Friday, July 1, 2011

DAMP. What is it. How did I get it. How do I clear it.

You may have heard the Chinese Medical term 'Dampness'.  What exactly is damp? How did it get there, and how do you get rid of it?

Internal dampness is directly due to the impaired transformative and transportive function of the digestive organs which results in some form of pathogenesis within the body, organs and meridians. Dampness can be thought of as the condition of "high humidity" inside the body.

A Damp condition creates symptoms of sluggish energy, a tendency to gain weight, a feeling of heaviness in the body, joints and or head, swelling or water retention, distended abdomen, sticky stools, loose bowels, phlegm discharge from lungs or nose, nodular masses, a sound of water sloshing in the stomach and or stomach rumblings, sores, weeping eczema, profuse purulent leukorrhea, turbid urine and stools containing mucus, no thirst, fatigue, and the tongue is often puffy with teeth marks and a greasy tongue coating at the back of the tongue. In Chinese Medicine, dampness is considered to be the cause of many illnesses such as high cholesterol, cancer, metabolic disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, Candida, Herpes outbreaks, fibromyalgia, allergies and environmental illness.

A collection of dampness over long periods of time generate heat to build in the body due to the nature of damp blocking Qi and blood flow. The damp and heat mixed together may lead to such problems as inflammation, allergies (especially food allergies), high blood sugar, weight gain, and urinary tract infections. Symptoms can include heaviness, a sensation of fullness in the chest, a smelly and sluggish bowel, abdominal pain, leukorrhea, eczema, and deep yellow colored urine. The tongue is commonly has a greasy coating.

Raw food is a controversy to Chinese medical practitioners. Traditional Chinese doctors work on the principle that raw food may be full of vitamins nutrients, however raw food can be very hard to digest and absorb these nutrients. This is the reason why we do not feed young babies raw food. Everything we feed a baby is cooked, warmed and soft. Baby food is easy to digest and thus nutrients are easily extracted.When the digestive system is not firing properly it is better to stay away from raw food until the digestive system has gained strength, this is especially true for anyone suffering from a damp condition. It is better to eat food that is is easy to digest and warming in nature.

What should I eat? Food Therapy for Dampness & Phlegm -

General Principles:

•    Ideal cooking methods are steaming, boiling, grilling, soup. Ideally always eat cooked meals that are warm when you eat them.
•    Avoid sugar, concentrated sweeteners, high glycemic index foods, yeast (check labels especially if you have Candida signs), alcohol and fruits except citrus and berries.
•    Avoid raw foods including salads and raw fruit (whole or juiced) until damp has cleared and digestion is stronger.
•    Eat a whole food diet and remove foods that are difficult to digest such as milk products, (small amounts of yoghurt are ok) soy milk, animal fat, greasy foods, and food and liquids that are cold in temperature ie. Icy or cold drinks, especially beer. (this also means we say good bye to ice cream)
•    Eat regularly, avoiding heavy meals especially in the evening
•    Eat rich, nutritious meals in small quantities that are well distributed throughout the day.
•    Eating on the run or when you’re stressed creates dampness as digestive enzymes are low or not available at these times. Food banks up when we eat at these times.
•  Limit the intake of nuts. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and almonds are less congesting however.
•    Worry, pensiveness and mental overwork often negatively affect the transporting and transforming function of the Spleen and contribute to deranged water metabolism as internal dampness. Take a deep breath, and spend a little quite time alone or start a meditation practice.
•    Overeating creates dampness due to food backing up. Eat until your 80% full.
•    Regular stretching and exercise (eg yoga) is an essential part of treatment
•    Increase the amount of mild spices in the diet (not chilli)
•    Avoid deep fried and ‘junk’ food
•    Avoid wheat and gluten products (wheat, rye, oats, barley)
•    Vinegar, mushrooms, fermented foods can also create damp – avoid if you experience Candida
•    Watch your Vitamin C intake, over 1-2g per day can contribute to dampness.
•    Avocado, banana and tropical fruits are absolutely forbidden in the morning.

Beneficial foods:

Vegetables: Pumpkin, sweet potato, celeriac, squash, zucchini, carrot, parsley, Include all green leafy vegetables: broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, brussel sprouts

Protein: chickpeas, black beans, yam, peas, walnuts, chicken, beef, lamb, liver, kidney, tuna, mackerel, anchovy

Beneificial spices:  Onion, leek, garlic, turnip, fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, cumin, coriander, cardamom, star anise, turmeric. 

Drinks: green tea, lemongrass and ginger

Unfortunately a Western diet is damp in nature. You may feel like you have to completely revolutionise your diet and lifestyle to get rid of Damp. All Western students of Traditional Chinese medicine thought the same thing when they found out about damp too. But once you make the change to a non damp diet you will feel younger,  look younger, loose weight, your skin will thankyou and you will feel energised, refreshed and liberated.

If this information is too much or confusing don’t opt out, just simply stick to a Japanese diet (except the tempura) and you’ll be fine.


  1. I am finding this really interesting as I have been suffering with these sort of symptoms for along time and have just discovered that this could help. so I am trying it out. I have started acupuncture too and I am already feeling a lot better.

  2. Thank you for the well worded information. Although being a Certified Nutritionist I have always wondered why I keep gaining weight each year. The Western diet ...I gave found a green breakfast smoothie is a great banana thank you. I was blessed to meet a retired man who was an apoticary. Herbalist who lived in China for a few years. He told me about ying/yan..path...

  3. I don't understand oats. Some people say oats are not dampening or have gluten, others do. I have a box of "gluten free" rolled oats, but you are saying they aren't good. Which theory is correct? Thank you.

    1. That's because of how they are grown - crop rotation. Many oats are grown on land that previously had wheat and grains harvested. Be sure to check label...gluten free. Hope that helps

  4. Steel cut oats. I feel a difference in my body between the two.

    1. Soaking oats overnight before cooking--either steel cut or rolled--aids in their digestion. And yes--definitely GF.

      Thanks for this information on Dampness.

  5. How long does it take to clear up dampness and phlegm?

  6. thank you so very much for this info!! I have been gluten, dairy, soy free for 11 years but I still feel sick a lot of the time. How about coconut milk?

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  8. One mistake you made in your grain profile. Rye has a drying affect on the body and is very beneficial for dampness and candida.