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Staying Healthy in Winter: Part 1

written by Head Health Nutter December 22, 2010

Were you a bit emotional yesterday? It makes sense if you were. It was Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, the first day of winter. Plus it was a full moon AND a lunar eclipse! Astrological impacts aside, every season affects our health and today we cover the season of winter.

Yesterday was challenging for me, so much so that I just wasn’t up to writing this post which I had planned to do. I rode the waves and did my best; actually, wine helped (I know, not a constructive way of coping). I’ll share more on my challenges (and how I plan to resolve them) next week in “Confessions of a Fallen Health Nut“.

By the way, if you’re at all interested in astrology and wish to learn more about eclipses, and how they affect us (especially sensitive people), Susan Miller is an interesting source. Although I’m not a huge astrology buff, I do believe the cosmos, just like nature, people and our immediate environment, influences our health and well-being.

How Winter Affects our Health

Now that the longest night of the year is behind us, the days are getting longer. However, we still have almost 3 months of more darkness than light until we reach the Spring Equinox (March 20, where day and night are equal). And it’s cold! Climbing under my comfy covers and hibernating sounds good to me.

This is natural. Nature herself is in her resting season. She’s withdrawn and all her energy is deep in the earth and roots preparing for Spring. According to author of Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Dr. Elson Haas, he says we may be more quiet and withdrawn ourselves, seeking replenishment, resting, reflecting and being more aware of our senses.

But according to Haas and the Chinese Five Elements Theory, hibernating isn’t a great option for humans. He says that winter is a time to stay active in order to keep our bodies warm and energy moving; it’s also a time to get plenty of rest, good nutrition, relaxation and sleep. Dream time is important to replenishing oneself.

Winter & The Five Elements Theory

For new readers, we’ve talked about this ancient Chinese medical theory before in previous posts. Catchup or remind yourself by reading Staying Healthy in Autumn and Ancient Wisdom in a Bottle: Sokenbicha Tea.

In the Chinese Five Element system, winter corresponds to the element Water which are both the most yin parts of their cycles. Water must stay in motion; it has a rhythm, a cycle which is primarily ruled by the movement and gravitational pull of the moon. The moon is yin, the receptive, feminine, dark principle, relating to the subconscious – the hidden, the emotions. Water has these same characteristics.

This fluid is very adaptable, taking the shape of its container and changing form in response to different temperatures. It supports your being and is an essential medium of your body through which all things pass. It’s the fluid of life.

Water is important for functions like the circulation of blood, which carries heat and nourishment throughout the body; the lymphatic flow, which helps to process and eliminate wastes and provides your ability to fight off infections and other foreign agents; and for the flow of urine, saliva, perspiration, tears and sexual fluids.

The bladder and kidneys, which deal with the body’s water, are the organs associated with the Water element and winter season. The climate associated with this element is cold, and the direction is, appropriately, north. The flavour or taste associated with Water is salty (seawater is almost identical to blood plasma).

The Water element can be related to the emotions in general, but the specific emotional imbalance associated with Water energy is fear. This may manifest as specific phobias; as a general anxiety about life; or as paranoia or negativity, in which one always expects the worst. Fear can either be a cause or a consequence of a Water imbalance. An illness affecting the bladder or kidneys may generate a fearful feeling; and fear can itself injure these organs.

Water is associated with other things, like the ears as a sense organ, the groaning sound, bones of the body and the sex organs. I’ll let you read Staying Healthy in the Seasons for a full description and explanation.

What Does a Water Imbalance/Balance Look Like?

A balanced Water element allows fluidity and flow, an ability to rest and nourish oneself and others, to guide perception and reflection, and have a ready expression of feelings such as love. Qualities of compassion, understanding, and responsiveness to needs and feelings of others are often seen as the maternal and feminine aspects of ourselves, and are also characteristics of the Water element.

People with a Water imbalance might experience it as:

  • Bladder or kidney problems.
  • Craving salt or really disliking it.
  • Trembling: a release of fearful energy and tensions.
  • Problems with the ears or hearing.
  • Overtones of groaning or moaning in the voice.
  • Bone problems.
  • Impotence, infertility, excess sex or a lack of sexual expression.
  • General difficulty between 3pm and 7pm (energy circulates through our bladder and kidneys at this time).
  • Lethargy and slowness, irritability, and inability to express oneself.
  • Difficulty slowing down, relax or rest, with an inability to reflect clearly.
  • Stiffness, neck and back pains.
  • Lack of willpower or ambition.
  • Skin problems, like rashes, or bluish tone, especially around the eyes accompanied by swelling.
  • Being very attracted to blue or really disliking it.
  • Hair health: too dry, oily, thick, thin or balding.

Whether you have any of these indications or not, the idea behind this Chinese theory and Haas’ book is that when humans resist adapting to nature’s seasons, we can experience ill-health. Now that we know the susceptibilities winter has on our bodies, emotions and overall health, let’s find out what we can do about it!

Ah, but it’s the holidays and we’re all too preoccupied right now. Stay tuned for the 2nd part of this post (in early January) where we explain in more detail what lifestyle adjustments allow us to stay healthy during winter.

Do you naturally adjust your lifestyle with each season? Please share with us how you adapt to nature’s changes.

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