In traditional Eastern medicine, there are five seasons, which are spring, summer, late summer, autumn, and winter. Each season is governed by one of the Five Elements and accordingly affects the human bodily conditions. In traditional Eastern medicine, there are also five climatic factors that significantly affect the human body. These five climatic factors are the wind, heat, dampness, dryness, and cold, which are a manifestation of each of the Five Elements.
Winter and cold are governed by the Water Element. In this post, I will explain how winter and cold affect the human body. Please note that the below content is for informational purposes only and in no way is intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
Winter – Season of the Water Element
Winter is the time of repose when some animals go into hibernation with many insects disappearing altogether. The most Yin in nature, the Water Element governs the winter to help all lives to take a rest and prepare for a new cycle in the next year.
As the Water Element prevails in nature, the human body increases the consumption of Water energy in the body. Therefore, the Water Element in the human body tends to become debilitated in wintertime. Those who have unhealthy kidneys and an unhealthy bladder and consequently suffer an imbalanced Water Element may find themselves dreading the cold weather in winter.
Winter is the season when the power of Yin energy peaks. In order to maintain balance between Yin and Yang, it is recommended to increase the intake of Yang foods that have warming effects in winter, such as chili, curry, garlic, ginger, onions, peanuts, peppers, walnuts, chestnuts, mushrooms, chicken, and beef. It is also recommended to reduce the intake of Yin foods, such as cold drinks, ice cream, tropical fruits, or raw vegetables.
The kidneys and the urinary bladder are the organs of the Water Element, and we need to pay attention to the health of the kidneys and the urinary bladder in wintertime. Salty foods correspond to this element. The intake of salty foods helps fortify the kidneys and the bladder and stimulates the Water Element in the body, according to traditional Eastern medicine.
Fear is the emotion of the Water Element. According to the Five Elements theory, excessive and prolonged fear is harmful to the kidneys and could offset the balance of the Water Element in the body.
Therefore, in winter, we should pay particular attention to the emotion of fear and fear-related emotions.
Cold – Manifestation of the Water Element
Cold is a manifestation of the Water Element. Consequently, cold prevails in winter, the season of Water. The Water Element promotes inactivity and stillness. Like the Water Element that moves downward, cold air descends to the ground.
Because of its tendency to descend, the impact of cold on our bodies manifests in cold feet. Just like the Water Element that has a tendency to store and conserve, cold also prevents the decaying of matter. For example, some animals that were frozen thousands of years ago still maintain their physical form in ice.
Just as the Water Element is the most Yin among the Five Elements, cold is also the most Yin among the five climatic factors. When cold invades the human body, it impairs Yang energy and constricts the meridians.
Consequently, it leads to the poor circulation of blood and other bodily fluids, causing muscular contractions, spasms, stiffness, or a digestive disorder, according to traditional Eastern medicine. As the warmth generated by Yang energy is impeded by cold, we could experience the sensation of unusual chill and develop the symptoms of the flu.
When this happens, it is recommended to consume Yang-enhancing foods, such as cinnamon, ginger, garlic, chili, onions and peppers.
According to traditional Eastern medicine, these foods can boost Yang energy by creating internal warmth. Acupuncture and herbs also heal cold-related problems.
Given that the kidneys are an organ of the Water Element, the kidneys are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of cold. When cold invades the body, it could provoke lower back pain, kidney stones, the loss of stamina, etc.