving. This means that Kidney, Bladder, Adrenal, and fluid metabolism symptoms aren’t likely to show up as often or as aggressively during the Summer (time of the Fire element). During the winter months, though, there is less environmental yang to support our kidney health so we have to take extra care to support this organ system with the habits we keep. Like I said, the Kidney organ system is controlled by the element of Water, and in order to have optimally functioning Kidneys, Bladder and adrenals we HAVE to have enough fluid in our systems. So many people struggle with staying hydrated on a regular basis. I know it's hard to stay hydrated in the colder months, we struggle with it around here too. Here are a few tricks we use to make sure we drink enough water every day!
1) 💦Drink an 8 oz (or bigger) glass or room temperature water with a squeeze of fresh 🍋 lemon first thing in the morning. Try to do this before you consume any caffeine. This will help to flush your kidneys and jumpstart your digestive system to get your body off on the right foot!
2) 💦Herbal tea! Hydration comes in many forms, and during the winter herbal tea is key. Find a tea you love (as long as it is not caffeinated) and keep refilling it throughout the day. It adds up. I've been obsessed with our Turmeric Tulsi Chai this winter, but sometimes I reach for something simpler like Tulsi or rosebud tea. In the evenings get in the habit of sipping on a nice chamomile to wind down and boost your water intake.
3) 💦Soup! Consuming liquid in your food totally counts. Eat more soups this time of year. Make bone broth and sip on that before dinner, or if you need an alternative try getting miso paste and just add a tsp or two to hot water to make a super simple, tasty miso soup to drink before meals or as a snack. These soups and broths are also very warming and supportive of your body’s yang energy.
4) 💦Minimize caffeine and alcohol where you can. I know I don't have to tell you how dehydrating these beverages can be when we over-do it, so just try to keep it in mind and exercise moderation. Caffeine has a stimulatory effect on our Kidneys and adrenal glands and while this can be helpful in moderation, it also has a diuretic effect that can leave us less hydrated and jittery if we don’t balance it out with enough water.
5) 💦Salt. Salt is a funny one. Too much or too little can be a problem, BUT the main problem with salt is when you use a poor quality refined salt. We always recommend throwing out the old standard table salt and stocking up with unrefined sea salt or Himalayan rock salt. These salts have trace minerals and nutrients that we don't often get anywhere else, and these minerals are vital in helping our bodies absorb the fluid we consume and also in keeping our Kidney organ system healthy.
6) 💦Get a reusable water bottle that you like to carry around and enjoy drinking from. Keep it filled up and accessible. You will drink more water, I promise.
7) 💦Fizzy water! We drink less soda water during the winter than other times of year due to its temperature, but sometimes we just want something exciting to sip on. This is a good way to get that "soda" feel to it without the assault to our health. Club soda, soda water, sparkling water or carbonated mineral water with a splash of your favorite juice, a squeeze of citrus, a flavored vinegar, or a shake of bitters can make a tasty and hydrating "mocktail" 🍹on a weeknight that leaves you feeling better for it the next day.
8) 💦And lastly, when I just really need to catch up on my hydration I reach for Coconut water. Nothing I've found quenches thirst and revitalizes dehydrated tissue as fast and completely as coconut water. It has an electrolyte make up remarkably similar to that of our own blood chemistry and is high in potassium as well as other vitamins and minerals that can help us to absorb it more efficiently than water.
Shoot for a minimum of 64 oz of fluid each day, more if you work out, are on medication, have Kidney issues, fatigue or struggle with inflammation or pain. Another good rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in oz every day. So a 200lb person should try for 100 oz of water daily. Most of all, listen to your body! Thirst isn't always the best indicator of dehydration, so pay attention to things like fatigue, body aches, color of your urine, digestive trouble and dry eyes and skin.
Sometimes less than optimal hydration can cause symptoms of increased inflammation, sinus congestion or irritation, headaches, constipation, poor blood circulation, brain fog and mental sluggishness. These are all good indicators that it’s time to reach for a glass of water and see how you feel in a little while.
If you are having trouble with your fluid metabolism or feel like your kidneys are over or under active making it difficult to get adequate water in consider using your diet, lifestyle, and Chinese Medicine resources to start generating more of that vital yang in your Kidney organ system. You can learn more about how to do that in this article. If you have specific questions, please reach out to us, we love to hear from you and are excited to help give you some direction. Cheers!