The bladder and kidneys are paired together - theirs is perhaps the most obvious of all coupled relationships. In both Western and ancient Eastern physiological understanding, the kidneys and bladder are connected both structurally and functionally. They make up the watergate of the body, as the bladder collects urine excreted by the kidneys and holds it until it leaves the body, thus regulating the flow of water.
The Water Element is connected to the North, so it is not surprising that the climate associated with it is cold. Low temperatures and damp conditions can exacerbate and even cause many symptoms pertaining to this element. The kidney energy, like that of the lungs, can be more vulnerable and open to the cold if we have not taken proper care of ourselves over the Summer. People with a weak Water Element generally hate the Winter and really feel the cold. Maintaining your body temperature and wearing appropriate clothing in the Winter months are essential. Make sure you keep your home well heated and be aware that sudden exposure to extreme cold is depleting to the system. Protecting the kidney area is also of vital importance: a scarf worn round your waist will work wonders for your energy over Winter and can protect your kidney 'fire'.
Winter. A person with a Water imbalance could experience an aggravation of symptoms in cold weather or may simply detest the Wintertime. Winter is a time for conserving energy, an important part of restoring balance in this vital element, as is proper nourishment, warmth and rest. It is a time of consolidation, of going inwards and hibernating! Psychologically, it is a time of reflection, to contemplate on the year gone by, to assess whether we have met our goals and what lessons we have learned. As symptoms can become more pronounced in Winter, this season can be difficult for some to cope with as the cold can settle deep into the system. Simple advice is to keep warm, rest as much as possible and eat nourishing, warm foods.
Dark blue, although traditionally the colour associated with the kidneys is black, or blue/black. There may be a bluish-black tinge to the skin on the face, especially beneath the eyes, which is the area of the face representing the kidneys, together with puffiness if there is an imbalance in the kidneys. Someone who prefers blue and likes to wear it, or conversely has a strong dislike for the colour, may have an imbalance of the Water Element.
Time of day:
3-5 p.m. (bladder); a person with a Water imbalance may find that this corresponds to the time of day when they feel most anxious, tired or irritable. Conversely, if this is your best time of day this too could indicate a slight imbalance, as bladder energy may be in excess. Usually during this time, if there is an urgency to urinate, the body is saying that it wants to let go of the wastes of the day. The time of the kidneys is 5-7 p.m., which may correspond to your lowest energy point in the day with feelings of fatigue and lethargy. If your kidneys are weak, this is a good time of day to rest or meditate.
The kidneys are in charge of the bones and marrow, which means that all bones including the spine, teeth and skull are kept strong and rigid by the energy sent to them by the Water Element. Low kidney energy can result in soft or brittle bones, weak legs and knees and stiffness of the spine, as both bone development and repair depend on the health of the kidneys. The marrow is included as part of the bones, as are the spinal cord and the brain, which is known as the 'sea of marrow'.
Moaning. When there is an imbalance in the Water Element, the affected person cannot help but complain, moan and groan about life's little problems; their feelings are clearly detected in their voice.
The ear. Hearing problems are often connected to weak kidney energy.
The external manifestation of the Water Element is the hair, so a glossy, healthy head of hair shows us that the kidney energy is strong. Conversely, if the hair is dry, broken or split, lacks lustre, goes grey too early or starts thinning or falling out, this reflects weak kidney energy.
Symptoms of Imbalance:
Key words for the Water Element are fluidity and flow. Any imbalance of our body/mind linked to fluid, such as dryness or thirst, excess or lack of perspiration, urination difficulties, feelings of being overwhelmed or tearful, lymphatic congestion, swelling and bloating, lack of sexual secretions, etc demonstrate that the kidneys are not functioning as they should. The kidneys nourish the brain and influence short term memory in everyday life. When there is a decline in kidney energy as we grow older, the brain does not receive sufficient nourishment. This can lead to memory loss. Learning difficulties also manifest when kidney energy is low. If marrow production is impaired in any way then it can lead to blood deficiency, blurred vision, hearing difficulties and tinnitus. The lower back area is considered by TCM to be the 'Palace of the kidneys', and so a lack of kidney energy may lead to low back pain and pains in the legs.
The bladder is part of the Water Element so the blood and lymphatics also play a significant role as they are all systems that move fluid around the body. Urinary function, perspiration, saliva and tears are all influenced by the Water Element.