In Chinese Medicine, dampness is the cause of many illnesses and it is the hardest symptom to resolve. It can create high cholesterol, cancer, metabolic disorders, weight gain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, allergies and environmental illness. Dampness has to do with the water metabolism in the system and can be either internal or external as well as a heat or a cold condition. Symptoms can include, heaviness, swelling, water retention, phlegm, nodules, masses and loose bowels. Individuals often feel very lethargic and can easily experience weight gain. The Earth element or the Spleen and Stomach are in charge of transformation and transportation of food and phlegm in the body. If these two organs are weak or even overloaded they will not be able to perform their functions thereby creating gas and bloating, indigestion or phlegm which just lingers in the body. I have many patients who struggle with these problems.
External dampness is a condition prolonged by high humidity that usually occurs in late summer. When the exterior dampness invades the body, it tends to enter the lower extremities and then works its way up, I have seen many patients who have dampness, which lingers around their ankles and goes into their legs. Dampness can also have signs of dizziness, vertigo, heaviness of the head, mental fuzziness, joint soreness and pain as well as eczema, turbid urine, leucorrhea and blood in the stool. This can also be followed with heaviness in the chest, wheezing, restlessness, and fatigue. Usually when someone has dampness they don’t have a desire to even drink water since their system is already damp. I remember a classic description of dampness being when the patient comes in they say that they feel as though there is a band around their head.
A collection of dampness can also lead to a condition of heat stored in the body. Heat looks like inflammation, urinary tract infections, abdominal pain, smelly bowels, deep colored urine and edema. It is a condition of stagnation and can also be caused by hot, greasy foods, dairy, meat, ice cream, cold drinks on ice, sugar and caffeine. When one overeats, food stagnation takes place and the digestive system cannot function properly. Overindulgence in cold or raw foods can easily impair the Spleen. Indulgence in alcohol can create damp heat and phlegm. Other foods are white-wheat flour, vinegar, fatty foods, fermented foods, ginger, rye, alfalfa, turnips, honey, and corn. It is important to address diet issues in order to minimize dampness and phlegm in the body. For patients who have constant phlegm, nasal congestion and headaches I usually recommend a food allergy panel so that they have immediate tools regarding their diet. I have also seen patients who take so many supplements that they have handicapped their entire system into not working properly and their bodies can no longer heal itself.
Worry, pensiveness and mental overwork often affects the Spleen and can create stagnation, which leads to internal dampness. The Spleen in is charge of water metabolism and if it is overworked, it can no longer move things through the body. Grief and melancholy disrupts the system and throws the water balance off. Any obstruction in the channels or meridians will throw the body off and will eventually cause a water metabolism problem. The idea is to bring the body back into balance, remove the stagnation, clear the phlegm and dispel the heat thereby returning the body to its normal functions.
One of the most central concepts of Chinese Medicine is that of the intimate connection between the body and the environment. The physiology of the cells, tissues, organs and meridian system of the body is constantly adjusting to the external environment and if the body is not able to cope with these changes then the internal equilibrium will be lost and disease will set in. It is very important to always try to feed the body the right nutrition, to feed the mind the right thoughts and to feed the soul a spiritual divine idea to help create total strength and wellness.