What is “Dampness?” 了解“湿气”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are six factors from the environment that contribute to illness and cause imbalances in our body. They are:

pathogenic wind 风
pathogenic cold 寒
pathogenic summer-heat 暑
pathogenic dampness 湿
pathogenic dryness 燥
pathogenic heat (fire) 火

We, as part of nature, constantly contact with these natural factors. Under normal condition, our body can adapt to the environmental changes, however, if the harmonious relationship between human beings and nature is broken, an imbalanced body will become unable to adapt itself to the changes, leading to the occurrence of disease. Under such condition, the six natural climatic factors become pathogenic factors. These factors can be either external (exogenous) or internal (endogenous) and both are interrelated. External factors are often the cause or triggers of internal factors.

Dampness 湿

Associated with late summer, Earth element, Stomach, Spleen, dampness is predominant in late summer but also can be encountered in other seasons. It is not just edema or excess water, as many westerns might associate it with. Imagine a very humid greenhouse with molds and steam. That’s what dampness feels like. It permeates everywhere due to fumigation and frequently causes disease. Sometimes drenching or living in a damp area can result in disease of dampness. The characteristics of dampness in causing disease are:

1. Dampness is heavy: The attack by dampness will lead to symptoms as heaviness of the body. Invasion of dampness into the body often brings on the symptoms of obesity/difficulty to lose weight, tendency to suffer from inflammation, oily complexion with acne, excessive secretion of mucus, loose stool or constipation, mucous and bloody stool, cloudy urine, leukorrhea, oozing eczema, etc.
2. Dampness blocks Qi: Dampness moves slowly because it is heavy. It inhibits the flow and activity of Qi, frequently leading to chest oppression and fullness, scanty and unsmooth urination and constipation. On the other hand, dampness also tends to impair Yang Qi. Prolonged blockage of Qi by dampness will prevent Yang-Qi from flowing, often causing decline of yang energy. Since dampness pertains to earth in the five elements and is related to the spleen, it tends to impair the spleen, causing stagnation of our digestive energy and edema.
3. Dampness is sticky and stagnant: Invasion of dampness can be difficult to get rid of and recurs with long duration. Therefore, it requires time and persistence to a dampness-reducing diet to recover from the invasion.
4. Dampness descends: Dampness is similar to water and characteristic of descending and apt to attack the lower part of the body. For example, edema caused by fluid-dampness is usually seen in the legs; vaginal discharge, turbid urine, diarrhea, dysentery and cankerous legs and mostly caused by down-pour of dampness.


Endogenous Dampness

Endogenous dampness results from the spleen. Usually failure of water to transform due to dysfunction of the spleen may produce the endogenous dampness, which accumulates into phlegm and retention of fluid to further result in conditions like edema, heaviness, indigestion, obesity, metabolic syndrome, poor skin, etc.

To recover from dampness invasion, we need spleen-friendly, lifting, light foods and herbs.

Written by Five Seasons TCM

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