Most people know that the kidneys are the essential organs responsible for the excretion of waste and toxic substances from the body. Humans have 2 kidneys, bean-shaped, and about the size of a fist. They are located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage. They have a vital role in keeping the body functioning. Thus, healthy kidney function is essential to produce natural substances required for normal systemic activities in the body.
This is aligned with the belief of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which emphasises that the kidneys are, in essence, the source of yin and yang.
The kidneys also hold a substance called jing – also known as kidney essence. This substance can transform into qi and blood, thus making these organs central to healthy growth and development.
Here are 4 reasons why healthy kidneys are important for good health and several natural ways to boost kidney function.
They are Essential for Nurturing the Development of Reproductive Organs
From the TCM perspective, the kidneys are responsible for promoting the healthy maturity of a person’s reproductive organs during adolescence. Females will typically experience menstruation monthly. Males will see an increase in the size of their genitals and experience their first ejaculation.
Kidney jing will start to deplete by the late-thirties or early-forties. During this time, a woman’s ability to conceive will reduce, and she may begin to experience pre-menopausal symptoms. On the other hand, fertility issues are commonly linked to imbalances in the kidney system, specifically a yang deficiency in the kidneys.
Healthy Kidney Function is Important for General Well-Being
The kidneys are solely responsible for ensuring a healthy balance of the body’s yin and yang. This is because the kidney jing can generate qi, which converts to the yin and yang forces needed for multiple bodily functions.
For instance, yin nourishes organs and tissues in the body. Whereas yang warms the body and promotes the healthy functioning of organs and tissues.
Not having enough yin in the body can cause a person to experience a dry mouth and throat, dizziness, hearing issues, hot flushes, ringing in the ears, and sweaty palms and feet. Meanwhile, a yang deficiency can trigger cold sores in the knees and lumbar region, enuresis, swelling, urinary incontinence, and diarrhoea in the early hours of the morning.
Normal Kidney Function Supports the Growth and Repair of Bones
Kidney jing can also transform into the bone marrow. This is needed to nourish a person’s bone structure and, in turn, support their growth and repair. However, if a person has a deficiency of jing in their kidneys, it can put them at risk of developing brittle bones.
Alternatively, young children with a lack of jing may be prone to experiencing stunted growth. On the other hand, the elderly may be at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Kidneys also play an important role in the production of vitamin D, which in addition to being essential for building strong bones, also affects immune functions and mental well-being.
Kidney Health Translates to Nourished, Beautiful Hair
For beautiful hair, make sure you take diligent care of your kidneys. Sufficient kidney jing and healthy blood circulation manifest as nourished hair that is healthy, lustrous, and thick. On the contrary, a lack of jing and blood can cause a person’s hair to become dry, brittle, and dull.
In addition, imbalances in the liver and kidneys can also cause your hair to turn grey and thin. Fortunately, taking the right steps to treat these underlying health problems can help to reverse these signs of ageing and ill-health.
Ways to Support Healthy Kidney Function
Making good lifestyle choices is vital for influencing a person’s congenital jing and improving their overall quality of life.
1. Consuming foods that help with kidney-related disorders
Eating foods like apples and fatty fish can help prevent kidney damage. They can also reduce the severity of symptoms associated with a particular kidney-related condition. For instance, apples can provide your body with pectin, a soluble fibre that helps to regulate the risk factors of kidney damage, such as high blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Similarly, consuming fatty fish is also associated with reducing the severity of symptoms like pruritus. It is commonly associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Drinking a tonic prepared using chicken essence and Cordyceps’ extract is also effective for nourishing the lungs, strengthening the kidneys, and improving vitality.
2. Getting sufficient restful sleep every night
A lack of nocturnal sleep is linked to an accelerated risk of kidney function decline. Interestingly, getting too much sleep at night can also cause kidney-related disorders like CKD and glomerular hyperfiltration.
Young and middle-aged adults should aim for at least 7-9 hours every night. Elderly adults, on the other hand, should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep daily. If you are finding it difficult to get quality sleep at night, you should consume a blend of vinegar, spine dates and walnut membrane. This concoction can provide a calming effect on the mind and body. However, please seek professional advice if you suffer from a prolonged sleep disorder.
3. Exercising regularly
People with CKD should engage in physical activity regularly. This is because physical inactivity can impair kidney function and cause health problems like breathing difficulties, fatigue, joint pain, and physical weakness.
Those who suffer from an existing kidney disorder should incorporate exercise routines that involve continuously moving large muscle groups. These include activities such as aerobic dancing, indoor or outdoor cycling, walking, and swimming.
Low-impact strength training combining light weights and high repetitions is also suitable, but heavy lifting should be avoided altogether. To help you get the most out of your workouts, you can also consume a supplement that contains essential amino acids like isoleucine, leucine, and valine.
A lifestyle that prioritises healthy kidney function will help to ensure your overall well-being. Seeking consultation with a doctor can help you to determine the health of your kidneys. You can also opt to seek the advice of a TCM practitioner. They can identify if you are experiencing an imbalance of kidney yin and yang and prescribe herbal remedies that can address a specific deficiency.
This is an adaptation of an article, “TCM: Understanding the Role of the Kidney“, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.
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- US National Library of Medicine. 2017. Sleep duration and quality in relation to chronic kidney disease and glomerular hyperfiltration in healthy men and women. [Accessed 12 July 2021]
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- Shen Space. 2019. TCM and the Menstrual Cycle – Part II. [Accessed 12 July 2021]
- Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 2018. Traditional Chinese Medicine syndrome elements of male infertility revealed by latent tree model analysis. [Accessed 12 July 2021]
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