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An Acupuncturist's Guide to Winter


The kidneys and the urinary bladder are the organs we must support the most during the winter which began officially December 21st! In traditional Chinese medicine, (TCM) the kidneys are the foundation for all of the other organs and it is vital therefore to make time to balance and support the kidneys. We say “kidneys” but what it really means is the endocrine system & reproductive system, nervous system, neurotransmitters, water metabolism, and skeletal system.  The exterior organ of the kidneys is the ears and the emotion of the kidney is fear. During the winter we often see more sadness with the holidays but also more fear of moving forward.

Symptoms of the Kidney and Urinary Bladder:

  • Low pitched Ringing in the ears
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Low back or knee pain worse with fatigue or standing
  • Thirsty, sweatier at night or other changes in hormones – perimenopause both men/women
  • Sensitivity to temperature especially colder at night
  • Often asthma symptoms worsen with shortness of breath
  • Urinary infections, retention or other symptoms
  • Graying or thinning of hair
  • Dental issues with decay or short roots
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • Infertility or reproductive changes in cycles, low back pain with period
  • Low immunity and difficulty in recovering from colds/flu


It is important to remember as the temperatures get colder outside that we need to support and keep ourselves warm with clothing-hats, scarves, warm socks, etc.

And also keep our nutrients warm too.

What I mean to say is, eat warm, slow-cooked foods that are nourishing and hearty in nature. This allows us to build up the kidneys and keep us going all winter. It is best to keep with the season when picking out ingredients. Try to choose cold weather crops that have no harmful chemicals and organic meats as well.

It is also important to not use too many stimulants if you are tired and try to get adequate sleep.

Keeping a schedule and heading to bed earlier can boost your immunity, productivity and overall ability to deal with stress too. Stimulants will give us false energy but the depletion of the adrenal system is in the long run damaging.

Participating in meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, walking or other low impact activities helps our bodies restore our energy or qi (pronounced chee) and keep fatigue away if done in the proper moderation.

It is always best to exercise moderately before feeling too fatigued if you are trying to build yourself up. If you suffer from irregular, painful periods especially with low back pain in addition to cramps, wait until the heavy bleeding subsides on day 3 or 4 to resume your moderate to heavy workouts otherwise you and burning the candle at both ends and will feel worse overall.  

Here is a summary of suggestions for winter and remember to come in for a tune-up as the seasons shift from fall to winter.

It can boost your immune system, help with emotional changes and keep your energy moving to support sleep too.


leche fruit, Asian pears, baked apples with almonds and nut milks, taro root, Japanese white yams, turnips, carrots, fish, pork, legumes, beans. Include good fats: chia, hemp, sesame, flax oil, and avocado.

Avoid hot, spicy, drying foods, alcohol, coffee, red meat and sweets or dairy.


white, green or jasmine tea. If difficulty sleeping ghee and warm almond milk and honey before bedtime.


sprouted rice/ quinoa red or black, northern beans, lentils with pork, white pepper, pine nuts, rosemary, sage.

Sprouted rice or quinoa red/black, greens, veggies broth, mushrooms, sliced walnuts, and coconut milk.


regular sleep, shut off electronics especially before bed, reduce bedclothes and wear breathable cotton PJs. Use olive oil and place it on your forehead, soles/palms and in your nose.


Rubbing acupuncture points with your finger for 30 - 60 seconds. (Source)


Here are a few aromatherapy oils that are good for anxiety and stress

  • Bergamot
  • Rose
  • Lavender
  • Orange
  • Sandalwood
  • Lemon
  • Chamomile

Here are a few ways to use them:

  • Indirect inhalation of essential oils using a room diffuser or placing drops nearby
  • Direct inhalation of essential oils using an individual inhaler with drops floated on top of hot water (this is popular for treating sinus headaches)
  • Aromatherapy massage, in which essential oils are diluted in a carrier oil and massaged into your skin
  • Applying essential oils to your skin by combining them with lotion, bath salts, or dressings



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