Damp foods are foods that often make Damp problems worse in your body.
If your Damp problem is severe, avoiding what I call damp foods will help even if it doesn’t cure all the Damp in your body.
This page will make little sense unless you know what we mean by Damp! Click on Damp to catch up!
Also, if you want a bit of the underlying theory behind all this, go to https://www.acupuncture-points.org/yin-and-yang
There are three parts to this page:
I suggest that concentrating on the foods that help to clear Damp without also avoiding the foods which make it worse is like trying to put out a fire while pouring on petrol at the same time!
Also, you should read our page on Nutrition which puts things into perspective and supplies important information about maintaining digestive health.
Please realise everyone is different. You may find some of the following foods all right – for YOU! Not so for ME.
And there may be other foods that make YOU worse, but not me.
These are just foods, observed by cooks and medics with a knowledge of Chinese medicine over 3000 years, that produce symptoms of Damp.
These include foods that quickly turn into sugar in your digestion. Most of them have a high glycemic index, but this isn’t absolutely vital because it’s too much SWEETNESS that’s the problem. You need a little ‘sweet’ tasting food daily for health, but what sweet-tasting means in Chinese medicine is different to what we in the West often understand by the term. This category does include sugar of all kinds, fructose (yes even from ‘healthy’ organically-grown fruit!), most syrups, and sweet fruits like banana and dates: also honey! Too much sweet food upsets your Spleen’s actions. Your Spleen assists your digestion. Upset it and you get overgrowth of undesirable bacteria and fungi, the ‘baddies’ who subvert your immune system. But also, too much sweet food reduces the amount of healthy nutrients absorbed into your Blood through your intestines. So after a quick ‘high’, you feel worse.
This category includes chocolate, particularly mild chocolate (see also ‘dairy’ foods, below.) Sorry!
There’s quite a list of these. First, which grains contain gluten and how might we encounter them?
If you often eat food made from the grains listed above, being Damp Foods, you may increase Damp in your body.
So, you ask (!), which grains do NOT contain gluten? Here are the main ones:
So eating non-glutinous grains from the list above will be less likely to increase Damp.
If you like, they are non-Damp foods!
But don’t assume they are all right for you until you’ve tried small quantities of them over a period of time.
We are all different and you may react to one of them differently to me!
Although this applies particularly to food from the dairy cow, it may apply, for some people, to milk from other animals like goats and sheep.
Dairy products include milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, kefir, lassi and so on. It makes little difference if the milk is fat-reduced. Yes, this does include ice-cream! And chocolate, especially milk chocolate!
And although some authorities differ, I think even organic, non-sweetened natural yogurt, full of all the probiotic goodies, is damp forming.
For example, in some people
Many such foods are classified as ‘hot foods‘. You might think that being ‘hot’ foods, they would dry out damp conditions, but if they produce moisture in you, for you they are still ‘damp‘!
Even this is not the end of it! How and when you eat have an effect too.
Don’t skip over that list! It’s important and can – alone – make a huge difference to how well you digest and how well your system clears Damp!
Click here for a page on anti-dampness foods, that help clear Damp from your body.
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A huge subject!
Some constitutions easily burn off damp in the body, others struggle. If you are familiar with Ayurvedic medicine, you’ll know that the Kapha body though potentially very strong, easily stores Damp, unlike the Pitta and Vata types. It is easy for Pitta bodies to warm up and clear Damp, not so the Kapha!
However, one can say that apart from nutrition there are several ways to help your metabolism clear Damp.
Though you may be tempted, don’t eat foods that claim to increase your metabolism.
All they do is speed it up temporarily, demanding your body expend Kidney yang energy, which may slightly heat you up but is also tiring.
It’s like taking coffee to speed your brain: it’s a temporary solution. It’s not easy to increase your metabolism. Doing it gradually with diet, good breathing and exercise is your best policy.
It helps if you start when you’re young!
Damp is a yin-excess phenomenon: it tends to be moisturising (obviously) and cooling. It is usually made worse by yin factors (eg Cold, Damp conditions, Phlegm, Staying Still) and is better for yang factors (eg warmth, movement).
So keep warm and active!
The following questions won’t make much sense to everyone, but they often occur so can be important:
A. This can be difficult because with yin deficiency you have a lack of fluids and a tendency to feel a little warm, but easily tired. This is because your body’s yin energy, its cooling energy, is weakened (perhaps from overwork or a serious depleting disease.) With yin deficiency you may have yang deficiency too, albeit concealed by yin deficiency symptoms.
What seems like yang, that tendency to feel a little warm, even to perspire during sleep, isn’t enough to boil off or transform the damp. Also, with yin deficiency you’ll probably be mildly thirsty and want to eat or drink stuff that you can’t fully digest, leading to Damp build-up: maybe phlegm after eating too.
So, in effect you’re eating stuff that produces the very Damp you want to clear!
Theoretically, unless deficiency is marked, treatment would first aim to clear or transform Damp, it being a problem of yin excess. (If you don’t clear the excess first, it’s a bit like treating someone for tiredness when they are carrying a heavy load. Probably they need rest and time to recupe, but first you need to remove the load from their shoulders.)
Then, when Damp is substantially cleared, treatment would aim to strengthen Yin.
But you could argue that the above is a herbal approach and that acupuncture could do both together! In my acupuncture practice I would probably do a bit of both, mainly working on Damp first and if the body responded, adding more treatment for yin deficiency as treatments proceeded. But everyone is different and I can’t generalise.
Also, one could give a herbal formula for one aspect and do acupuncture for the other.
A. With Qi Deficiency and Dampness, you have both exhaustion and the heaviness and soreness (from Damp). I’ve seen this with fibromyalgia.
The problem may seem that by increasing Qi you also increase Damp.
In practice, I would say that often the Damp exists because the body’s qi has been too weak to clear it. So by increasing qi you equip the body with the energy it needs to transform the Damp.
With acupuncture, you can easily combine points both to clear the Damp and ‘tonify’ the Qi, sometimes on the same channel. For example: St40 fenglong and St36 zusanli.
Indeed, sometimes you don’t even need to stimulate Qi, just to enable it to flow again by clearing the channels.
Having done this, you notice the pulses have normalised, and just request the patient returns a week later, by when – often – he or she is feeling much better.
(How do you clear the channels I hear you ask! Answer – palpate along them for blocks. Either massage the blocks away or treat with micro-acupuncture round or under them. If you do it right, the patient’s pulses suddenly recover a lot of their energy. Then all you need do is wait a few days.
It’s like removing large debri from round a drain-hole. As water begins to flow it carries away any remaining small debri so allowing the full force of the water to build up into a healthy stream.)
Likewise, with herbs you could do one thing with herbs and the other with acupuncture.
Book on Chinese Dietary therapy
The two books by Andrew Sterman listed below give you a real feel for Chinese medicine and how it approaches food as a source of health and disease. I highly recommend them.
Each of the following books also has merits:
Check my collection of books:
Too much food with the Salty taste in Chinese medicine will make you ill. But you need some! Which foods do they mean?
The spicy taste in Chinese medicine adds lightness and energy to your diet, helping your lungs work better. You need some, but not too much!
Foods classified as having a sweet taste in Chinese medicine are vital for health. But too little or too much ‘sweet’ food leads to disease.
Thank you for your good content. But I disagree with you on some point about honey as you say it creates dampness, it doesn’t as ayurveda says honey is good for kapha (the acidity in honey balances the sweetness).
Also some fruits are good to reduce dampness like apples, pomegranate etc dampness is the kapha type of Ayurveda.
Thanks Joe, and yes, Ayurveda has different traditions.
What can we make of this?
First, that it depends on your personal reactions, and the lists here are warnings: some people have no problems with sugar, amazingly! But most people do have problems with very sweet foods, of which honey is certainly an example.
(And if this is a reader’s first introduction to all this, just remember that Damp appears in all sorts of ways, including athlete’s foot and other moulds on or in the body, the mouth for example: not just the heavy sore fatigue mostly associated with it.)
Of course, how much you eat, and how fast, and in what combination and whether raw or cooked, all make a difference too.
Second, in warm countries, with different cuisines, cold damp may appear less, perhaps because Stomach Yang is stronger. On the other hand there is possibly more Damp Heat. Apple is cooling which combats the Heat side of this. Also, apples come in many tastes, some much sweeter than others. Probably the sweeter ones, taken in excess, would cause damp.
An old lady came for treatment for cystitis. The day before she’d got hot while looking after her grandson of about 7, I think. She withdrew to the shade of some trees, and a light, cool wind, very pleasant, blew up. Her grandson asked for money to buy an apple – this was September in Nanjing, China in 1982 and the park didn’t have an ice-cream seller, just apples! He got her one, too. She enjoyed it but soon got an urgent need to pee. The next morning, she woke with cystitis and came to us for acupuncture. From her knowledge and experience of traditional Chinese medicine, she knew her problem was Damp-Cold, and we agreed. She said, that although the cool wind tested her yang defences, she was sure it was the apple that tipped her over. We used moxa on needles in her lower abdomen and legs and she needed just the one treatment. This was one of my first experiences of practical Chinese medicine in action near the start of my time there.
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