In the ancient days, there was no microscope or petri-dish culture to help the doctor understand rot and disease associated with fluids and humidity. Nowadays we know about bacteria, mold, yeast, and insulin issues. We know that these things are related to skin issues, acne, digestive irregularities, UTI, leukorrhea, cataracts, diabetes, and more elusive things such as chronic headaches.
What is dampness? What does it do from TCM point of view? How can we deal with it, especially if we live in “damp environments”?
[separator headline=”h1″ title=”More Information”]
Dampness is one of six “evils” of TCM exterior contractions. It has been well known that although we absorb water to stay alive, that excessive water can be harmful, even deadly..
In TCM, there are four main types of dampness:
- Dampness – signs of yellowing, growths, heavy sensations, fatigue, lethargy, loose stools, edema, blocked urine, clammy skin, flabbiness, yellow nails, cloudy eyes, etc…
- Damp-coldness – all of the above plus white skin, especially wet skin, long urination,, arthritic pains, especially cold limbs and the sensation of heavy, stabbing pains in the low legs.
- Damp-heat – is primarily about infection of bacteria or yeast. It involves open, weepy sores, acne, boils, UTI, vaginal infections, burning diarrhea, rashes, burning pains, weeping eczema, etc…
- Summer-damp – stomach flu, bloating, gas, blocked digestion, absence of appetite, heaviness, all of which tend to happen between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
In general, certain foods are ‘damp’ or encourage dampness: dairy, alcohol (especially beer), carbohydrates, and fried foods.
[separator headline=”h1″ title=”Combating Dampness”]
So the first steps in controlling dampness is the elimination of such foods as sodas, fast food, fried chicken, beer, ice cream, smoothies, etc…
Also, a number of chemical constituents in food have damp effects, and are commonly known as allergens. Not because people are allergic actually. What is happening is a combination of two factors: habitual liver Qi stagnation attacking the lungs (which control the nose and throat) which weakens the area, and the fact that most people are simply full of dampness to begin with. When foods containing soy, gluten, MSG, Fructose Corn Syrup, and other commonly over-presented foods (like preservatives), then the body’s Qi kicks it out in a form of itchy mucus.
How can one deal with dampness after eliminating the above?
TCM and Ayurvedic medicine believes that, oddly enough, fire can be useful. Spicy foods help to cut through dampness while pungency (such as citrus, ginger, garlic etc…) can “break” up the glomus – a feeling of lumpiness that blocks the epigastrium and causes belching.[pullquote align=”right” width=”250″]Did you know… that fat cells have been confirmed to be able to produce hormones which are lipids. Rather like the foods that were mentioned above. On top of that, as some hormones are yin, such as estrogens, they mimic damp behaviors, especially in the areas of disrupted appetite, heavy sensations, and lethargy![/pullquote]
Furthermore, one can use the method of ‘sweating’ such as cardio exercise (as long as the heart is strong enough) whirlpools, saunas, etc… which will enable the body’s Wei Qi (immune system) to push dampness out of the skin and exterior flesh. Also, losing weight naturally reduces the amount of fluid contained in the body.
As a final note, I want to comment about the general use of anti-biotics. Anti-biotics are cold in nature (while steroids are damp) and so their use in such cases as cold-damp related painful urination, or in suppressing yin-type weepy sores (such as diabetic sores) is generally speaking ineffective. As a matter of fact, many times, these just continue to weaken the defense Qi, and in the end, can endanger the life of the patient taking them for the wrong kind of conditions. Damp infections not only tend to be difficult to fight, but to be chronic low grade infections. In these types of infections the use of antibiotics becomes long term, habitual, and the person becomes habitually weaker internally.
[separator headline=”h1″ title=”Prognosis”]
Fighting dampness with acupuncture, or even moxabustion is generally ineffective excepting acute attack of summer-damp. You can relieve symptoms such as heavy headaches and post-nasal drip, but as for expelling dampness, there simply has to be more Qi than dampness. In cases of Obesity this is a tall order, since it was the weakening of Qi over a lifetime that led to the accumulation of damp. “Metabolic syndrome” followed by hypoglycemia and then diabetes, or hypothyroidism indicates not just a change in metabolism, but a deadening of tissue. If combined with cirrhosis, fatty liver, then the prognosis is even weaker. Combine with shortened or toxic lungs – the ministers of Qi – or weak Kidney function, well then the prognosis goes farther down.
The answer lies in three modalities, combined together. 1) most importantly Qi Gong, which can save a life and start returning the person to health within 10 days. 2) herbalism which has a number of different methods for attacking dampness: draining, drying, evaporating, sweating, purgation, promoting urination, and external application. 3) cupping, which can draw dampness through the flesh in places where it inhibits the flow of Qi – such as the back.
If antibiotics must be used, it is best if they are not taken enterally.
Overall the prognosis for survival is very good. Only in the case of summer-damp if combined with heatstroke is it typically deadly in the immediate. However, as many people know, conditions of excessive dampness like Diabetes type II do shorten life dramatically.
Furthermore, a person can live with dampness easily; rather like a city can govern even with the mafia present. In fact, they can intermingle. A person can be rather happy. Certain element types (doshas) are naturally disposed and need more fluid.
However, if the dampness should continue to spread, or combine with a more potent, and disruptive ‘pathogen’ such as Phlegm or Blood Stasis, then the prognosis is much worse. Diabetes is often accompanied by heart disease, after all. Dampness in the exterior channels is more of a nuisance than a danger. Take gingivitis for example. However if it moves internally it can be extremely dangerous. Water around the heart or in the gut can lead to increased blood pressure and even heart attack.
So although I urge people not to panic about dampness, I would urge people not to scoff at it and continue their excessive drinking, dairy, and fried food habits. From time to time, a purge of the flesh and some weight loss – especially when it is easier – is to be encouraged.