Your Chinese Kidneys are considered to be one of the most important organs in your body. They are the organ system of growth, maturation, sexuality, fertility, and aging. Like a seed which holds the potential of an entire plant, your Kidneys hold the genetic blueprint of who you are and how healthy and strong you will be.
Your Kidneys (or Kidney, in Chinese medicine) are the source of Yin and Yang in your body. When the fire of Yang is burning low or Yin is not nourishing your body, your Kidney must always be addressed. Your Kidney also houses a substance called Essence, which is similar to DNA.
The Kidney is considered the most deep-seated of all your internal organs, and for good reason. It’s the root of all substances in your body and is responsible for providing the tools you require to fulfill your deepest needs: survival and reproduction. Your Kidney acts a bit like the Energizer Bunny as the home of your deep reserves, but as such it’s also the organ that is most damaged by stress.
Your Kidney is physically located in the lower back, so when it becomes weak one of the most common symptoms is low back pain. Also, sore or weak knees or ankles can be associated with a Kidney weakness.
Your body’s bones and marrow are governed by your Kidney. Weak bones and bone diseases such as osteoporosis are related to weak Kidneys. The function of your Kidney is also connected to your ears and sense of hearing. When there is an imbalance or weakness in your Kidney system, a common symptom is tinnitus, or ringing in your ears. If you’re losing your hair or it’s going gray prematurely, you can also blame your Kidney, as it governs the hair on your head.
Your Kidney and Kidney Essence determine how well you will age. Gray hair, weak bones, loss of hearing, loss of skin elasticity, tooth problems, and many other signs of aging are related to the Kidney. If you are interested in aging as well as possible, your Kidney is the most important organ system to safeguard.
The element in nature associated with the Kidney is water, which is appropriate and symbolic in that water is the source of all life. The organ paired with the Kidney is the Urinary Bladder, and together both organs govern water metabolism in the body. If you think of Kidney Yang as a pilot light that warms the body and its fluids, then Kidney Yin is a bit like coolant, which nourishes the body and keeps the heat of Yang in check.
Sexuality and creativity are emotional components of the Kidney system. As the organ that governs survival through reproduction, the Kidney system is responsible for libido and sexual attraction. The Kidney is also the source of artistic creation. In addition, the emotions associated with this deepest organ are fear and fright. Fear has the ability to shake you to your core, and chronic fright translates into something very much like unrelenting stress, which is extremely damaging to the Kidney. In Western medicine, your adrenal glands pump out adrenaline (stress hormones) and are located right next to your Kidneys.
Signs and symptoms that your Kidney is depleted include a sore or weak low back, knees, or ankles; bone or tooth problems; dark circles under your eyes; hearing problems; and premature graying or thinning of your hair. Thyroid problems or extreme reactions to the climate—feeling really cold or having lots of hot flashes—are also indications that your Kidney is out of balance. Edema, kidney stones, and getting up several times each night to urinate suggest a problem with the water metabolism function of the Kidney and Urinary Bladder. Also, issues with fertility, libido, or the menstrual cycle generally are Kidney problems.
If you feel that your Kidney system needs some nourishing, here are five ways to help strengthen it:
1) Remember, your Kidney is the organ most damaged by stress, so one of the best ways to nourish it is to get your stress under control. Whatever you choose, whether it’s Yoga, Tai Qi, meditation, or fishing, any stress relief measures will benefit your Kidney.
2) Finding the right balance between activity and rest will help improve the health of your Kidney. Aim for a balance of Yang activities which are challenging, exciting, and stimulating with some Yin activities that incorporate rest, rejuvenation, and contemplation.
3) Beyond handling stress, resolving any situations in your life that are making you fearful will only serve to enhance Kidney health. If you tend to be fearful with no obvious threat, you may want to try some things that stretch you beyond your comfort zone.
4) The physical realm of your Kidney is your lower back and knees. Stretching and exercises to strengthen your lumbar area and leg muscles are helpful in supporting your Kidney. You can also stimulate your Kidney by patting or massaging your lower back area.
5) Foods that are particularly nourishing to your Kidney include those that are very dark (even black!) in color. These would include dark fruits and vegetables, and foods like black beans, black sesame seeds, and black walnuts. The water element comes into play when choosing foods for your Kidney, too. Foods from the sea, such as fish, shellfish, seaweed, kelp, and sushi are all excellent Kidney tonics.
6) Your acupuncturist has a number of tools to help you strengthen your Kidney organ system. They can combine acupuncture with an herbal formula specifically designed to nourish your Kidneys. In addition, they can help you develop a lifestyle and meal plan that will not only protect your Kidney system, but help to boost your overall health.