This October, when you see a skeleton hanging in a doorway or window to celebrate Halloween, take a moment to appreciate your own osseous framework at the very core of your body’s structure. That appreciation would be right on time as October 20th is the calendar day that marks an annual campaign to raise awareness and resources about Osteoporosis and promote better bone health. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that affects over 200 million people in the world and over 30% of all menopausal women. It is defined as the reduction in strength and density of the bones leading to increased risk of breaks and fractures. As there is no cure, the focus is on prevention.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, skeletal growth, development and repair is the domain of the kidneys. Bone loss related to aging is a result of the decline of kidney essence (or jing) over time. Prevention of bone weakness and degeneration is all about the preservation of our kidney jing which is in limited supply as we cannot replenish it through our lifetime. Through lifestyle, diet and herbs we can help to conserve our supply thereby slowing decline. While we can not directly augment the kidney essence we can tonify our kidney qi which will assist in bone repair. Maintaining proper blood flow is also essential to removing stasis that may block the production of new bone.
There are many things we can do to preserve our kidney essence, and supplement our qi while supporting proper blood flow.
*DIET: Foods that are considered kidney-nourishing in Chinese Medicine include sweet potatoes, walnuts, black beans, fish, seaweed, and bone broth. Bone broth is especially important as it is rich in minerals that help build and strengthen bones. Keep your blood nourished and moving with dark leafy greens, organically sourced meats, and stimulating flavor-boosters like onions, garlic, basil, cayenne and turmeric.
*HERBS: Some Chinese herbs that are important in maintaining kidney qi and essence are Shan Zhu Yu, (jujube), Wu Wei Zi, (five flavor fruit) and Gou qi zi, (the good’ol Goji berry!) Goji berries can be safely munched on as a kidney supporting snack as well as added to various dishes. Another herb that has gotten some attention recently as a treatment for osteoperosis is a blood mover called Dan Shen (red sage). Research has shown its value in preventing bone loss without major side effects. (*As with all herbal medicine, it is vital to seek guidance from a qualified herbalist before beginning any herbal protocols.)
*LIFESTYLE: One of the most important ways to preserve your essence is through adequate rest. The worst thing we can do is burn the candle at both ends, especially when you consider the candle to be a perfect metaphor for our Kidney jing. Life is exciting but maintain balance for the long haul. Exercise can be a healthy counterpart to appropriate rest. Weight-bearing exercise is touted as one of the best osteoporosis prevention methods but there are also qi gong exercises (such as ‘Knocking on the Doors of Life’) that bring circulation to the kidneys with very gentle movements that are safe and easy for all ages. Water is the element of the kidneys, and staying hydrated is essential to kidney function, supporting not just our bones but overall health. And let’s not forget acupuncture, the powerful and time-tested method for boosting qi, and making sure it is flowing through every cell of our amazing bodies.
An ounce of osteoporosis prevention is worth a ton of cure so get down to the bone with some acupuncture for kidney tonification, blood flow and bone building! Schedule your skeleton-supporting session today!