Copyright Edward Acupuncture Clinic 2006
Oriental Medicine
A selection of articles about Oriental medicine by
Edward Obaidey. Originally published in the Japan
Times, 1996-1999.

Reducing fluids to spare the kidneys
Let's start by being controversial!

The best thing that people can do in most cases for
their kidney energy is to cut down on the amount of
fluid taken into the body.

I am not saying this lightly. I can see your hand
reaching at this very moment to crunch up this article
(and with it a chance for better health) and throw it
into the rubbish. Please hear me out!

People who live and walk on this Earth seem to have
a propensity for believing that if a little is good, then
a hell of a lot is better. Too much of anything will
cause health problems, though, whether it be alcohol,
sweets, sex, TV or even water.

In Oriental medicine excess fluid makes the body too
yin and causes the kidneys to overwork. The heart
then also overworks as it tries to compensate by
providing more yang energy to maintain balance. (Yin
and its counterpart yang represent the two polar
opposites of the universe, the north and the south
between which phenomena can occur. In this case yin
refers to the cooling contractive energies, while yang
refers to the warming expanding energies.)In healthy
individuals who exercise frequently there is no
problem, since the excess fluid is cleared out of the
system by sweat, breathing and of course by
urination and defecation. In highly stressed, under
exercised people (i.e. most of you out there), the
body cannot cope properly and symptoms such as
insomnia, palpitations, chilled hands and feet, low
back pain with sciatica and depression are common.

The next issue is, how much fluid is enough? Let me
answer by explaining what is too much. Imagine that
you were borne English, as I was (everyone has his
own cross to bear). This means that for any major
event during the day, tea would be religiously
imbibed. These events would include getting up,
turning the TV on, meeting friends, lunch, the fact
that it's 3 pm, making it home on the tube,
after-dinner tea and before bedtime tea.

Bearing in mind that England is not known for its arid
climate, this amount of fluid intake is too much.
Custom in England has obliterated the natural thirst
mechanism (along with that of hunger - a future topic
here), as it has in most so-called developed societies.
The bottom line is, drink when you are thirsty but be
sure it is real thirst, not just ritual or belief.
A skilled acupuncturist will also often note that the
kidney and the heart pulse will be weak while the
small intestine and bladder pulses are excessive.
This may be the time to mention constipation, for the
idea that low fluid intake will lead to constipation is a
misconception in most cases.

Constipation can be caused by many things,
including insufficient tone in the intestinal or
abdominal wall due to lack of exercise. Constipation
can be caused by repeated failure to heed the call of
nature because you’ll be late for work, or are too
embarrassed to go. It can be caused by excessive
fatigue, nervousness, anxiety or stress. It can be
caused by too little roughage and, sometimes, by
lack of fluid in the diet.

A good way to build up the kidney energy is to carry
out what is effectively an internal massage. (Don’t
worry, you can keep your clothes on for this one.)
This exercise was taught to me by my good friend
and tai chi teacher Dean Harrington and has its roots
in practices derived from chi gung health practices.

Start from a standing position with the feet together
and the palms of the hands (representing fire)
placed in a relaxed fashion on the area at the level
of the kidneys (representing water) on the lower
back. From this position the hips and waist are
rotated in very tight small circles. You can tell you are
doing it right if you feel a pumping action beneath
the hands as the spinal erectors, the muscles
running on either side of the spine, rhythmically
massage the lower back and stimulate the kidneys.
The palms of the hands warm up and heat the lower
back, further stimulating the kidneys.

Every morning 20 rotations to the left and right
faithfully for a month will convince most people, as it
did me, that this exercise is more than just harmless
rubbish. Even if you are of this opinion, give it a try.
At least its harmless. The results may convince you,

The kidney meridian can be stimulated using the first
point on the sole of the foot, at the front near the
ball of the foot, known as yusen. One method is to
apply warming moxibustion or onkyu to the same
area. If you don’t happen to have a stick of moxa,
then a cigarette (purists stand out of my way!) is
also OK. In either case the lighted ember is brought
close to the point (not touching it) and held in place
until heat is felt. This is then repeated on the other
foot, completing one round of onkyu. Generally
speaking, three rounds before bed is ideal.  

Edward Obaidey