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Winter - Kidneys and Bladder - The Water Element

Karen Scobie

So what happens in Winter?  Its the time for us to continue to pull  energies inward, and take time to rest, In nature it is a period of hibernation. We need to emphasise the yin principle to become more receptive, introspective and storage oriented.  The cold and darkness at this time of year makes us seek inner warmth and allows us to warm our core.  It is the time to rest and to store our energy.  This is also the season we tend to add on a little extra weight especially around the middle to warm the area of the kidneys and bladder  

Look after your kidneys  

  The kidneys need to be protected and keeping them covered is a good idea, buying a Kidney warmer is a great idea for the winter and this may stop us adding middle weight. ( Or warm scarf around your middle upper waist on the cold days)  Although it is a slower season we still must make sure we maintain some activity to maintain flexibility.   We live in is a cold damp country especially in the Winter and because of that we tend to be cold and damp we therefore crave warming foods. 

 Scotland is known as the curry capital of the world, ( the home of Seasonal Yoga ) this in part due to us looking for warming foods in the form Hot spicy flavours, We should try to avoid chillies, these disperse heat from the body making a damp situation worse, remember they are originally from Mexico). In Winter we should avoid chillies try using more ginger as this is much better, it does not disperse heat out of the body and it is antiviral, antibacterial and an expectorant, so it is a good choice for taking us through the winter months.  We need to make sure that we eat lots of warming foods like soups and stews, whole grains and roasted nuts along with dark beans, seaweeds, steamed winter greens are all helpful in fortifying the kidneys.  Drink hot drinks,  Some raw foods are necessary for the enzymes but it should not be predominant in our diet at this time of the year.

We need to  avoid too many cold salads, and cold drinks.

Using adzuki and black beans are really helpful for strengthening the adrenals so use these regularly over the next few months.  They tend to be easier to digest than the larger beans, but if you find that beans are giving you wind, then using an inch piece of Kombu seaweed when  you are cooking or a 1/2 a teaspoon of Asafoetida, either of these may help to break down the fibre and aid in the processing of the lectins in the beans and therefore make them much easier to digest. The seaweed will also add protein, minerals and vitamins to your cooking and It is also a great way to boost your metabolism.  Eating beans regularly can help the body burn off an extra 24% calories and this lasts for up to 24 hours.  Adzuki beans are also great support for the kidneys, so if you are under any pressure or stress, making some dishes with these beans is a good idea and also try drinking regular cups of Adzuki bean tea over the winter months.

Salty & bitter foods

Both the salty and bitter foods are appropriate for the winter, since they promote a sinking, centering quality which heightens the capacity for storage. Such foods cool the exterior of the body and bring the body heat deeper and lower.  With a cooler body surface we notice the cold less.  We need to use salt with care as in excess it tightens  Kidneys and bladder. This may cause coldness and the over consumption of water.  We also need to include protection of the heart-mind in the winter this can be accomplished  with the addition of a few bitter foods.  The bitter foods in season at the moment are turnip, celery, rye, oats, quinoa and amaranth,  other foods include asparagus, alfalfa, watercress and endive.

Salty foods include miso, soy sauce ( good quality, fermented and without wheat.), seaweeds, millet ( the most alkalising of the grains), barley and any food made with the addition of salt, ( sauerkraut etc).  Once per day only of these is all you would need. 

Eating lots Vegetables in season is always a good idea for our overall health and well being. So try and aim for between 6 and 8 portions per day. Green leafy vegetables are good sources of fibre as well as being high in minerals,  root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, turnip etc are a great fibre source and they are good sources of antioxidants especially when cooked and blended (soups) the antioxidants like betacarotene become 15-20%.more bioavailable when blended.  Try and make sure that you vary the vegetables, by  making  a variety of soups.  Having  soup for breakfast (miso soup) is a great start to the day. 

Stay warm, eat healthy foods in season, avoid white refined foods, caffeine in coffee and black tea ( these disperse  heat and have a diuretic effect thus affecting the kidneys) and make sure that if you are eating meat that it is less that  10% of your total calories.  This will keep your immune system at its peak over the winter months.

Epsom Salt baths  

Having a warm Epsom salt bath 2/3 times per week can aid a restful nights sleep as magnesium is natures tranquilliser and a muscle relaxant. Add 2.5 cups to your bath just before bed.  Over the winter treat your body to food that strengthens it and some relaxation and meditation time and you may survive the winter untouched by any virus lurking around.


Winter Recipes

Adzuki Bean Tea

1 cup of Adzuki Beans

5cm strip of kombu seaweed

4 cups of water

Place adzuki beans in a pot with the kombu  and soak for 4 hours or overnight.  Finely chop Kombu, add water and bring to the boil.  Lower the flame, cover and simmer  for approx. 20-30 minutes.  

Strain out the beans and drink the liquid while hot.  You may continue cooking the beans for longer with additional water until soft and edible.


Adzuki Bean Sweet and Sour

2 Cups of adzuki Beans – soak in cold water overnight with Kombu.

15 cm piece Kombu

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup olive or sesame oil

¼ cup Apple cider vinegar

¼ cup rice syrup or Malt extract

2 onions finely diced.

Pressure cook the beans in soaking water for 25 mins or You can used organic tinned Adzuki beans. 

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. Mix the beans with the other ingredients in a bowl. Blending well and then transfer to a baking dish.  Cover the dish and bake in a medium hot oven for 30 mins.  Remove the lid ( if the beans look dry add some water) and bake for another 10/15 mins.  The onions and beans should be soft to bite. Serve with cauliflower mash or polenta.


Miso Soup

Very quick version - For One 

1 teaspoon veg Stock  in 2 cups of hot water– Or use mineral broth or Dashi Stock, if you have them - 2 cups

1 Teaspoon of Miso paste – Brown Rice Miso if you are Gluten intolerant or Barley miso.

1 carrot cut into fine julien strips

Kale or Pak Choi – or both

Grated Ginger – juiced

1 or 2 spring onions

Soba noodles – choose gluten free version is you are avoiding gluten.

1 inch piece of Kombu (soak to soften this) – you can make It without this.

Put stock and water into a pot with the carrots and kale or pak choi and seaweed Simmer for 5 minutes then Add the Miso Paste ( mix with some hot water first). Cook for a further 5 minutes and then squeeze in the Ginger juice.

In a separate pan boil some water and add the noodles I use ½ bunch per person. These take only 5 minutes to cook.  

Add the noodles to a bowl with chopped spring onions and then pour on your Miso Soup.

This is nice for breakfast.


Winter Vegetable and Pumpkin  Curry


450g pumpkin flesh or butternut squash

2 onions

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp olive oil

900g selection vegetables (e.g. leeks, onions, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, turnip etc)

tin of organic chick peas - rinsed

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander 

1/2 tsp garam masala 

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 

1/2 tsp ground fennel

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp paprika 

1/2 tsp ground ginger

60g creamed coconut 

1 1/4 cups vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper




Cube the pumpkin flesh. Dice the onion and crush the garlic clove.

Place the pumpkin, onion and garlic in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the vegetables in the oil until they begin to soften. Cover the pan and continue to sweat the vegetables until the pumping is soft. Process or mash the pumpkin and onion mixture to a smooth puree. 

Cut the vegetables into pieces that will cook in an equal amount of time. Place in a saucepan with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the vegetables until they begin to soften and brown.

Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Dissolve the creamed coconut in the vegetable stock and add to the vegetables in the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are just cooked.

Add the pureed pumpkin, mix well and add chickpeas  and continue to cook for another  minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Season with salt and black pepper and serve with rice and salads. This dish freezes well.



These recipes are from – Macrobiotics for All seasons – by Marlene Watson Tara

Vitamin B12 - What are the Facts

Karen Scobie


Vitamin B12 is a remarkable vitamin. It is actually needed in smaller amounts than any other known vitamin. It has been shown that we only need around 10 mcg per day to supply the body with all it needs. It can take 5 years or more to develop a deficiency in adults, although some people can experience problems within one year and for others it could be up to 20 years depending on their stores. 

Vitamin B12 will not be supplied in sufficient amounts on a whole food plant based diets. Herbivores, like sheep and cows, can absorb vitamin B12 via their own digestive tract, but for humans, although it has been shown we can make vitamin B12 via the microorganisms within our gut, we cannot reabsorb it back through the gut wall. We therefore, need to be absorbing it from our food, or taking a supplement. Many foods, like cereals and non-dairy milks, are now fortified with vitamin B12 and it is possible to get your recommended daily allowance from this type of food. 

It is not a forgone conclusion that because you eat animal products that you will automatically be absorbing vitamin B12. Whether you can absorb vitamin B12 depends on how good your stomach and small intestine environment are and whether you are producing enough intrinsic factor. According to research there are more meat eaters with a vitamin B12 deficiency than those who are on a plant based diet, mainly due to the fact that they supplement it. 

There are many foods in the plant kingdom that have certain levels of vitamin B12 such as spirulina, nori, tempeh, barley grass etc, but the claims that they are a suitable non-animal sources of vitamin B12 for humans, hasn't stood the test of time. In over 60 years of vegan experimentation only vitamin B12 fortified foods and vitamin B12 supplements have proven themselves as a reliable sources which are capable of supporting optimal health. 

The organisms that create vitamin B12 are the microbes that blanket the Earth. This shows you how fundamental bacteria are to human existence. These bacteria grow in the guts of animals, which is why their bodies and products can be a source of this vitamin. Herbivores get all they need from ingesting insects, bacteria, dirt and faeces. We may once have gotten all we needed by drinking out of mountain streams and well water, but our water is now chlorinated to kill off bugs and bacteria. We also live in very clean environments, with antibacterial wipes, sprays, soaps and bleach. In our sanitised world those on a plant based diets must ensure that they get a regular reliable source of vitamin B12. 

What are the signs of deficiency? Fatigue and regular pins and needles in the fingers and toes are signs of longterm deficiency which can lead to elevated homocysteine and methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels. Even slightly elevated homocysteine levels is associated with increased risk of many health problems including heart disease in adults, preeclampsia during pregnancy and neural tube defects in babies. Clinical deficiency can cause anemia or nervous system damage. 

Earlier we noted that meat eaters are also at risk of deficiency and this is usually due to the digestive systems inability to absorb vitamin B12. Anyone over the age of 50 should look at supplementing vitamin B12 as research has shown that our stomach acid declines as we age. Try the stomach acid test from last months Fatburn Boost to check yours. Stress also lowers stomach acid and many people are now on medications that stop stomach acid production completely. No stomach acid means no intrinsic factor, which means no vitamin B12 absorption. 

We can help our stomach acid production by looking at all of these. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help improve the stomach environment. Taking a couple of teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar in some warm water 10 mins before food may help improve your overall digestive ability. Celery juice has also been shown to improve the ability to increase stomach acid production.

Most plant based eaters have been shown to have adequate levels of vitamin B12 to make clinical deficiency unlikely but nonetheless show restricted activity of vitamin B12 related enzymes, leading to elevated homocysteine levels. Strong evidence has been gathered over the past decade that even slightly elevated homocysteine levels will increase the risks of heart disease, stroke and pregnancy complications. 

How much vitamin B12 do we actually need? Latest research is suggesting that we need between 4 and 7 micrograms per day. We only absorb 1.5 mcg at a time. If we take a weekly supplement of 2500 mcg we will immediately absorb 1.5 mcg into our receptors and then 1% of the remainder of the 2500 mcg will diffuse passively right through our gut into our bloodstream. This will give us almost a week’s supply. We could take up to 3000 mcg at one sitting to make sure that we are completely covered for the week. Anymore than that and we would just pee it out. Even although it is a water soluble vitamin we don't have to take it everyday because we have evolved to work with such small amounts and our body has devised a way to hold on to it. 


Andres, E., Loukili, N. H., Noel, E., et al. (2004). Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Deficiency in Elderly Patients. CMAJ. Aug 3;171 (3): 251-9 

Doscherholmen, A. and Hagen, P. S. (1957). A Dual Mechanism of Vitamin B12 Plasma Absorption. J. Clin. Invest. Nov; 36 (11): 1551-7 

Allen, L. H. (2009). How Common is Vitamin B12 Deficiency? Am. J. Clin. Nutr. Feb; 89 (2):693S-6S. Carmel, R. and Jacobsen, D. W., (2001). Homocysteine in Health and Disease. Cambridge University 

Press, ISBN 0-521-65319-3. 

Institute of Medicine (US ), (1998). Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6,Folate,VitaminB12,PantothenicAcid,BiotinandCholine. NationalAcademyPress,ISBN0-309- 06554-2. 

Norris, J. (No Date). Vitamin B12: Are you getting it? Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2016)

Natural Skincare

Karen Scobie

Ever wondered what is in your skincare products and how it might effect your body? We take a look at the most commonly found chemicals in body care and why you should avoid chemically filled products. 

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