The winter solstice, occurring on December 21 or 22, whispers the beginning of winter. Because the days are much shorter, you’re aware of the need to get more natural sunlight to ward off the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), caused by light deprivation. And you take special care to nurture the organs of the season, the kidneys and the adrenal glands.
The kidneys and bladder work harmoniously in the detox process to eliminate wastes from the system. The kidneys filter blood to balance water and the body’s acidity level. They help your system keep the right amounts of sodium, potassium, chlorine, calcium, magnesium and phosphate while helping to pull out elements such as nitrogen, minerals, salts, and unwanted chemicals. In one day, the kidneys filter several thousand quarts of blood. And if the liver becomes burdened with too many toxins, the toxic substances move on to the urinary tract or outward through the skin. Irritated by these poisons, the urinary tract is a doormat for yeast infections, viruses and bacteria. That’s why it’s important to check the color, clarity and tone of your skin. A kidney problem may cause a bluish discoloration around the eyes. And also look at your hair. If it is too oily, too dry, thinning or too thick, it may indicate an imbalance in the kidney/bladder area.
The adrenals—those overworked and neglected walnut-sized glands nestled on top of the kidneys—need some TLC this time of year. If overstressed, your eyes may become too sensitive to light due to a slowing in your pupil contractions, forcing you to don sunglasses much of the time. You also might feel dizzy if you get up too soon because of a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Winter healing tea, herbs, and spices
Nettle (Urtica dioica) is the wintertime herbal tea of choice because it is a rich source of alkalizing minerals especially helpful for kidney cleansing and adrenal support during this time of the year. Other kidney-protecting herbs include juniper berries (Juniperus communis), which act as a diuretic and are especially helpful in chronic bladder infections; gingerroot (Zingiber officinale), which is warming to the body and assists circulation in the kidney area; and marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis), which is good for soothing mucous membrane irritation in the urinary tract. The natural sodium and other electrolytes in unrefined sea salt and miso assists both kidney and adrenal function. Miso is a fermented soybean product that is especially noteworthy because it also strengthens the blood and lymph and is a good source of enzymes, calcium, and iron. Tamari, an aged soy sauce, is a flavorful alternative to salt that aids digestion (tamari is still very high in sodium, however). Ginger can also be used as a seasoning in cooking.
Winter detox plan protocol
Oils—1 tablespoon lignan-rich flaxseed oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil daily
Lean protein—Choose beef, buffalo, venison, eggs, elk, fish, seafood, poultry and tempeh
Vegetables—Unlimited raw or steamed, low glycemic; choose broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, parsley, peppers, radishes and snow peas; plus 3 tablespoons sauerkraut
Fruits—2 whole portions daily. Choose from 1 apple, ½ cup applesauce or apple-cranberry sauce, 1 cup cranberries, 1 small pear, 1 tangerine; plus 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
Filtered water—8 glasses a day
With or between meals—2 cups of nettle tea daily
Breakfast and dinner (optional)—Take a kidney/adrenal support supplement containing one or more of the herbs mentioned above
Sample winter menus
Upon arising—Two 8-ounce glasses of water
Before breakfast—1 cup nettle tea
Breakfast—½ cup apple-cranberry sauce; 2 ounces breakfast steak with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, onions and celery in 1 tablespoon sesame oil OR 2 ounces tempeh burger with 1/8 teaspoon miso and ½ cup applesauce
Mid-morning—Two 8-ounce glasses of water
Lunch—3 ounces broiled buffalo burger; wilted winter salad of cabbage, daikon and celery with 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; braised string beans and zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt OR 3 ounces broiled chicken cutlet with 1/4 teaspoon tamari and grilled eggplant and tomato garnish finished with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
Mid-afternoon—Two 8-ounce glasses of water
Before dinner—1 apple, tangerine, or pear
Dinner—Stuffed peppers (made with 3 ounces ground turkey, daikon, and celery with 1/8 teaspoon tamari); braised mustard greens and onions; grilled winter mushrooms; 3 tablespoons sauerkraut; 1 cup nettles tea OR 4 ounces sea bass broiled with 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoon tamari, and 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger; grated daikon, carrot and onion salad drizzled with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar; medley of steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and snow peas
Mid-evening—Two 8-ounce glasses of water.
Ann Louise Gittleman, N.D., M.S., C.N.S., is one of the foremost nutritionists in the United States. She is the author of The Fat Flush Plan (McGraw Hill, 2001), Eat Fat, Lose Weight (Keats, 1999), and Why Am I Always So Tired? (Harper San Francisco, 1999).