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V. How TCM kidneys affect the "fu-organs"

Among the "fu-organs", the kidneys are most intimate with the bladder. The kidney meridian communicates with the bladder creating an exterior and interior relationship. Moreover, according to the five elements theory, both of them belong to the water element, so not surprisingly they play an important role in water movement of the whole body.

TCM representation of "fu" organs, kidneys and orifices.
The kidneys rule water by regulating its distribution and excretion, traditionally described as vaporization by the kidney. The bladder stores and excretes urine, which is also part of the vaporizing process. From a TCM understanding, they do this through processes similar to opening and closing of different water gates. The propelling function of the kidney-qi is crucial for normal bladder function. When the kidney-qi is sufficient and its astringent function is proper, the bladder opens and closes regularly so as to maintain normal storage and excretion of urine. When there is a kidney-qi deficiency, it leads to an irregular opening and closing of the bladder. Problems like general swelling (edema), incontinence and frequent urination will occur. Pathological changes in the storage and discharge of urine, therefore, are often related to both the bladder and the kidney.

Similarly, the propelling and warming functions of the kidney ensure the normal actions of the following "fu-organs":

Receiving and ripening of food and fluids in the stomach.
Containing and transforming food in the small intestine. It refers to receiving the semi-digested materials from the stomach that are further differentiated into nutrients and wastes.
Transmitting the impure materials and stool excretion in the large intestine.

Generally speaking, the kidneys are the most important organs of the human body from a TCM viewpoint. They should be viewed as the congenital foundation and root of life. As we grow older, kidney function naturally declines. On a daily basis, it is crucial to pay attention to the protection and nourishment of the kidneys as they are fundamental to our long term health.

Written By:
Prof. Zhou Yanqin
Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing TCM University
National Medical Center of TCM Kidney Disease

Angela Collingwood, MSN, Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd.
Lawrence Lau, Ph.D., Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd.
Rose Tse, Integrated Chinese Medicine Holdings Ltd.

Special thanks to Elpidio Talens Juan for helping with article graphics.