In traditional Chinese Medicine dampness comes from a failure to burn off or transform moisture in the body. It is nearly always associated with a weak Spleen, often with a weak Kidney and sometimes a weak Lung – all from a Chinese Medicine perspective.
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the Spleen is expressed as the digestive system, the Spleen is responsible for adapting food to nourish and support our system. This process is called ‘transportation and transformation’. The stronger or Spleen function is the better we are able to extract nourishment from any food to support our body’s needs.
Dampness can lodge in a specific part of the body or affect us more generally, dampness can make us feel heavy and tired and it can make us swell up and it can obstruct our body’s functions.
Some people are more prone to damp than others, a tendency towards dampness can be aggravated by living in damp conditions and places (ex. Ireland) or by a sedentary lifestyle. It needs the transformative power of the body’s Yang Qi (energy) to stop it accumulating. Eating in ways which inhibit our Spleen function or which injure the Yang Qi will increase our tendency towards damp.
Dampness may also be caused by pathogens lodged in the body which have not been properly expelled or by the use of suppressant drugs.
Foods which promote dampness are:
- Dairy – milk, cheese, yogurts, ice cream – Sheep & Goats products are less dampening
- Wheat – breads, pastry’s, biscuits, all yeast products
- Pork & rich meat
- Processed foods, sugar & sweeteners
- Concentrated juice’s especially Orange & Tomato
- Bananas – these are a big NO in TCM
- Saturated fats
In particular foods that need to be avoided are too much raw, cold, sweet & rich foods and the overconsumption of fluid, especially cold water.
Dampness can be divided into three kinds:
This is the generalised condition of dampness associated with weakness of the Spleen, in may manifest in such ways as tiredness/aches in the limbs, digestive weakness or muzzy head. How it manifests depends on our individual constitution.
This describes a condition of edema where dampness is retained as water; this may be specific or general in location. It causes us to swell, be become waterlogged.
This describes a more sticky manifestation of dampness. It often lodges in particular organs and combines easily with heat or cold. Phlegm or mucus congeals and obstructs our functioning.
Resolving Dampness though food and Acupuncture:
All dampness is treated by strengthening the Spleen and may also need tonification of the Kidneys, Lung and Yang. Phlegm demands the reduction of Phlegm-forming foods and the use of Phlegm- resolving foods. Water is helped by Water-removing (diuretic) foods. Acupuncture in conjunction with the correct foods can help eliminate damp, water and phlegm.
Dampness is often the result of overeating or over-nutrition. It is important to support the Spleen to avoid the over accumulation of Dampness.
Here are some tips on how to assist the Spleen with its digestive function:
- Joy – enjoy your food, have a good relationship with food
- Positive attitude – welcome food as wholeheartedly as you can
- Relaxation – the Chinese believe not to mix food with work, watching TV or reading, also important to relax your posture as not to hinder the passage of food through your body.
- Chew well – well chewed food lessens the work for your digestive organs and increases the efficient extraction of nutrients, it also warms chilled foods.
- Stop just before you are full – if you overeat at any one meal, you create stagnation, a temporary queue of food waiting to be processed. This results in feeling tired.
- Don’t flood the Spleen – the Spleen does not like too much fluid with a meal. A little warm fluid with a meal is helpful; nut too much dilutes the Spleen’s action and weakens digestion.
- Don’t chill the Spleen – too much raw or chilled food or fluid will also weaken the Spleen, the digestive process needs warmth.
- Eat your main meal early – when your main meal is eaten late at night, your system is naturally slowing down and the food will sit around longer and creates stagnation.
Foods which resolve Dampness
Aduki bean Caraway Garlic Mackerel Pumpkin
Alfalfa Cardamon Green Tea Marjoram Quail
Anchovy Celery Horseradish Mushroom (button) Radish
Asparagus Clove Jasmine Tea Mustard leaf Rye
Barley Coriander Kidney bean Onion Scallion
Basil Corn Kohlrabi Oregano Turnip
Buckwheat Daikon Lemon Parsley Umeboshi plums
Foods which resolve Water
Aduki bean Broad bean Grape Pea Seaweed
Alfalfa Celery Kelp Plantain Squash
Anchovy Clam Kidney bean Plum Tea
Barley Fenugreek Lettuce Raspberry leaf Watercress
Basil Corn Mackerel Rice Water Chestnut
Black Soybean Duck Mungbean Sardine
Foods which resolve Phlegm
Almond Grapefruit Mustard seed Peppermint Tea
Apple peel Lemon peel Olive Plantain Thyme
Black pepper Liquorice Onion Radish Walnut
Celery Marjoram Orange peel Seaweed Watercress
Clam Mushroom (button) Pear Shiitake
Garlic Mustard leaf Pepper Shrimp
If you would like any further recommendations or advice regarding Chinese food therapy and Acupuncture please do not hesitate to contact me.
Helping Ourselves – A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics – Daverick Leggett