TCM nutrition for the Winter and the Kidney-adrenals

Here’s some Q & A for you! I’ve answered below some questions that came up during my Winter Food ‘n Mood Workshop, or from the handouts. I dialogued with Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, who so generously took the time to address these questions.

1. When your handout says that dried food are good for the Kidneys in the Winter, what kinds of dried foods? Dried fruit?

Dried foods are one traditional way to access foods not freshly available throughout the cold storage months. They are more concentrated and help build Kidney Yin and Jing (essence). Normally they should be reconstituted/cooked in water. Examples include beans, peas, almonds, pumpkin seeds, grains, roots, vegetables, and herbs. Dried fruit, however, is usually very sweet and excessive sweet is not the best for either the Kidneys or Spleen-Stomach (digestive system). Most people in North America today have some degree of yeast/fungal overgrowth and thus should avoid dried fruit. If you do eat it, it is recommended to soak – or better still – cook it first.

2. Are green (sour Granny Smith) apples an exception, when you’re avoiding fruit for their excessive sweetness?

While more fruits are generally too sweet for many people using diet medicinally for recovery from and prevention of chronic illness (Paul Pitchford’s Regenerative Health Plan), the exceptions are berries, pomegranate, lemons and limes. I asked Pitchford about the use of green apples, as they were more sour than sweet, and also locally available, stored cold throughout the winter. However, according to him, green apples are not suitable, even for Canadians. He stated that while most of the diet should be local, 5-7% of it could be imported to gain specific nutrients not present in local soils.

3. Are some types of alcohol less dampening than others? How about scotch?

Apparently scotch is indeed drier and more bitter than some other alcohols, and one could assume this is slightly less dampening. However, Pitchford responds that “alcohol is liquid sugar” and that choosing a “less terrible” type would be “like adding drying herbs to white sugar” (as in, mitigates that problem a tiny bit, but not really the best choice).

4. What are some resources about drinking appropriate water for health?

Yes there are many challenges with our drinking water supply. I am not an expert in the current options available, but one resource I mentioned I would share is Natural spring water is most ideal, but is just sometimes challenging to obtain.

5. Why are heavy metals bad for Kidney health?

In Chinese medicine, the brain is connected to the Kidney-adrenal system. Heavy metals tend to accumulate in and affect both the kidneys and brain (as well as other organs, but these are primary ones), and to deeply affect cognitive ability. Here is an article about where you get exposed to heavy metals and what effects they may have.