Supporting and nourishing our Kidneys


The Kidneys are crucially important to our overall health and well being. These kidney bean shaped organs have a list of tasks to complete during the day, including controlling blood pressure by releasing hormones, controlling red blood cell production, balancing fluids, returning vitamins and minerals to the bloodstream, excreting drugs and waste products, balancing acidity and managing the amount of blood in circulation!

The Kidneys are associated with the Water element, the season of winter, salty taste, the colours dark blue & black and the emotion of fear. Winter is the time when we reduce our activity, i.e. become more Yin, which helps the Kidneys to rest and recuperate.

The Kidneys are also the hub for balancing Yin and Yang in the body. If the Kidneys are out of balance, Yin and Yang become out of balance leading to an imbalance in the other organs. When they are working optimally, our energy levels are good and we are motivated and have drive and determination, our bones are strong, the hair on our head is strong and healthy, and our blood & fluid circulation is balanced.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Kidneys store the foundation of Life, an essence called ‘Jing’. This Kidney essence is regarded as essential for reproduction, growth and development (1). Kidney Jing is inherited. Unfortunately, ageing, stress and a busy lifestyle can deplete Jing. Whilst what we inherit may be completely out of our control, we can make a difference by eating well, managing stress, getting enough sleep and having acupuncture as soon as we are not feeling 100%. Friends from China or those who have spent time training there tell me that acupuncture, herbs and Tui Na are used regularly to ensure optimal health and balance- not just when symptoms appear.

Signs your Kidneys may need strengthening

Our Kidneys store energy like a battery, releasing this when we are unwell, stressed or overworked. If the Kidneys are fatigued there is a lack of Yang energy. Yang is moving; it rushes upward, moves quickly and is full of energy. A deficiency of Kidney Qi, Kid Yin and/or Kidney Yang can manifest as:

~ tiredness/exhaustion

~ cold feet

~ swollen ankles

~ a lack of drive or motivation

~ lack of willpower; The Kidneys also house our will power (Zhi), so poor will power generally indicates the Kidneys are depleted

~ shortness of breath on exertion

~ oedema

~ back pain/knee pain/bone issues

~ asthma which is worse with cold weather

~ fear/ scary dreams/ fear of change

~ incontinence

~ irregular menstruation or infertility

~ craving salty foods.

~ Struggling to warm up (touch your lower back with the back of your hands to see if the skin is cold)

man thinking-kidneys-vitax-for-men
Man thinking

Supporting & nourishing our Kidneys is very important

The following are key points to note:

  1. The Kidneys do not like the cold. By covering up the lower back the Kidneys are protected from the cold.
  2. Eat warm foods. Bake, roast or stew foods- especially in winter. No ice cream in winter!
  3. We all need to nourish the Kidneys in winter. Anyone who has experienced illness, a trauma or a period of stress, or is elderly should include Kidney nourishing foods throughout the year. The foods to include are listed below.
  4. Ensure that you include some light exercise in your day. This can be a gentle walk, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga. Movement helps with blood & fluid circulation, relaxes the mind and ensures that muscles, sinews and tendons are supplied with nutrients via the blood.
  5. Include real salt in your diet but use this in moderation. Too much salt can put a strain on the Kidneys which need to work harder to maintain the balance of salt and potassium in the body. Real salt means salt that is mined from sea deposits (an example would be Redmond Real salt). Ancient sea beds are not polluted with plastics – which, very sadly, can’t be said of our oceans and seas. Try to use salt that has no additives such as anti-caking agents (sodium aluminosilicate. E535, E536, calcium silicate).


Overindulging on coffee & alcohol.

Sugar/ artificial sweeteners

Highly processed foods

Excessive salt intake/table salt.


Eating late at night- our bodies are designed to focus on cell regeneration when we sleep, not digestion!

Eating to support Kidney Qi & Kidney Yang

Please note that if you are on ANY medication or have health conditions you should consult your doctor/GP before making any dietary changes.

The best foods to eat in winter are those that are available in season in your part of the world. As a general rule, incorporate foods which are dark and have a strengthening and warming action, such as:


cabbage, chives, fennel, leeks, onions, potato, radish, scallions, sweet potato, yam, aubergine, seaweed,


cherries, grapes, mulberry, goji berries (used in TCM to strengthen Jing)


walnuts, chestnuts, pistachio, lotus seeds, black sesame seeds Herbs & spices

ginger, garlic, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, chive, basil Teas

spiced tea, cinnamon, ginger


black beans, lentils, kidney beans


buckwheat, oats, quinoa, corn, black rice

I have excluded meat and fish out of respect to vegetarians, vegans and those who exclude certain meats for religious reasons. If you would like to get the list of meats, fish and dairy I will be posting a separate post shortly and will pop the link in here.

NB: Eat these foods in moderation and ensure your diet is varied. Eating too much of a particular food can lead to other problems.

Foods to avoid: Thermally cold or cool foods such as cooling teas (such as peppermint), foods which grow in hot climates and are very sweet (think pineapple, mango), iced water, ice-cream.

Raw foods (these require more energy to digest)

Sugar, alcohol, juices (orange or tropical fruit)

Sour milk products.

Drinking water

Contrary to what we are told by advertisers, not everyone needs to drink copious amounts of water each day. Foods such as soup, fresh juice and herbal drinks also provide us with fluids. The fluid from food contains nutrients which are needed for the body to work optimally. The NHS website mentions drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day and also lists other sources of fluids which count towards your fluid intake (2).

Drinking too much water can over-dilute body fluids which affects the fine balance between sodium and potassium in the body. We need some sodium, and flushing the body by over drinking water can reduce sodium levels. How much is too much varies for each person.

As a general rule, if you find you are thirsty all the time it is important to seek medical advice as this can be serious.


Oedema (swelling of the feet, ankles, hands, legs) can be a sign of serious illness and should always be investigated by a medical professional.

TCM regards having too much fluid in the body as a sign that fluids are not being transported around the body efficiently. Foods which help deal with fluid retention include mushrooms, kidney beans, seaweed, celery and barley. Please seek medical advice, especially before making any dietary change as some foods can interact with prescribed medication.

Not enough fluids in the body

Signs that you are drinking too little and/or are not having enough fluid rich foods include dark urine throughout the day, a dry mouth or lips and dry skin. If you find you have these symptoms even though you are drinking plenty of fluids then seek medical advice to rule out any medical conditions.

Acupuncture to support or nourish the Kidneys

Acupuncture focuses on moving Qi, clearing any blockages, strengthening the organs, reducing stress levels and balancing the organs so that each one works in harmony with the other organs in the body.

If you find you don’t feel your best, book an acupuncture treatment to help you on your journey to feeling great again. Acupuncture, along with eating the right foods ,can make a significant difference to your health and well-being.

I would love to hear about recipes or ways in which you have included Kidney strengthening foods. Pop these in the comments box.

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