Updated: May 11
Have you been feeling like you don't have enough energy to go on about your day? Do you feel very heavy and tired in the mornings and getting out of bed is a drag?, there are ways to get your vitality back.
When Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners classify pathogenic conditions, it may sound like a weather report to you, “you have cold and damp with some wind stirring up!”
This may sound confusing when you first come across these terms, particularly as we are more familiar with the way Western medicine diagnoses illnesses. Simply put, Chinese medicine diagnoses the current state of the body, which may lead to different symptoms; and Western medicine diagnoses conditions mostly based on existing signs & symptoms.
Chinese medicine has a unique way of viewing the state of the body, and treats this independently of the symptoms. For example; in Western medicine, two patients may be diagnosed as having Chron’s disease and treated in the same way. But in Chinese medicine they’re likely to be treated differently based upon the underlying causes.
It is not uncommon to see one patient having excess of cold in the body and another one showing deficiency of heat. You would be right to think that someone who doesn’t have enough heat in their body, would in turn have cold, but it is not the same type of cold. Pathogens are also differentiated by Excess and Deficient conditions, and I will write an article about that later on.
What is Dampness?
Damp (湿/Shī), is a moisturising energy and it is easily accumulated by the body when the metabolism is compromised and once accumulated, it begins to obstruct the correct function of certain body processes.
The characteristics of Damp are heavy, sticky, with a tendency to accumulate and descend. From the Chinese Medicine point of view, Damp is a yin energy that slows the movement of Qi (energy) and harms yang. These characteristics make Damp difficult to eliminate and it is the cause of disorders that tend to become chronic.
Why do we get damp?
There are 2 ways of getting damp; external factors and internal factors. Externally means you get it from the environment you live in, and internally is mostly from diet and also emotions.
Let’s say you live in a cold dark and humid house, being permanently exposed to such humidity will start to affect your body. By the way, how was that holiday in Bali? Chances are, you got a bit of damp from that too. Exposure to humid climate and a diet of sugar, dairy, fried food and alcohol; are all we need to become victims of Damp. Due to our modern lifestyle, it is one of the most common pathologies seen in practice these days.
Eating certain type of foods upset the spleen, which in TCM is the main organ in charge of transporting and transforming food. The spleen transforms food into new Qi (energy), and metabolises fluids in the body. When this function is compromised, fluids begin to accumulate and stagnate.
How do you know if you have Damp?
Some of the symptoms of damp accumulation in your body are:
Unwanted gain weight
Phlegm in the lungs
It is important to know that some of these symptoms can be due to other pathologies, this is why it is important that your practitioner takes your pulse and checks your tongue, to reach a more accurate diagnosis.
Ways to rid damp out of your body
Some people may have a propensity to damp, and in this case, more care should be taken to not eat foods that affect the spleen or create internal dampness.
It is also important to note that Damp can be accompanied by Heat or Cold, so choosing foods appropriately involves considering the propensity of the body. For this reason I can only suggest neutral foods for you, as eating the incorrect foods, can make any pathology worse.
Stay away from:
Sugar and sweets (be mindful of some fruits with very high sugar content, like bananas)
White wheat flour
Greasy and deep-fried food
Dairy (natural yogurt is fine)
Forget about that ice cream
Raw vegetables (lightly steam them whenever possible, particularly in winter)
Fermented food and drinks (boo! I know)
Icy cold drinks and food (again… don’t touch that ice cream)
As well as dietary changes, acupuncture treatments and taking a herbal formula combined with some exercise, are the best way to rid that damp of your body and see the symptoms disappear.