Dampness? What IS that?

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Dampness? What IS that?

Photo Credit: Jabon Oh

Dampness is a term that many people who have gone to an acupuncturist have heard about.  It is considered a pathogen in Chinese Medicine that enters the body and causes disease.  Some general symptoms of dampness include: sluggish digestion, having a hard time waking up in the morning, foggy thinking, fatigue, and a heavy feeling in your head or limbs.

Dampness can be a facet of diseases ranging from diabetes to arthritis to asthma to basic poor digestion and bloating.  Other diseases that may be partly due to damp stagnation include chronic yeast infections, chronic allergies, asthma, rhinitis, chronic inflammation, heart disease, and PCOS, to name a few.*  Dampness is the hardest pathogen to eliminate from the body once it’s there, and the main entry point for dampness is your mouth – that is, the foods you eat.

To understand the concept of dampness, think of a musty, moldy basement.  Think of cholesterol-lined arteries.  Think of your sinuses when they’re clogged.  Gross!  But we need these images because damp-producing foods taste sooo goooood. The Typical American Diet is replete with these damp-producing types of foods:

  • Sugar – damp itself, and also feeds dampness-producing yeast and bacteria
  • Alcohol – don’t those symptoms listed above sound a bit like a hangover?
  • Dairy – damp/phlegm-producing goodness
  • Fried foods – and too many unhealthy fats in general
  • Processed wheat flour products – remember elementary school science, when you made paste out of flour and water?  Now think of your intestines.

Changing your diet to consume less damp-producing foods is a great step towards health.  We are not suggesting that you never ever eat any of these foods, but if you have a condition with a lot of dampness, it’s a good idea to limit your intake and give your body a chance to heal.  We also recommend limiting your intake of nut butters and sticking to unsaturated-fat oils for cooking during that time.  Some people’s bodies handle dampness better than others.  Depending on your body, if you’re eating enough vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruits, and getting regular exercise, a little damp once in a while isn’t the end of the world.

We’re not all about denial here in the land of TCM – There are many foods that you CAN eat to treat dampness.*  Sticking to a high fiber diet is a good way to start.  For more information, see our article on ways to reduce dampness with nutrition.

*As always with TCM, every body is different and requires different foods for balance.  Consult with a Chinese Medicine practitioner about diagnosis and food choices specific to your needs.

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