****Tonify Your Kidneys!****
Here in North America, we tend to take our kidneys for granted, unless something is seriously going awry with them. It’s an excellent luxury to have, and I’m glad we do. However, if there’s one part of your body that’s almost guaranteed to get tired and need a little help, it’s your kidneys. And if there’s anything that will really give you good bang for your energetic buck, it’s the return on investment in getting them tonified. Here’s why….
Your (TCM) kidneys are hugely important. They’re in charge of western-medicine-related-kidney-functions, but they do a whole lot more. They’re the place that you really get a good wallop of energy from in general. If they’re tired? You could end up with a tired, achy, sore back; thinning or greying hair; bones that are more brittle or prone to breakage; a poor memory; tired, achy knees; having to get up in the middle of the night to pee, or having to pee far more often during the day than you’d like; low hearing; night sweats; menopause issues; or having trouble getting pregnant. And that’s just the big stuff. Do I have your attention yet?
Then there’s the less obvious stuff: feeling incredibly drained; having trouble focusing; having dry skin/eyes/etc; feeling like you just can’t get going (physically or with tasks); low sex drive; inability to get a nice deep breath. Heck, there’s even a super-specific form of kidney yang deficiency that’ll get you up at the crack of dawn with morning diarrhea. With kids it can show up with bedwetting. It can lead to weak teeth. You really want to keep your kidneys healthy.
I don’t want to get into how to diagnose kidney yin / yang / jing deficiency here, at least not now. But if you want to be good to your kidneys and get some more oomph in your step, food therapy is a great way to do it.
If you’re having trouble with your digestion, you’ll want to make sure you have ‘yang’ foods – that means the less cool and raw you’re ingesting, the better. Throw in garlic and ginger where you can, or some nice warming cinnamon. Cook your veggies. Eat walnuts (anything that looks like a brain feeds the brain in TCM, and since I’m not encouraging zombie-mode, I vote walnuts to keep your memory going).
Black foods and foods shaped like a kidney are great. That means sesame seeds, black rice, black beans – heck, any beans. Blueberries, blackberries, mulberries all work as well.
From there the list seems more random – but it’s all about super-concentrated nutrition. Fish are water element, and water is the kidney’s element (heck, they move water through the body, right?). So water veggies (chlorella, spirulina, blue-green algae, seaweed) are good, as is seafood like tuna, salmon, clams, oysters, shellfish, shrimp. Seeds are all about growth, so throw in some flax, pumpkin, sunflower seeds. Eggs are fantastic for kidney energy as well. Barley and millet are awesome, as is sprouted wheat if you’re into that kind of bread. Making soup? Boil the bones! This is amazing to nourish the bone marrow. The longer you simmer the bones, the better. You could also listen to my Grandma and toss in a little bit of vinegar with the simmering bones….it helps pull the calcium out and into the soup. If you have leftover soup and you put it in the fridge only to find it’s formed a thick gel overnight? Then you’re genius.
And of course, water is your friend. Most folks I see are pretty dehydrated. I know you know this, but tea is not water….coffee is not water…pop is not water…juice is not water…fake sugar, for the love of all things holy, might make drinks taste good but is most definitely not water. Drinking more water (don’t overload yourself, but aim for your 8-10 glasses a day) really does do good things for you. Like make you look younger. Detox you. Help your digestion. Help you lose weight. Smooth your skin. Soften your hair. You know, silly stuff like that.
The one that gets folks arguing is salt. Traditionally speaking, salt tonifies the kidneys. Does that mean pour it on everything? No. Does that mean use table salt? Oh good gravy, no! Table salt is badness. Sea salt or Himalayan salt are where it’s at – nice, pure, real salt with all of the juicy little micro-nutrients still in them. Not table salt – ever wonder why it’s iodized? Because they took everything out of it and then added in iodine! No wonder a lot of peoples’ bodies react poorly to it! Now, be responsible – don’t oversalt, don’t salt and drive, and add salt at the end of cooking, not the beginning (it retains more nutrients that way, and the taste doesn’t get diluted). Now, if you have good reason not to use salt, I’m certainly not asking you to over-ride your own best interest, of course. This suggestion is for those of you who are fine with it.
And that’s it! Well, there’s more of course – but if you’d like some basics about kidney tonification at home the fun ‘n’ tasty way, here you go.
Have fun, and happy eating!