Autoimmune Disease and Kidney Deficiency

What is the most important organ in our body? The brain? Our heart? Well according to Chinese medicine, our kidneys are the most important.

The kidneys are our source of balance, our yin and yang. When our bodies are imbalanced, we experience deficiencies in our kidneys, leading to chronic diseases. In particular, kidney deficiencies are thought of as the root of autoimmune diseases.

As you know, AI diseases are complex with confusing and contradictory symptoms. An example is Hashi’s which is the most common pattern of spleen and kidney yang deficiency, which relies on medication to restore balance in the body. However, adding more confusion to the already difficult condition, Hashi’s can also be characterised by a kidney yin deficiency, where prolonged, chronic stress causes cortisol production to drop permanently.


So how do you know if you have a kidney yang deficiency (because, lets face it, our doctors aren’t going to tell us)? This deficiency is associated with minor symptoms such as cold hands and feet, pale complexion, back and knee pain and the more serious ones of depression, adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism.

When you suffer from a kidney yang deficiency, your body cannot produce enough heat for regular metabolic functioning. You lose your spark, become cold and slow and demonstrate general apathy. Your physical process becomes sluggish and your metabolic rate significantly slows down. Sounds familiar, right?


The best recommendation for us suffering from kidney deficiencies is to stimulate kidney yang by using foods that generate activity and avoid foods that drain energy.

  1. Eat foods that generate activity: Yang strengthening foods are those that are warming in nature. These include spices such as ginger, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, star anise and turmeric (bonus as it helps to reduce inflammation too). Be careful though – eating these in excess (like putting A LOT of pepper on our steak) can actually have a cooling effect if it induces sweating. Warming herbs include basil, rosemary, sage, mint, thyme and fennel. (Check out our Warming Beef Curry recipe).
  2. Use warming cooking methods: Through cooking methods like slow roasting and casseroles, kidney yang can be strengthened, allowing heat to penetrate our bodies in more depth.
  3. Eat organ meats! Deficiencies in our bodies can often be improved by eating the animal organs that correspond to ours. So, with a kidney deficiency we should be eating beef and lamb kidneys.
  4. Avoid foods that drain energy:  These are foods that are cold in nature. Whilst they include literally cold foods – like ones taken straight from the fridge – it also includes raw foods (as it requires extra energy to help digest).
  5. Avoid exposure to the cold: Makes sense right? If we want to warm ourselves we shouldn’t get cold.