The Kidney organ system is the foundation for the health of the body. Our Kidney energy is inherited from our parents and it is strengthened or weakened by our lifestyle. You may have inherited a weak constitution but Chinese medicine posits that if you live a healthy lifestyle, you can strengthen your body. Likewise, you may have inherited a strong constitution, but after many years of depleting the body through overworking, stress, poor dietary habits, lack of sleep, too much sexual activity, or too many traumas, you can weaken your body. An unhealthy lifestyle may cause stress reactions, affect your sleep, weaken your digestion, or weaken your immune system causing frequent colds, but after many years, it will be the depletion of the Kidney energy that is most detrimental to overall health.
The Kidney system is like the pilot light of the body for our internal furnace. The pilot light is not what keeps you warm on a cold day, but rather the heat that is created from that little flickering flame. The flickering flame here is the Kidney while the fire that arises from it to keep you warm is the Spleen. We rely on the energy from the Spleen to supply that get up and go energy for our everyday existence. However, it is the energy from the Kidney, which is our deep reservoir of energy that we can tap into when all else fails. Kidney energy is not the energy we want to be tapping into everyday in order to survive. If we do that, sooner or later, our reservoir will run dry and we will find our state of health in deep waters.
Naturopathic doctors use the term adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue to describe this state of emergency when the Kidney energy reserves become depleted and the pilot light goes out. It can take years to recover from this deep exhaustion and to re-light the pilot.
The Kidney system also rules the temperature of the body. The Kidney has two complementary thermostats: one warm and one cool. When there is balance between warm and cool, there is good health. Those who have a weak warm thermostat may experience symptoms like low back pain, weak knees, low libido, always feeling cold, weight loss, or fatigue. Those who have a weak cool thermostat may experience hot flashes, night sweats, or dryness. These are all signs that you have overworked and need deep nourishment and rest. (Interestingly, most of these signs correspond with thyroid issues and, indeed, there may be a connection between the Kidney system in Chinese medicine and the thyroid in western medicine.)
Here are some ways to nourish the Kidney system:
1. Rest, rest, rest. Try to take time during the afternoon to take a nap or otherwise lay down.
2. Get more restorative sleep.
3. If you are too cold, stay warm by using a hot water bottle when you go to bed and take Chinese herbs to warm you up. If you are too warm, take Chinese herbs to cool you down. (Chinese herbs should be prescribed from a board certified Chinese herbalist only.)
4. Don’t over-do. Most people need to work, but set limits for yourself. Working 12 hours day after day will deplete your reserves.
5. Ask for support if your life is too full.