What is damp?

Too much damp in the body is one of the most common pathologies seen in the modern Chinese medicine clinic. Pathogenic damp manifests itself in a plethora of ways. They can range from gastrointestinal complaints and oedema to aching bones and chronic cough plus many in between.

Normal physiological fluids of the body include tears, sweat, normal nasal mucous, intestinal fluids as well as the fluids that lubricate and moisten various tissues such as muscles, tendons and skin. These are very sensitive to changes in the qi and blood of the body, the bodies organ functions and the environment surrounding the body.

The body’s natural fluid metabolism
Normal fluid metabolism involves most of the organs within the body. The process begins with the stomach which takes in food and drink and ends mainly with the urinary bladder expelling waste through urine. The skin also expels fluid waste via the pores through sweat.

A little bit of damp is good for the body. It keeps it moist and lubricated. Too much damp can become pathogenic and lead to many different health problems. There are two main types of damp; external damp and internal damp.

External damp
External damp is that contracted from outside of the body. It could be the result of the environment such as being in a cold damp place for two long or being in humid conditions for too long. The Western medicine equivalent is that of exposure to a virus, bacteria, yeast or parasite of some sort. These conditions tend to be more acute and may have had a rapid onset. Treatment focus’s on expelling the pathogen as well as repairing any damage that may have occurred.

Signs and symptoms of an external damp invasion can include one or more of the following: generalised aching of the body, vomiting and diarrhoea, loss of appetite and thirst, chills and fever, stuffy chest, malaise or lethargy, tight aching head and lack of sweating.

Internal damp

Cupcakes with icing and sprinkles on top.

Internal damp builds up from within. The causes of internal damp buildup are wide and varied. It may be the result of one or more of the organs which are involved in fluid metabolism becoming compromised. It could also be an external damp invasion which has moved further into the body, and has never been fully resolved. It could even be long term bad eating habits and lifestyle which have left various digestive organs under duress.

Signs and symptoms of excess internal damp can include one or more of the following: oedema, loss of taste, reduced appetite and thirst, abdominal distention which may be more pronounced after eating, boils, eczema, wondering joint pain, localised numbness or loss of sensation, nausea, dizziness, poor concentration, leukorrhea, scrotal sweating, cloudy or frothy urine and weight gain.

Prognosis of damp conditions
Damp conditions particularly internal damp conditions tend to take a while to treat. Many of the bodies organs are involved in fluid metabolism so often there is more than one thing to fix. Another reason is that often when a person seeks help, they have had the condition for a while. It has been building up over time increasingly affecting more of the body. By the time we see them the condition may be quite complicated.

How may I prevent or resolve my damp?
Lifestyle and diet can go a long way in affecting damp resolution. Often chronic damp conditions have digestive issues as well. Although it may not show up on Western laboratory tests, in Chinese medicine we will see it.

Foods to avoid
Fatty, oily and dairy foods are high in damp so it is best to avoid these types of foods. Other foods to restrict or avoid would include wheat, sugar and concentrated sweeteners, fatty meats such as duck and pork, eggs, soy milk, chocolate, avocado, raw and dried fruits (especially the tropical fruits such as banana and mango), beer and salt.

A leafy green vegetable

Foods to increase
Foods that encourage the metabolism of damp are what you would want to be eating. These include your green vegetables, barley, corn, rye, lettuce, celery, pumpkin, the onion family and extra virgin olive oil.

Generally speaking you want to have all your foods cooked and warm. Flavours that are beneficial are the bitter and pungent flavours. Try to decrease your intake of fats, oils, dairy and sugars. Try to eat less at each sitting. Late night meals, junk foods and deep fried foods are an absolute no no.

The importance of exercise
Exercise is also another great way to move damp. Earlier on I mentioned how one of the way the body excretes excess damp is via the pores, ie sweat. Exercising can increase that rate. It also has a great benefit of moving and providing qi for the organs. This gives them more energy to work resulting in better fluid metabolism.

These are just some of the things your Chinese medicine practitioner will discuss with you when you go to see them. Combining diet, lifestyle, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine provides you with the best possible chance to beat damp.