A friend recently sent out an email saying that life was good “despite her pain;” and my Chinese Medicine Doctor ears perked up. Pain is always a message that something is off. What kind of body pain? I thought and reached out to her. It turns out that she has been experiencing carpal tunnel and sciatic pain; and then last week “threw her back out.” Ouch. Based on the location and type of pain, I sensed that her body was having some trouble in transitioning from Winter to Spring.
Seasonal transitions are potentially the hardest on the body.
This is often when people get sick. In the fall we call it a cold, in the spring we call them allergies. As adaptable beings, our bodies are always trying to create homeostasis between our inside environment and the one outside. Changes in temperature, air pressure, moisture, and wind all affect us profound ways; and our body’s ability to ADAPT is what makes these transitions smoother or more difficult to experience.
PAIN specifically is the message that energy is stuck. In Chinese Medicine we measure energy in different ways, but it always comes back to the seasons. The climate “evils” of heat, cold, damp, dryness, wind, and fire in excess can create dis-ease. As seasons change, so do these climates. If your body is not ready for the change it may show up as symptoms of imbalance or pain. As CM practitioners, we are trained to measure these in the body and find where they are out of balance.
Winter is COLD and is the season of dormancy. The Qi (energy) of the season goes WITHIN. It sinks into the earth, also goes deep into our bones. We are meant to rest during this time, and use up what has already been stored from the cycle of creation before; being careful not to over-extend and deplete our reserves. Winter is also the “season” of older age. You can see the similarities in lifestyle. As we age we move slower, take more care, rest more. We even start to be concerned with our bones.
As spring comes in, we receive more light and warmth and energy wakes up and RISES toward the sun. This is the birthing process, a time of unfettered growth. What was once a dormant seed in the late stages of winter now sprouts life and gives us hope. The birds return and let us know to wake up. Baby animals are being born. You can see this in the fauna and animal kingdom all around. And it is happening within us too. Energy rises and then comes down. Spring is akin to adolescence.
Where does energy get hung up and cause pain?
When moving from WINTER: Kidney : bones, (also knees and lower back) into SPRING : Liver : Gall Bladder (sinews, movement, and joints) can sometimes provide some challenges. If the kidneys aren’t full of energy, warmth and nourishment, the energy of Wood / spring can feel stressed when it’s time to stretch out and move. And if the liver and gallbladder meridians aren’t also warmed, nourished, and FLEXIBLE, this can cause some creeky joints or potentially even muscle or nerv-y pain. So what do we do?
Here are some tips to ease the transitions from winter to spring.
1. Drink a lot of pure / filtered water, potential adding electrolytes in the form of minerals. Water flushes out your system because are made up mostly of water. It is recommended to drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces – which is a lot! per day to keep the lymph, liver, and kidneys releasing toxins. I add minerals to my filtered water both for taste and because minerals support the kidneys / cells / bones.
2. Eat bone broth to nourish the kidneys. If you are are feeling depleted, cold, or tired, you can nourish the kidneys with bone broth (marrow broth is the best,) seaweed, good fats, and organic, pasture raised meats if you eat them. These minerals, fats, and proteins are the best source of DEEP NUTRITION for the kidneys. There are some Chinese herbal formulas that can help as well as they have been cultivated for 5000 years.
3. Start moving! Spring is about movement and your liver and gallbladder will be the happiest with 30-45 minutes of sustained movement (even a walk!) to the point of sweat. Once you are sweating, you know that your liver and lymph system are detoxing – and this is very good. Saunas and castor oil packs are also helpful to get the liver and lymph moving- just be careful not to “purge” too much if you are depleted. If your system is running on exhaustion – start slower with movement and nourish the kidneys in # 2 above.
4. Eat foods that grow at this time to give your body a natural cleanse. Follow nature to know what to eat and do. Spring greens, asparagus, and artichokes are all dominant during spring and in fact these are cleansing to the liver. Diet and lifestyle are the way to go to get excellent health benefits. Too much cold and raw food can injure the spleen (so always eat a warm breakfast- refer to my post on this here) but once life warms up a green salad with lunch or dinner is helpful for your liver to cleanse.
A simple cleansing salad recipe:
Start with fresh spring greens like leaf lettuce, romaine, dandelion or butter lettuce, celery, carrots – with a dressing of olive oil, lemon (great for liver) and sea salt. You can also add cilantro (detoxes heavy metals,) curly parsley (nourishes the kidney,) or any other fresh spring herbs. It’s yum – tastic! You can add beets, artichokes, cucumber, seeds, seaweed, chicken, steak, or whatever is calling to you.
A simple daily walk with help you to breathe in your local biome – which can help you to adapt to the seasons’ change and to feel and sense the rhythms of nature at this time. Good luck and get moving!
If you need more support and would like to schedule a Five Element Acupuncture session or Herbal / Homeopathic consultation, visit ElohiAcupuncture.com and set up a free consultation today!
Dr. Charlie Cavallo