The Energy of Winter!
We all know that the winter is cold, and therefore, you have to protect yourself against ‘cold’ in the winter. Yes it is that obvious! We are fortunate to have indoor heating, but the atmosphere is cold and dry. Dry issues tend to get worse in the winter, such as dry skin, dry cough, dry eyes, dry lips, dry everything. The energy is going inwards, to protect your internal organs. This leaves the surface area of your body, your skin, to be at a cooler temperature during the winter compared to the summer. We also tend to gain a bit more weight in the winter to keep us warmer, so if you are trying to lose weight, just remember that your body does want to conserve energy ( glucose or fat) in the winter, so its a bit easier to lose weight during the spring and summer. This does not mean you cannot lose weight, but the season is a bit against you! The good news is that right around the corner is Spring, the time to cleanse and detoxify, and start new.
We’ve all heard of SAD or season affective disorder, which is basically depression or melancholy. This can occur during long winter months, when days are short, grey and and do not offer as much sunlight as the warmer longer spring and summer days. During winter, take the opportunity to be outside on few sunny days, take a vitamin D supplement if you tend to get down during the winter, and keep in mind that every day that passes is longer than the day before.
Every year as winter approaches, I resist changing my lifestyle. I don’t want to wear a big jacket, boots, gloves, hat and a scarf plus get dressed up and then take everything off. It’s such an ordeal every time I leave the house! I keep telling myself that this cold spell is just for a short time. I want to believe that winter is not here yet, and there will be a bit of warmth before the dreaded January and February; but it’s time to face the facts.
The winter months bring coldness and darkness. It should be a time to seek inner warmth, and work on some of the things in your life you want to change and improve, physically, mentally or spiritually. The energy of the winter season is cold, dark and downward. It can be a daunting time of the year, and having the right attitude is key!
Nutrition and exercise can help you through the long season. Use this time to rest, meditate and look inwards. If you prepared for the cold winter during the fall season, you are armed and ready for whatever winter throws at you. Not everyone is so fortunate; people are already feeling their weak immune system not handling the frigid outside environment. If you have a chronic cold, stiff neck, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, headache, or maybe your arthritis is acting up, you are in need of a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment including acupuncture, herbs and massage. TCM is very effective at boosting the immune system and helping your body rid itself of any attackers!
Traditional Chinese Medicine helps create a balance and inner harmony which can ward off any sickness. You will know the winter is affecting your body when you feel cold easily entering your body. You may even experience muscle cramps, pain in the bones and joints and low energy. If the cold is very deep in your body, you may experience nausea, vomiting, have diarrhea, abdominal pains and cold limbs (to the touch).
You can help combat these symptoms at home by modifying the foods you eat and how you cook them, exercise regularly and for extra protection receive acupuncture and use some warm or hot herbs to warm you up!
Foods that will assist your body during winter are bitter and salty foods (see below for examples of these foods). They help promote the energy to descend and remove heat from your upper body, remove cold from the digestive system and help with storage of energy. The bitter foods affect the heart and small intestine, and the salty foods have an affinity for the kidney and urinary bladder. The inward and downward movements of bitter and salty foods help to bring the necessary heat to the internal organs, therefore keeping you warmer. It is important to stay active to keep your spine and joints flexible, including all bone formation, remove toxins from the blood, and properly distribute oxygen and fluids in your body.
The following is not meant to replace your current diet, but add to it. Bitter and salty foods are cooling in nature and need to be used with warmer foods such as meats, fats and moderate amounts of nuts and seeds.
Lettuce, watercress, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, Alfalfa, Carrot top
Rye, Oats, Quinoa, Amaranth, Citrus peels, Outermost layers of cabbage
Miso, Soy sauce, Seaweeds, Salt, Millet, Barley, Wheat, Black sesame seeds
Black soybeans, Chestnuts, Mulberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, walnuts
For other bitter and salty food alternatives please speak with a practitioner from the Traditional Healing Centre.
Heat is necessary for the breakdown of food into their small constituents, which takes place during digestion. If you have a cold body, low energy, constipation or diarrhea, loose stools and a pale complexion, you may have an underactive digestive system. Adding heat to your food helps your body to digest and breakdown the foods so they can enter your bloodstream and nourish and feed all the cells in your body. You can add heat to your food by cooking foods longer or on a higher heat, such as baking, broiling, grilling, barbequing and using a slow cooker. This is a great time of the year to make soups and stews, which help pack your body with the necessary energy.
You can also add heat by using ingredients with a high thermal nature; oats, quinoa, spelt, onions, peppers, scallions, parsnip, sweet potato, cayenne, chili, cinnamon, garlic, peppercorns, chicken, and beef. These types of foods are hotter or warmer in nature, and can help you stay warm and healthy.
To help the digestive process and keep you warm, ginger tea is an excellent addition to the diet. Take a few pieces of fresh ginger and add to a cup of boiling water. Let it stand 2-3 minutes and enjoy it.