What is dampness?
If you have ever come across an acupuncturist or TCM practitioner, you may have heard the word ‘dampness’ used to explain the pathogenesis of your condition. The central concepts of Eastern medicine is that the body is never in a perfect state of balance but rather in dynamic internal equilibrium striving to regain balance & harmony that has been offset by external factors. When the body fails to adjust to the environmental influences (ie. weather, occupation, diet, geographic location, stress, seasons, etc…), internal equilibrium is lost and disease results.
In Eastern Medicine, dampness is one of the six external “evil” influences that disturb our internal balance. It has the ability to penetrate deep into our body and change the internal system to become sluggish, heavy, swollen, clammy, phlegmy, smelly, oily, greasy, etc… Similar to damp weather, it also magnifies the temperature of our body where hot weather feels hotter and cold weather feels colder. It is easily influenced by damp weather, triggering any conditions/symptoms to worsen prior to a rainfall. I still remember my grandma and her friends hitting their achy joints saying “We must be expecting rain today,” and without a doubt, in rained. Their joints were definitely more accurate than the weather report.
So why does dampness occur?
While some people are genetically prone to dampness accumulation due to weak spleen and stomach function, the main culprit for the majority is excessive dampness in their diet. When we simply eat too much or too much food that are damp in nature, our digestion cannot keep up to process the food and loses its ability to transform and transport food. This causes pathogenic factors to remain in our system and our body’s immune system (Wei Qi) responds to eliminate the toxin. The Wei Qi remains in our stomach in order to clear the toxin and the concentrated Wei Qi turns into heat since it is warming (Yang) in nature. The compounded heat further irritates the stomach lining and dampness is created in order to smooth the stomach lining. Since the transformed food energy gets sent to the lung & large intestine, dampness often reside here but can also spread everywhere.
What are some symptoms of dampness?
The following are some symptoms/conditions that could result from dampness. If you are experiencing many of these symptoms, it’s a sign that you may need to make some dietary modifications or receive treatment to clear dampness:
- Thickening of tongue coating, yeast or candida
- Brain fog
- Sluggishness and lethargy
- Difficulty waking up
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Eczema and acne
- Water weight around trunk, upper thigh, ankle and face
- Arterial plaque build-up
- Sinus or lung congestion
- Cataracts or glaucoma
- Sensitivity to damp weather
- Metabolic disorders
- High cholesterol
What foods should we avoid?
Some foods are damp in nature and having an excess of these kinds of foods can cause dampness. The following are examples of damp foods that you should avoid:
- Sticky: sugar, gluten, animal dairy
- Irritate the gut: hot pepper, fried food, fatty meat, coffee, garlic
- Raw or cold food: raw vegetables
- Junk food/highly processed foods
- Foods containing yeast
Here are some foods to eat sparingly:
- Fermented foods
- Healthy fat
- Raw honey
- Mushrooms and fungi
- Nightshades such as potatoes and eggplants
What habits affect dampness?
Aside from food, there are many habits that can cause dampness including the following. It is important to adapt healthy habits away from these behaviours in conjunction with changing your diet:
- Late night meals
- Erratic mealtimes
- Not chewing enough
- Eating under stress
- Eating while standing or walking
- Emotional sedation before sleeping
What foods resolve dampness?
Nutrition plays a huge role in dampness and therefore adjusting your diet to incorporate foods that resolve dampness is important. Here are some foods that we encourage you to eat if you are experiencing any symptoms of dampness:
- Bitter and pungent foods: watercress, horseradish, fenugreek, fennel seed, cayenne
- Cooked and warm food
- Tropical fruits
- Radish, daikon, and turnips
- Onion/shallot, ginger, scallion/leek
- Buckwheat, barley, corn, rye, sourdough bread, caraway rye, pumpernickel, and dry roasted oats
- Leafy greens such as lettuce, celery, kale, and bok choy
- Aduki bean and broad bean
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Quail, clam, and lean meat
- White and black pepper, clove, cardamon, nutmeg, dill seed, coriander (cilantro) leaf, oregano, thyme, basil, cumin, turmeric, parsley, anise
The lungs, kidneys and spleen are three main organs involved in water metabolism. The best way to resolve dampness is by strengthening the function of these organs by increasing energy flow through them through treatments such as acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal formulas that help to resolve dampness.
TCM diagnosis can be quite complex as most conditions are a result of combinations of imbalances. If you are looking for more ways to incorporate Eastern medicine and dietary changes into your daily living, our nutritionist trained in medicated diet as well as our registered TCM practitioners can help you find the root of your imbalance and help develop a treatment and/or dietary plan to combat dampness.
Hyo Joo Esther Yoo, BMSc, RTCMP, RAc
Director of Complete Balance
Registered TCM Practitioner & Acupuncturist
Esther Yoo (R.TCMP, R.Ac) is the owner and senior acupuncturist of Complete Balance. She has practiced in the clinical field for over 10 years and trained directly under various world-renowned doctors including Dr. Zhu of Zhu’s scalp acupuncture, Dr. Young of Tung acupuncture and Dr. Tan of the Balance method. She specializes in working with neurological conditions.
Lara Frendjian, RHN, CA, CPA
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Lara Frendjian (RHN, CPA, CA) is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist working at Complete Balance. She tailors nutrition and menu plans with TCM theory-based knowledge and gives talks on TV and radio programs such as Robbie Raugh’s The Raw Truth. Lara is a passionate speaker and blogger and hopes to develop a healthy attitude towards food and ourselves.