If you’ve ever seen an acupuncturist, you may have heard them mention the concept of dampness. Dampness in Chinese medicine is a causative factor of disease. In my experience, it’s a universal epidemic in present day America.
Let’s examine what the term dampness means. Imagine the earth after a pounding rain. The ground is soggy, slowing movement. Unless there is sufficient sunlight to evaporate the water, that muddy mess can linger for days.
In the body, dampness is basically anything that the sunshine of your body, your metabolism, can’t fully process or eliminate. The most basic examples would be highly processed artificial foods, refined sugar and carbohydrates, processed dairy, alcohol, as well as chemicals and preservatives. Even when we eat healthy food, we sometimes lack the enzymes, stomach acid, or peristalsis (the energy that moves food through the digestive tract) needed to digest properly. This can create excess dampness, and we are left feeling heavy, sluggish, slow-thinking or swollen.
Chinese medicine doesn’t distinguish between mind and body the way Western medicine does, so we can also understand unprocessed emotions as a cause of dampness. If situations we experience are too much to process in the moment, they get stored away and can become sludgy and stagnant.
We are inundated with thousands of visual images each day, which require processing, and can deplete our energy, creating more dampness. Whatever hasn’t been transformed, processed, or eliminated will become dampness, and when dampness accumulates over time, it can appear in any number of symptoms or diseases. Excess dampness can manifest as sinus congestion, mucous, snoring and sleep apnea, fungal and urinary tract infections, nausea, loose stools, swelling, excessive weight gain, fatigue, sluggishness, or brain fog.
Dampness may show itself on the tongue as a thin or thick coating that cannot be brushed off, or a swollen tongue body, with toothmarks along the edges. Excess dampness will slow down the body’s Qi, impeding the function of the organs, and thereby continuing a vicious cycle, causing more dampness and more organ deficiency.
With conventional medical treatment a person with symptoms relating to dampness may be labeled with several chronic diseases and be prescribed pharmaceutical medications. The medications themselves can create more dampness, causing unwanted side effects.
You can prevent or eliminate dampness and the consequent health problems it creates by utilizing acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, and by following dietary and lifestyle principles laid out in Chinese medical theory.
In the same way our houses are always getting dirty simply because we live in them, dampness is always accumulating. It’s only when we lack the energy needed to clean at the rate the dirt is accumulating that we have a problem.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine are like having a team to help you clean your house. They also provide strategies on how to not excessively dirty it up. It takes energy to clean up a mess. If we are not generating more energy than we need to spend to keep it clean and organized, disease conditions will develop.
Whether you utilize Chinese medicine or not, we all need a plan for how we manage and preserve our health, otherwise we are leaving it to chance. It’s like expecting to retire financially secure without a retirement plan. A proactive healthcare plan can utilize acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, exercise, eating a diverse diet of real food, yoga, meditation, and other stress relieving practices. And as much as possible, minimizing exposure to toxins.
Having a regular healthcare routine can provide the physical and mental resources to prevent symptoms of dampness-related illness.