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The kidneys in Traditional Chinese Medicine are a vital energy system. They are the root of all yin and yang in the body, and they store our essence. They govern growth, reproduction and healthy progression through the different cycles of life. They play a role in healthy aging and preventing lots of age-related decline. They also control the bones, the low back and the knees. On a mental-emotional level, the kidneys are associated with fear – an imbalance in the kidney energy often leads to irrational or pervasive fear. On a spiritual level, the kidneys are the source of our Zhi, or will-power – our drive to succeed, to thrive and to be alive.
So a weakness in the kidney energy can create any number of problems in the body. An accurate diagnosis of a kidney weakness requires evaluation by a practitioner of TCM, but most people can benefit from some kidney tonification, particularly if trying to get pregnant, when healing from a chronic illness and after the age of 65. Chinese Herbs are safe and effective when prescribed by a licensed practitioner. Below are some of the most common tonic herbs we prescribe in TCM to nourish the kidneys.
Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia Root, Chinese Foxglove Root): Shu Di Huang tonifies and nourishes the yin aspect of the kidneys. It also strongly nourishes the blood energy of the body. Shu Di Huang is used in many herbal formulas for insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats and anxiety.
Gou Qi Zi (Chinese Wolfberry Fruit, Goji Berries): Gou Qi Zi nourishes the yin and blood of both the Kidneys and the Liver. It benefits the essence stored in the kidneys, and has a specific function of brightening the eyes. It can be used in the appropriate formulas for issues such as weakness in the low back, trouble sleeping, dizziness, blurry vision, nocturnal emissions and infertility.
He Shou Wu (Polygonum, Fleeceflower Root): He Shou Wu is another herb to nourish the yin and blood of the liver and kidney. It has a specific function of nourishing the hair to prevent premature thinning and graying. It can also be used in formulas for chronic constipation, dizziness, vertigo, blurry vision, infertility or weakness in the low back and knees.
Rou Cong Rong (Broomrape Stem): Rou Cong Rong strengthens the yang aspect of the kidneys, or the source of warm, fiery energy in the body. As such, it is used in formulas for infertility, impotence and urinary disorders such as urinary dribbling or incontinence. It also has a function of moistening the intestines and can be used for certain types of chronic constipation.
Rou Gui (Dried Cinnamon Bark): Rou Gui also strengthens the yang of the kidneys, and warms the kidneys and the channels. It is used in formulas for symptoms such as a deep feeling of cold, cold limbs, weakness in the low back, impotence, frequent urination, chronic pain worse in the cold, wheezing and certain types of menstrual pain.
Most of these herbs need to be prescribed by a licensed practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine. If you want to nourish the kidneys on your own, consider adding Shan Yao (Chinese Yam) into your diet, and picking up some Goji Berries at your local health store. You can also incorporate kidney-nourishing foods into your diet, such as fish, seaweed, miso, kidney beans, black beans and bone broth.
When you are feeling under the weather, few things are considered more comforting than homemade chicken soup. Food-based health remedies have been used for thousands of years. With modern research and technology, have these foods been proven beneficial to the immune system?
More than just a potent flavor in cooking, garlic has long been valued as a medicinal powerhouse. Garlic was used as a remedy for a wide range of illnesses in ancient India, Egypt, Rome, China, and Japan. The ancient Roman text Naturalis Historia lists 23 uses for garlic, including protection against toxins and infections.
Garlic’s impressive reputation remains strong in modern times. Garlic contains minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and zinc), vitamins (B1, B2, B5, B6, C), and enzymes that contribute to the overall nutrition that is vital to our health.
Traditional Chinese herbalists have known about the medicinal properties of shiitake mushrooms for more than 6,000 years. Emperors of China are said to have eaten this mushroom in great quantities to slow the onset of age.
Modern research shows a connection between the shiitake mushroom and immune system support. A 2014 study found that those who ate shiitake mushrooms every day for four weeks demonstrated increased immunity through an “increase in cell numbers and activation and increased secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) production.”1
How can a tiny fungus be so powerful? These small mushrooms are packed with folate; niacin; pantothenic acid; and vitamins B2, B6, and C. They are also a source of minerals, including magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc.
Grandma’s Chicken Soup
When you have a cold, a steamy bowl of Grandma’s chicken soup is the best medicine, at least according to Grandma. Is it the warmth, extra hydration, and a dash of TLC that make us feel better? Or do the soup’s ingredients help give the immune system the support it needs?
A study by the American College of Chest Physicians points to the soup itself. “Chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity,” the study found.2
While broth and stock have both been purported to have medicinal properties, interest in old-fashioned bone broth has increased recently. For a traditional bone broth, the bones are simmered at least 24 hours to release minerals from the bones into the broth.
According to Sue Howell, DVM, of the Standard Process veterinary technical support team, bone broth is an excellent source of minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Bone broth also keeps joints healthy, improves poor appetite, increases white and red blood cell production, and supports the immune system.
It looks like Grandma was right … again. Sometimes old wives’ tales and family remedies are handed down for a reason. And when it comes to seasonal immune system challenges, nutrition can be your best defense
Water is vital to our survival. Water makes up about 60 percent of our bodies by weight. Fluid must be constantly replenished in order for the body to do its job. Proper hydration helps:
- Regulate body temperature
- Assist in flushing bodily waste
- Metabolize and transport carbohydrates and proteins in the bloodstream
- Act as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord
- Lubricate joints
- Form saliva
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few ways to make sure you are getting enough water.
1. Watch for Signs
Did you know that fatigue could be a sign of dehydration? Next time you are feeling tired, try drinking a big glass of water before you reach for that sugary, caffeine-laden beverage.
Besides fatigue, there are other signs that you may need more water. When you feel thirsty, it is an early sign of dehydration. Feeling hungry? Many times a hunger pang is just the body’s way of asking for a drink of water. Other signs include “brain fog,” dry mouth, lightheadedness, constipation, and muscle cramps. One study even linked dehydration with degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower ability to concentrate, and headache symptoms.
2. Know How Much
To determine how much water you require each day, divide your body weight in half. The result is the approximate number of water in ounces you should drink daily. So if you weigh 180 pounds, aim for at least 90 ounces of water a day. That’s about 12 cups. This total can vary depending on the climate you live in, the environment, your physical activity level, or other factors. Ask your health care professional to be absolutely sure.
To see how much water you are getting, keep a record of your daily intake or use a smartphone app. Tracking the water you drink might surprise you with how little you are actually getting.
3. Make It a Habit
Get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day and with every meal. Many people find that carrying a water bottle at all times is a great reminder that they need to drink. Water bottles with measurement markings are also handy in adding up how many ounces you are consuming each day.
You can also gain fluids from foods you eat, such as broth soups and foods with high water content like celery, tomatoes, or melons.
4. Add Some Flavor
If plain water is too bland for you, it’s easy to create infused water with fresh ingredients. How does strawberry kiwi mint water sound? Want to try refreshing lemon lavender? Basil cucumber can also hit the spot. Have fun and create your own flavor concoctions with some of these ingredients:
- Sweet fruits like kiwis, watermelons, strawberries, or melons
- Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, or oranges
- Veggies like cucumbers, jalapenos, or celery
- Herbs like basil, mint, or rosemary
Wash your ingredients (organic if possible). Cut them into chunks or slices as needed, and place those in a pitcher (preferably glass), Mason jar, or even your water bottle before filling the container with water. Place the container in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight to steep. The result is fragrant, flavor-infused water with no added calories, sugar, or artificial flavors or colors.
If you do not drink the infused water within 24 hours, strain the liquid to remove the added ingredients and keep up to three days. Enjoy!
We all need a balanced diet for optimal nutrition, health, and well-being. For many people, however, a healthy diet is hard to achieve.
We spoke with Bruce Bond, DC, DACBN, about the nutritional challenges that many patients face and how supplements can help fill nutritional gaps.*
Q: Why do many people struggle with eating a healthy diet?
A: One of the issues people are faced with today is the lack of time brought on by a busy lifestyle. People are dealing with work, relationships, and obligations, and it’s not always possible to eat right and at the right time. I see patients who eat out way too much, which means they can’t control portion sizes or ingredients the same way they could at home. Many restaurant meals, especially fast food, are highly processed and can be high in calories, carbohydrates, sugar, unhealthy fats, and sodium.
Q: Why is nutrition so important?
A: Your body is made up of trillions of cells. Cells take nutrients from food and convert them into energy. Cells have specialized functions to make what your body needs. If you don’t feed the cells, your body can’t make what it needs.
Q: What do you recommend for patients with poor eating habits?
A: A balanced diet is crucial for overall health. I recommend that my patients eat a wide variety of lean meats, healthy oils, fruits, vegetables, and grains. This is how one obtains beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fibers.
Q: What if patients just can’t maintain a balanced diet?
A: It is hard for many people to eat right, so I recommend nutritional supplements. General Health Daily Fundamentals packs provide foundational maintenance support. The packets contain Catalyn®, Tuna Omega-3 Oil, and Trace Minerals-B12™. The prepackaged formulas are very convenient. Grab a packet to go along with breakfast and a packet with dinner, and you’re good to go.*
Q: Do you recommend herbal support for patients?
A: When I see patients who aren’t eating well, I recognize their immune systems may not have the support they need. MediHerb’s Echinacea Premium supports and promotes healthy white blood cells. Echinacea has many benefits but it is especially beneficial when your system is stressed and you need a healthy immune system response.
We’ve all been there: tired, irritable, and finding it hard to think clearly. Not getting enough sleep can affect your work, personal relationships, physical abilities, and more. But did you know that if you consistently miss out on quality sleep time you could be harming your health? Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development of many chronic diseases and conditions, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis.
“I see patients with sleep challenges at least five to seven times a week,” said Martha Hall, DAOM, ACN. “Sleep is essential for physiological energy in the brain and body. It affects you in so many ways.”
Fortunately, some lifestyle changes may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. When her patients experience nighttime challenges, Dr. Hall recommends the following helpful tips.
Sticking to a Routine
Create an evening ritual so you can relax and prepare yourself for sleep every night. This winding-down routine may include:
- A cup of herbal tea
- A warm bath
- A bite-sized protein snack (like sunflower butter on celery)
“I often suggest my patients repeat a simple mantra over and over right before bed or while in bed,” said Dr. Hall. “It helps calm the mind and body.”
Sleeping in the Bedroom
The bedroom should be reserved for sleeping only with no television or reading while in bed. Dr. Hall also recommends that you do not listen to music before bedtime unless the music is relaxing or meditative. Make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet or use an eye mask and earplugs.
After 3 p.m. do not consume caffeine, which can be found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. It is also wise to avoid nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it can interrupt your sleep later in the evening.
Laptops, tablets, and cellphones emit artificial blue light that can throw off the body’s natural circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle of physiological processes. A good habit to get into is shutting down devices two to three hours before bedtime.
“Social media can be distressing. One article can lead to more and more articles,” Dr. Hall said. “It’s better to unplug before bedtime.”
Aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga can all help improve your quality of sleep. If stress keeps you awake at night, the rhythmic stretching and relaxing poses of yoga can help you fall asleep faster.
“When they aren’t sleeping well, my patients often eat more fast food or prepared foods because they don’t have the energy to cook a good meal,” Dr. Hall said. “It’s a bad habit to get into. When you are feeling healthy and well-rested, you tend to eat healthier foods.”
Your diet should include foods that can increase serotonin levels and get your body ready for sleep, such as:
- Complex carbohydrates: whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, and brown rice
- Lean proteins: low-fat cheese, chicken, turkey, and fish
- Heart-healthy fats: peanuts, almond butter, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios
Try some of these healthy lifestyle changes tonight and you may wake up to a brighter tomorrow!