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The Kidneys are a remarkable example of homeostasis, responsible for regulating and balancing the internal composition of chemicals, salt, water and the pH of the body's fluids, as well as the volume of fluid in the blood. They continuously filter and purify the body’s fluids, removing waste and toxins from the bloodstream and excreting them as urine. Plus, the Kidneys regulate blood pressure, produce red blood cells, and manage the availability of vitamin D.

One:two punch

Most individuals have two Kidneys: one is considered a 'back-up' in case of injury or loss, because one Kidney is just as capable of efficient filtering as two. In Australia, around 1 in 10 people over 18 have signs of chronic Kidney disease, commonly caused by diabetes or high blood pressure damaging blood vessels and affecting the Kidneys' filtering ability.

In Chinese medicine philosophy, the Kidneys belong to the Water element and rule the metabolism of water and fluids. They are considered to be the origin of life, known as 'the palace of fire and water' and the foundation of all Yin and Yang. They store an individual's Kidney Jing (Essence), as inherited from their parents, which is passed on to their offspring at conception. Kidney Jing governs growth and development, from utero through puberty and on to adulthood; its quality is reflected in an individual's constitution, vitality and longevity, and in the strength and integrity of their bones, teeth and hair, clarity of hearing and brain function, and reproductive ability. The Kidneys are said to rule the lower back, knees, continence, strength of will, and the emotion of fear. If there is imbalance in the Kidneys, it will show in these areas.

Lifestyle Both Western and Chinese medicine agree that the best way to protect your Kidneys is by having a healthy lifestyle. Chronic Kidney disease can take years to develop and managing good blood pressure and glucose levels will minimise the risks. In Chinese medicine, the Kidneys are supported by minimising the decline of Kidney Jing, and by having a balanced life without excess and with adequate sleep and rest, avoidance of toxins and stress, and intake of nutritious food and gentle exercise.

Food The flavour associated with the Kidneys is salty; a little of the salty flavour will strengthen the Kidney energy while an excess will weaken it. Foods with a particular affinity with the Kidney energy include black beans, walnuts, parsley, black sesame, watermelon, and organic Kidney.

Acupuncture Core points used to support the Kidneys are ShenShu (Bladder 23) to strongly tonify and strengthen the Kidneys, Yang, Jing, and Yin; TaiXi (Kidney 3) to nourish the Kidney Yin and tonify Kidney Yang; and GuanYuan (Ren 4) to tonify the Kidney Yin, Jing and, with moxibustion, tonify the Kidney Yang.

Herbal medicine Kidney tonics include Gou Qi Zi to tonify Kidney Yin and mildly tonify Kidney Yang; Shan Yao (Dioscoreae) to tonify Yin and Qi and secure Kidney Essence; and Tu Su Zi (Cuscutae) to tonify the Kidneys, warm the Yang and secure Kidney Essence.

Shura Ford is a doctor of Chinese medicine. Contact her at Ford Wellness Group, www.fordwellnessgroup.com.au