Traditional Chinese Medicine and Dampness

Dampness. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dampness is the cause of many diseases. If you were ever more musically inclined than I was, you were probably told to avoid dairy prior to a choir concert because it could make your voice rattle. That is a prime example of dampness in TCM. For some it looks like impaired digestion (mucous stools, loose or sticky stools and maybe even undigested food in the stool), others are a little phlegmy, and some people are oh-so-fortunate to have heaviness, swelling or water retention or a distended abdomen. Now, before you figure there’s no hope and you are doomed with loose stools and phlegm the rest of your life, there are some things you can do to limit the formation of dampness and decrease dampness.

Proactive measures that limit the formation of phlegm and dampness

  • Eat food and drinks at room temperature or warmer

  • Incorporate bitter, pungent and aromatic foods and spices

  • Drink bone broth as a snack

  • Appreciate the flavor of foods

  • Eat small to moderate size meals and avoid over eating or eating until you are overly full

  • Drink ginger tea

  • Exercise regularly

Foods to incorporate to decrease dampness:

  • Lightly cooked vegetables

  • Whole grains (brown rice, barley, rye, oats)

  • Bitter, sweet, pungent and aromatic spices

    • Includes: cloves, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, mustard, mustard greens, nutmeg, thyme, turmeric, basil, parsley, garlic, onions, shallows, horseradish, turnips, radish, cayenne

  • Legumes (kidney beans, pinto, red lentils)

  • Meat, poultry and fish in small quantities 

  • Small amount of whole fruits and lemons

  • Sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds

  • Tea (green, oolong, jasmine, raspberry leaf)

  • Bone broth

Foods to limit or avoid when you are feeling phlegmy or damp:

  • Cold, raw foods (uncooked vegetables)

  • Refined sugars

  • Fatty meat (bacon or duck)

  • Eggs

  • Fruit juices

  • Coffee and alcohol

  • Deep fried foods

  • Nuts

    • Limit to 1-2 portions per day (8-10 nuts is one serving)

  • Dairy (cold foods - cheese, milk, ice cream)

  • Wheat (refined flour or pasta and bread)

  • Cold or iced drinks

  • Banana