I received a text from my client last week who said he was feeling moderate pain in his kidneys. He’d been out the night before and tossed a few back. He woke up to do the dishes when he started to feel pain. He messaged me immediately. Let’s call this patient Tom. Tom and I started working together on a weekly basis about a month ago. We chatted for a few minutes about how he was feeling, and when I saw him at our next session, he told me the pain subsided shortly after we talked. He’s your average skeptic and said exactly this, “Listen, I don’t know if it’s all in my head, and it probably is, but normally that pain in my kidneys lasts for 2-3 days, but after we talked about it, it went away.” Translation: I don’t believe that talking about your feelings or “being heard” could affect a real physical condition, BUT it is weird that the pain went away after we talked when it usually sets up camp for the weekend. I sent him a smile and held the space for some silent time.
ADVICE: Everyone needs to read When the Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Maté. He’s more convincing than me. Perhaps because he is a medical doctor, and a renowned one at that. The point is, it doesn’t matter what you believe. Seeing is believing. And when it happens empirically, don’t fight it. You don’t need to renounce yourself from any religion or start wearing hemp. Just respect what is.
REVIEW: The kidneys do a lot. They remove waste, balance our salts/electrolytes, regulate blood pressure, manage calcium metabolism, and so on. Take-home message: they manage the liquids. And since we are over 2/3 water, they got tasks to do. It was for no one’s amusement they came as a pair.
BREAKDOWN: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory relates organ systems to seasons, emotional patterns, elements and so on. Its diagnosis is explained in terms of balance and dynamic. The kidneys are known to store what is called: essence. I’ll disgrace science and tradition for a moment and liken kidney essence to the health bar in a video game. When that runs out, so do you. Kind of like telomeres (essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age) on the ends of chromosomes. Essence also depends on mom. If you’ve got early greys, going bald, have bags under your eyes, that’s your essence getting bought up. But don’t panic. Because anxiety and worry are exactly the emotions that deplete kidney essence.
WHAT TO DO: Drink some goddamn water. Not from the tap. And not like you’d just been rescued from the desert after days without water. Sip it. Enjoy it. Toronto did a study on the effects of long term tap water consumption and found a correlation between the incidence of bladder cancer and chlorine. That’s a conversation for another day. And hey, if you feel the yang of contention rising in you about it, no need. Keep drinking from that tap. There is room for everyone on this planet, including the ones that like techno.
ANOTHER KIDNEY TIP: As Tim Ferriss once said in a podcast regarding what he would say to his younger, more coconuts self: Chill the F#$K out and start meditating. Anxiety, worry and fear hurt the kidneys. Whether you believe it or not. If not water, make tea. My favourite herbal tea to chill every cell in this temple out is a combination of equal parts: nettle, oat straw and lemon balm. It’s beautiful. But to make it, I’ll have to divulge those details another time. For now, just pick up the organic materials and stand by.
Written by: Dr. Jenny Jun, N,DR.