Updated for 2015: The Winter Season and Our Health

A fundamental premise of Chinese medicine is that our bodies are profoundly affected by our environmental circumstances. The main seasonal change which affects us is the length of the sunlight hours and secondarily the temperatures. The ancient book called the Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is written as a discussion between the Yellow Emperor and his court physician Li Po. One chapter is a conversation about the affects of the seasons on our health and emotions.

Li Po explains that the energy of nature descends into the earth in winter. The plants and some animals are either dormant or hibernating. The climate is colder and the days are shorter, with the Winter solstice on December 21 being the shortest day of the year.

Rest is very important in winter, one should rest more, going to bed earlier and taking it easy. This suggestion is often in conflict with the demands of the holidays, however, the Yellow emperor is warned that if the energy is not conserved, ones health and immunity will be impaired making it easier to catch a virus for example.

Additionally, conserving energy in winter is important for the flourishing of one’s health in the spring when the energy of nature begins to rise and new growth appears.

To cope with the cooler temperatures it is helpful to eat warming foods, such as roast squash, and root vegetables. Soups and stews made with beans or lentils are also good. Garlic, ginger and cinnamon are good spices to help warm the body. Reduce raw fruit and raw vegetables because the raw foods tend to lower our body temperature.

Each season is associated with a different organ, emotion, color, climate, taste, and direction. For winter these are: the kidneys, fear/anxiety, black, cold, salty and north.

There are many Chinese herbal formulae to boost immunity and prevent virus colds. I always have these in stock at my office.

To reduce colds and virus I also recommend taking 3000 to 5000 units of vitamin D daily. Unless your vitamin D levels are high enough your body will not be able to mount a strong immune response to infection.

A seasonal acupuncture treatment is also a good idea to reduce stress and balance or strengthen the system.