How to Detox in Winter

 In Blog

I’ve been practicing Chinese medicine for over 25 years, and one of the things that I love is that it’s all about the idea of keeping in balance and staying in tune with your body. Each organ has a time of year, a time of day when it is most active, and many additional actions besides what we understand in the West.


  • Living according to the seasons with your organs in mind is a great way to stay in balance. Starting in mid-December we move into the “kidney” time of year. Kidneys are the source of your energy or “essence”. You were born with a certain amount of kidney energy. This is called your Jing or your essence. How you live your lifestyle can affect your essence – too much work or not enough balance in your life will lower your energy over time. In addition to our Western understanding of kidney function such as filtering out toxins, regulating our chemistry and creating urine, there are a few other things they do, according to Chinese medicine:
  • they rule big transitions in life,
  • the emotion of fear,
  • the power of will,
  •  your lower back, knees, and bones,
  •  your overall sense of having energy – which translates into your adrenal glands (which produce all the hormones that your body uses to deal with stress).  This is an interesting cross-section of Chinese and Western medicine, where the two are intrinsically related to one another.

Kidney Energy

Winter is the time of year when the kidney energy becomes more prevalent. Kidney energy is associated with the element of water, and the environment gets much colder at this time. When you “overdo” things this time of year you might notice that your lower back is hurting. Or your knees might start aching. You might even find that you’re needing a lot more sleep. I personally like to hibernate during these winter months. Get to bed early and stay in bed as long as possible. If you want to take supplements to support your kidneys during this time the key ones include Ashwaganda, Siberian Ginseng, Maca, Holy Basil, or Rodiola.

This is NOT the time of year to cleanse. Some people think that they’d like to start the year off right with a cleanse in order to be more healthy, but that is not recommended. Most cleanses are great for springtime, when the liver is more active, and the sap starts flowing in the trees. If you really want to get the new year off to a good start by doing a “cleanse” try focusing on just the foods you eat. Eat a lot of soups, vegetables that are cooked in soups and broths, eat warm foods that are packed with nutrients. Don’t try to detox or do cold green drinks because they are harder on your kidneys this time of year.

Other Things You May Notice

If you have premenopausal symptoms or are going through puberty at this time of year you may feel more intense symptoms. You may experience more hot flashes, joint pains, extreme fatigue – because this is the time to turn inward and rest as much as you can. I encourage you to nourish your kidneys by getting plenty of rest. And being kind to yourself. Some good kidney foods include black beans, black radish, black rice, and salty broths. Salt is the flavor that the kidneys crave when they want more balance.      

By staying in tune with the seasons, you will be listening to your body and giving yourself the healing you need. Learn more about listening to your body by reading my new book – HEALING WHEN IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE: 7 KEYS TO DEFY THE ODDS

Remember to like my page on Facebook, Heart To Heart Medical Center and ask to join my Facebook group Heroic Healing.

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