Balance Your Water Element in Winter

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Inger Giffin

It’s the midst of winter and all is elusive... the days are short and dark, the fields barren. Not much occurs on the surface, and when we are in rhythm with the patterns of nature, our lives reflect this dormancy as well. In this time of rest, and especially in our do-ing culture, it is all too easy to underestimate the subtleties of power and transformation that are brewing beneath the surface.

According to the Taoist roots of Chinese Medicine and 5-Elements theory, we are now in the season associated with the Water Element. When asked their favorite season, most people proclaim “Summer!” Who doesn’t enjoy hanging out in that time of Fire, of parties, celebrations and sunshine? But ask who loves winter, and you’re mostly met with sullen answers filled with longings for spring. So let’s look towards the power of Water, and draw on it to help us through this often trying season.

Water is depth. It is associated with the transformative processes of life, death, and rebirth. Many philosophers are Water types, who are quite pleased to spend their days engulfed in quandaries into the nature of existence. They understand that something deep and intense is happening beneath the surface — something unknown — and they seek to bring this awareness and acceptance into their daily existence. Many, in times of profound emotion, report dreaming of being engulfed in waves, or drowning in the ocean’s waters. It is natural in these times of intensity to be overwhelmed with fear, and indeed fear is the emotion associated with Water. But when our Water element is balanced, rather than living in fear, we are able to be in the philosopher’s state of awe, and can ponder the unknowns of life and death without being swept away by overwhelm.

Physically, the Water element is about our growth, development, and reproduction, and is related to the kidneys and bladder organs, and to our bones. It is common for issues related to these organs to arise during their peak season. For example, during the winter, people may experience more dramatic issues with frequent urination. Because the kidneys store our vital life force energy, or Qi, fatigue is common in winter. When this Qi is depleted, such as in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or adrenal burnout, it is hard to even find the energy to carry out our daily functions.

Also related to our kidneys are sexual energy (there can be impotence, low sex drive, or infertility), “grasping the lung Qi” (there can be asthma or shallow breathing), and temperature regulation (there can be extreme cold or heat, as in hot flashes).

Follow these tips for balancing your Water element:

• Food Therapy: focus your meals around foods that balance your kidneys. -For those prone to cold: warming foods such as cloves; fenugreek, fennel, and anise seeds, black peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon, walnuts, black beans, onion family (garlic, onions, chives, scallions, leeks), quinoa, chicken, lamb, trout, and salmon. -For those prone to heat: Millet, barley, tofu, string bean, black bean, black soybean, mung bean and its sprouts, kidney beans, and seaweeds.

• Address feelings of fear and overwhelm through using the 5 elements. The element that “controls” Water to keep it from getting out of hand is Earth, which is about grounding, nourishing and receiving. The stronger your Earth element is, then the stronger an ally it is in preventing feelings of fear from paralyzing you. Take extra care in winter to prioritize activities and time with those who are especially nourishing to your soul.

• Spend time near water. Sounds too simple to be effective? Remember, Water is about subtleties…about what’s happening beneath the surface without our “efforting.”

• Schedule some acupuncture appointments to help gain greater awareness of your own state of balance, and to deal with Water or kidney/bladder health issues. Treatments received to address those issues during this time of year will have enhanced effects.

We must look a little deeper to find the magic of winter, but beckoning the power it contains, we find that come spring, we are nourished and filled with what we need to get out there and make our place in the world once again!

_Inger Giffin, is the founder of Wisdom Ways Acupuncture in Fort Collins, CO. She has been practicing Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine for 9 years, and has successfully helped thousands of patients in their return to wellness. To contact, go to, or call (970) 227-3077.