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Avoiding and dispelling dampness

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

How’s your energy these days? Do you often feel sluggish? Lethargic? Have difficulty remembering details, people’s names, shopping lists, recalling events from the past? Is your attention faltering? Does your tongue have a thick greasy coating? Is this a seasonal thing for you?

Maybe you’re experiencing the signs of excess internal dampness?

So what is that? Firstly, it’s useful to understand the difference between “external” and “internal”.

In the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), “external” refers to external influences that affect our health: environmental conditions, sudden extreme weather patterns, seasonal weather, changes in the seasons; social, financial, and societal pressures, etc.

“Internal” pertains to things that affect us from within: foods we’ve eaten or drunk, narcotics, drugs, medications we take, infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, hereditary tendencies, and our emotional responses and reactions to our life situation.

Dampness is one of the most common “pathogens” referred to in TCM.

What is dampness?

Imagine you never bothered to clean your shower. How would it look after a few weeks of regular use? There’d be a build-up of soap scum, dirt, oils from your skin; and slime moulds would probably start to grow in the corners, living off the muck building up in the shower recess. Or think of a computer that never had its “trash can” emptied? The hard drive would gradually fill up with useless information and slow down processing speeds with an annoying lag time.

Similarly, internal dampness in the human body can result from a build up of toxins and waste


Dampness can also be from external causes.

External dampness could refer to your living conditions, if you lived in a dank, mouldy environment such as a basement with leaky water pipes nearby, where the walls are always a bit damp and the air might be full of mould spores.

A healthy person wont have too much trouble expelling excess external dampness from their body. But during inclement weather, someone who has “internal dampness” may start to exhibit the symptoms I mentioned at the start of this blog.

What causes internal dampness?

Let’s look at diet first. These are some of the foods that will cause “internal dampness” if consumed in excess:

  • too much protein-rich food, such as: eggs, cheese, meat, nuts, or fish

  • bread, biscuits and cakes made from wheat (bum glue)

  • too much sugary processed food, sweet fizzy drinks, sweet dairy (icecream, animal milk yoghurts)

  • fatty fried foods, sweet oily foods (baklava, fritters, gulab jamun, fried icecream)

  • fatty meats: bacon, pork, duck, chicken skin, oily fish

Eating too many ingredients in the one meal or eating while feeling stressed, can also slow digestion and lead to an accumulation of toxins in the digestive tract.

Another player is lack of regular exercise. Exercise helps regulate the organs and systems in your body (circulatory, nervous, lymphatic, excretory).

So what helps symptoms of internal dampness?

Eat bitter flavoured foods with each meal: bitter lettuce, radicchio lettuce, bitter melon, yellow grapefruit, and anything else that has a bitter flavour. The bitterness in the foods will help your liver and spleen process and excrete toxins from your system. Sometimes you’ll see the “dampness” coming out of you as mucous from your lungs and throat or cloudy urine. Some people who have colonic irrigation report a thick mucoid plaque coming out of their intestines!

Partake in regular moderate exercise of at least 30 mins each day, eg, yoga, swimming, cycling, group fitness classes. These will help regulate your system.

Avoid the aforementioned foods that cause internal dampness

Open up the house on warmer drier days

Get yourself some moisture absorbing crystals for your wardrobes

Uncluttered your environment and simply things to allow for better qi and air flow

Keep your ceiling fans going on low 24/7 during damp/humid weather, and look for signs of mould in the corners of rooms, and behind furniture and curtains. Remove any rotting food from the pantry

Meditate regularly

You can also go to a TCM herbalist or shiatsu therapist like myself for therapy sessions to help dispel the dampness from your system

Enjoy the lushness of the Wet Season by getting outdoors as much as you can. Early and late in the day are the best times to avoid excess heat.

Yours in good health

Gregory Barnes

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