Bladder Damp-Heat is all too common. You’ll see why when you read about who tends to get it.
Knowing the symptoms and why you get them means you can often do something about it without resorting to medication. (By the way, ‘Damp-Heat in the Bladder‘ is the same syndrome.)
Symptoms of Bladder Damp-Heat
The most common symptoms of Bladder Damp-Heat are:
Frequent urge to urinate
Urgent need to urinate
Pain – burning – when urinating
You may feel hot, or heat inside you
Urinary difficulty, meaning that, in spite of extreme need to urinate, your flow may falter or stop during urination
Your urine is darker than usual, eg dark-yellow, and may be turbid (= thick and cloudy) and smell offensive
There may be blood in your urine
Symptoms often come with fever
You may get pain or a sense of distension, fullness or heaviness in your hypogastrium, ie inferior to your umbilicus
Usually you are thirsty, but may be disinclined to drink, either because you find yourself thirstless or because drinking will increase your need to urinate
If you get this frequently, the Heat may dry the Damp leaving you with gravel or ‘sand’ or even stones: very painful to pass.
Tongue: the root or back of your tongue is covered in a yellow, sticky, thick coating and/or your tongue body may be covered in red spots
Pulse: rapid, slippery; wiry if there is much pain, especially in the left, proximal position, ie the Bladder and Kidney pulse
Acute cystitis is often explained by this syndrome. Most forms of Western Medicine regard cystitis as being due to a bacterial infection, but I hope that after reading this page on Bladder Damp-Heat and also my page on Damp-Heat you’ll realise both that this is not necessarily always true, AND that even if it is true in your case, there are many ways to deal with it without resorting to antibiotics.
How do you get Accumulation of Damp-Heat in the Bladder?
If you are alive, you’ll have a warm body. Your nose, hands and feet might be cold but inside your body will be warm.
If disease threatens it, your body often responds with heat, because that’s what millions of years of evolution have programmed it to do. Heat has been a pretty effective response to disease all that time.
Warm, damp environments, including eating food the nature of which is warm and damp, may predispose your body to Damp-Heat, as in hot or tropical countries.
Read Damp-Heat about the different ways your body gets the condition. In women, invasion by Damp-Heat contagious pathogens – ie ‘bugs’ – either from fecal contamination or from sexual activity or from the vagina can travel up the urethra and lodge in the bladder. Even then, a healthy woman may never get symptoms, as her body easily copes with the condition and expels it or lives in easy harmony with it. But for others, these pathogens lead to Bladder Damp-Heat.
Even if invaded by Cold, a healthy body will respond with heat, and that’s what happens here.
Cold and/or Damp conditions from outside your body ‘invade’ it through your skin. They then enter your acupuncture meridians (or channels). You may feel this the next day as stiffness and heaviness in your legs. This can happen from sitting on cold, wet benches or on grass, for example.
Or Cold and/or Damp invade directly into your Bladder, perhaps because you don’t wear enough clothes in cold, wet conditions, or from not covering up properly, or from urinating and not covering up to keep warm afterwards.
Assuming you have plenty of Yang energy, after such an invasion, sooner or later your body will produce Heat, leading to Bladder Damp-Heat.
You may already have had Damp in our Bladder without noticing it much: perhaps you just felt a slight distension and heaviness there, as if you had a full bladder. Looking carefully at your urine you might have noticed that it was slightly cloudy. Distension, cloudiness and a feeling of heaviness are common signs of Damp. Eventually, your body will try to clear this with Heat. Then you get Damp-Heat in your Bladder.
Some emotions predispose you to it, the main ones being like mistrust, envy, suspicion, covetousness, jealousy. Usually these emotions are not ones you feel comfortable talking about, displaying or admitting to others. The longer you harbour them the more they dispose you to this syndrome.
(Not to be confused with Bladder Damp-Heat, but another condition that leads to frequent peeing is caused by fear, or extreme anxiety. Infants and children can get this, because their innocence precludes knowledge of the world and makes them vulnerable to and fearful of others who take advantage of them. This leads to what is called ‘sinking of Qi’. Literally, instead of holding things up, Qi almost pushes things down, or appears to do so, making you pee even when you don’t mean to. For infants and children, strengthening the Qi and finding a way to resolve the fear often puts an end to night-time enuresis, ie peeing when asleep.)
(This sinking of Qi is also noticeable in the elderly or as people age, when they find they can’t hold their urine for as long as they used to.)
Who gets it?
People who wear too little and get frequent exposure to cold and damp conditions. Fashion often leads young women to wear few clothes in winter, the perfect pre-conditions for Bladder Damp-Heat.
Although I mention winter, of course cold conditions occur at other times of year and even indoors. So, although less common, these symptoms can arise from working indoors but not wearing enough when cold.
Sexual activity can warm and empower you but if you do it outside in the cold, especially if you are female and don’t cover up properly, you may inadvertently allow Cold and Damp to penetrate the Bladder, leading to Bladder Damp-Heat.
For men, too much sexual activity can deplete Kidney Yang, leading to Damp accumulating in the Bladder, a precursor for Damp-Heat in the Bladder. (This happens because Kidney Yang Qi normally clears Damp before it accumulates.)
Too much physical exercise, especially heavy lifting or physically ‘straining’, can weaken the Qi, especially Kidney and Bladder Qi and Yang. The Bladder then becomes deficient and ‘cold’, leading easily to the accumulation of Damp, from which in due course Bladder Damp-Heat can arise.
Living in damp caves, houses or flats can also predispose your body to allowing Damp to accumulate inside the Bladder.
Some forms of sexually transmitted diseases lead to conditions of Bladder Damp-Heat along with Damp-Heat in other parts of the abdomen.
Some conditions produce a tendency to Damp and Heat in the lower abdomen, including pregnancy. Diabetics, among their many other woes, may be susceptible.
Some wounds can lead to Cold and/or Damp invading the Bladder, leading in time to Bladder Damp-Heat.
Some surgical procedures either introduce Cold or allow the area to get cold. When Cold increases, it leads to the accumulation of Damp (just as, in many countries, cold weather often comes with damp or wet conditions.) That Damp then leads to Bladder Damp-Heat.
Enlargement of the Prostate gland, in men, can block the proper flow of Qi in the Bladder, leading to the accumulation of Damp, and hence Bladder Damp-Heat.
Some of these explanations take a little getting used to and use the jargon, for example of Yin and Yang. But I hope you’ll see from this that Chinese medicine has given a huge amount of thought to the origins of disease. By recognising the causes it puts you in a strong position to identify the correct action in a given condition.
The pain is intense. You’ll probably soon be seeking help. Some things you do may make it worse. Below are suggestions for what to do.
If the condition doesn’t clear up, ie it keeps coming back, and either you learn to cope with it or, more likely, the symptoms seem manageable though still painful, you will probably be getting older. Now it’s chronic – which, by the way, doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of it!
But … there is another problem creeping up on you which is that this Damp-HEAT has to be controlled somehow. Your body uses its Yin energy to quell or cool or manage the Heat, so eventually, as you age and you use up your Yin supply, you may get Kidney Yin deficiency. (By the way, I’ve written a book on Yin Deficiency – What to Do! See below.)
Sometimes what people call chronic cystitis, by which they mean the frequent urgent, even incontinent need to urinate but without the other symptoms like burning pain and dark urine, is not due to Bladder Damp-Heat but may be caused by what is called ‘sinking of Qi’, mentioned above.
Sometimes Bladder Damp-Heat can transmit to the kidneys. Then you get, in Western terms, nephritis.
How to reduce susceptibility to Bladder Damp-Heat
Some of the following may seem a little obvious!
Wear more when exposed to cold or damp conditions
Use thick impervious ground-sheets when sitting on damp ground
Take care with sexual activity. It can introduce all sorts of problems and Bladder Damp-Heat is just one of them.
If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to cold-damp conditions like this, take a warm, even hot, bath A.S.A.P.
In the past, people added mustard to the hot water.
What to do when you’ve got it
In Chinese medicine, the treatment is to
Resolve the Damp,
Clear the Heat and
‘Open’ the Water passages. ‘Opening’ the water passages means to relax the tensions or strictures in the Bladder and urinary tracts, but also to regulate the making and storing of urine. The basic job of the Bladder in Chinese medicine is said to be to transform, store and excrete fluids, so ‘opening’ the Water passages means getting this process going again.
Acupuncture is often very effective, and faster than herbs. But herbs keep the process going.
Also effective is homoeopathy, if you can get the right remedy.
I suggest you seek help from a professional acupuncturist, practitioner of Chinese herbalism or homoeopath: you need to know what you are doing with these therapies.
Water. People drink lots of water, even if they fear the consequences, because they know that lots of water will eventually help to flush away the heat. That’s true, but too much water may strain your Kidney Yang, causing more Damp to accumulate. So, better to drink warm water, with herbs that both drain Damp and clear Heat. Drinking too much cold water may temporarily improve matters but usually – or at least, often, as explained, leads to Damp accumulating again and the cycle recommencing.
Herbs. Thinking of Western herbs that you may be able to obtain, rather than Chinese herbs that you would be given as part of recipe adapted specially for you by a herbalist:
– Marshmallow is one of the great herbs for this. Although it supports Yin, it also clears Heat and has a drying effect. You might think that increasing Yin would be a bad thing, because Yin is moist and damp, but this counteracts the drying effect. This is exactly what a Chinese herbal recipe would do – provide herbs in a mixture both to do the main job but also others to counteract any over-efficiency by the main herbs.
– Uva ursi, or Bearberry is another herb well-suited here. It is astringent, cold and dry, so clears Heat, reduces inflammation and dries Damp.However, Peter Holmes in the book mentioned below right, cautions against over-use. He suggests using it in acute conditions for just a few days, then alternating with, for example, cranberry or pear leaf. Don’t use it during pregnancy as it is sometimes used to promote contractions.
– Cranberry is the best known, but is best taken raw, without sugars or sweeteners when – unfortunately – it tastes horrible. Its bitter taste is, however, Heat-clearing. (The addition of sugar makes it palatable but also tends to increase Damp because it interferes with the action of the Spleen.) You do need quite a lot of cranberry juice for it to be effective and not just a way to persuade yourself to drink more water: perhaps a quart daily. Don’t use the sweetened kind. Get the pure, unsweetened kind from a health shop.
– Two herbs, Birch leaves and Nettle leaves, if alternated every few days can be very helpful. Both are cooling and drying, both help the bladder’s action, but whereas Birch is probably more astringent, Nettle is more nourishing. Look up herbals to find out about dosage. Or consult The Energetics of Western Herbs, by Peter Holmes, see on the right.
– Buchu is a Japanese ‘herb’. You may read that it is good for cystitis, but if so it’s more appropriate for cystitis of the Cold-Damp or deficient kind, because it is a warming, even hot herb, better for Kidney Yang deficiency.
Warmth. This may seem counter-intuitive, but warmth over the low abdomen may help your body to dispel the Damp and allow Qi to circulate, hence relaxing the strictures and making urination a little easier. In the past people put warm fomentations on the abdomen. These days we might just use a warm bean-bag or hot water bottle (suitably covered, of course! No point adding burns to your condition!) However, if heat makes it worse, don’t use it! Listen to your body!
Antibiotics. If a swab is taken of your urine when you have Bladder Damp-Heat, I can almost guarantee that bacteria will be found (probably including Escherichia coli, a bacterium usually found in the intestines). These will be blamed for your condition. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, even though antibiotic use is making the bugs stronger, to the point now when some bugs are completely resistant to our best antibiotics, and more will become so if we keep using them too much. Besides, antibiotics, in Chinese medicine, although they clear Heat often also weaken your Spleen which leads to the further accumulation of Damp, especially since antibiotics often also introduce Cold. (Hence the frequent appearance of white phlegm in eg your nose and sinuses after taking antibiotics.) Use antibiotics only if all else fails.
Natural Antibiotics include raw garlic. However, be aware that in Chinese medicine, garlic is said to have a hot quality so can introduce more Heat. Use for short periods of time only to start with. It’s easier to take in capsule form. Better, is colloidal silver, which seems to be broad-spectrum in its antibiotic activity. Take it by mouth and apply topically.
Diet 1: celery, parsley and watermelon are diuretics and traditionally are thought to cleanse kidney and bladder. Make them into a stew or juice them to get the natural pure juices.
Diet 2: keep off coffee, caffeine and alcohol, refined or processed foods and sugar or foods that turn into sugar very quickly after eating, such as biscuits, rolls, cakes and bread. The latter increase the formation of Damp and the former are Heating. In addition, caffeine can tighten muscles around your urethra and neck of your bladder, making it harder to urinate even though it’s a diurectic. And coffee is heating, which you certainly don’t want. So if you take coffee, you’re giving your body very mixed messages! Better not.
Diet 3: avoid chemicals in food and most medications and drugs because these can increase Heat.
Hygiene: keep your urinary and genital areas clean and dry. Women should empty their bladders before and after physical exercise and sexual intercourse, and should wash their vaginas after intercourse. Use clean, light, cotton underwear.
Keep dry. If you swim, get warm and dry and into clean warm clothes as soon as possible afterwards. Come out early if you feel you are getting cold. Never sit around in a wet swimming suit.
Fragrances in ‘health’, ‘hygiene’ and beauty products may be irritating ie cause Heat: they are better avoided.
In the long run, learn to look after your health better.
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