I have a colleague who is an author, a well-respected man in our field. His friends call him a "kidney freak". Now before you go thinking that this is some sort of strange "Friday the 13th" blood & gore kind of guy -- let me explain that my colleague believes that the most important organ in our body -- what it all comes down to is the health of our kidneys.
I suppose I must be a kidney freak as well because I would have to agree with him.
Very early this morning I was at the hospital: seeing a patient in cardiac ICU. This man had fluid in his lungs, a very low blood pressure, a rapid pulse, a secondary systemic infection, poor liver function and unbelievably poor kidney function. When I checked his pulses, according to protocol of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), his kidney pulses bilaterally were weak, the kidney yang pulse (referring to kidney function) almost non-existent. And truly, according to TCM, all of the signs and symptoms listed above can be traced to depletion of the kidney channel energy -- and could be treated by strengthening the kidney channel as well.
That is, if it is not too late.
In TCM, at the most basic level, our kidney energy represents our stamina. Our most basic resources. It is perhaps also for this reason that the kidney energy is thought to command growth, reproduction, immune function, brain function. On a day-to-day basis, when we consistently overwork, take in poor nutrition -- when we consistently keep irregular hours, constantly overdo and ignore our most basic and simple needs to replenish our resources, we could find ourselves in a situation where we really need our kidney energy to get us through a major illness -- and it will not be there for us.
Many people think they are "going along" fine in life and suddenly their health is gone. Seemingly from nowhere, like having fallen from a cliff.
I can think of many examples of people I know, patients and friends alike, who repeat over and over, "I am fine, it will be fine..." and the results of their lifestyles have been nearly catastrophic for them.
I have another colleague right now who is fighting for his life. His doctors have given him two months to live. He reassured me two years ago that he would be fine while living on (insert fast food name here) despite voicing my concerns to him that he needed to eat more vegetables.
If only he had kept more regular hours, gotten regular sleep, eaten more balanced meals, if only, if only and if only.
Our lifestyle plays more into our longevity than we realize. Health is not just a given. It is something that we earn every single day. Every single meal. Every single night that we sleep...or not sleep. Each choice that we make is a forward or backward step in longevity.
Health is the earned result of small, consistent behaviors which add up to years of vibrance.
Specifically, for kidney health, in TCM, t hese things count:
- Get enough rest at night. To bed before midnight, consistently.
- Avoid cold and icy foods. They deplete kidney energy, according to TCM.
- Avoid dairy. Also according to TCM, all milk products impede kidney function over time.
- Eat fish and fish soups. They strengthen the kidneys.
- Eat beans. Kidney beans, azuki beans, pinto beans, lentils, great northern, navy beans,
cannelini beans, garbanzos/chickpeas, black turtle beans, black soybeans.
(black soybeans are especially valued for reproduction, azukis and kidney beans for
stamina and kidney function)
- Include sea vegetables, such as nori, kombu, arame, hijiki and dulse.
Use according to your condition. They are a well-kept secret which I am now sharing!
- Do not avoid salt altogether, but use with care, according to your condition.
- In cold and chilly climates, keep the feet and kidneys warm. Wear extra undershirts,
camisoles over the kidney areas. Wear socks.
- When under pressure & stress, have hot showers or baths before bed to relax tight kidneys.
- Too much coffee will drain the kidney energy over time.
Most of all, realize that small, consistent actions add up to health over a number of years. After many years of practice I receive the gift of experience. I see the direction that people are going with their health: the signs of which are written on their faces, in their pulses, on their tongues.
And sometimes the direction is not one which I would choose for them.
We need to be mindful of the direction we are taking with our choices. Call me a Kidney Freak too. I am in excellent company & hope to live a long life telling about it.