Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine

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Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine doesn't sound good does it? And you're right, lets hope you don't get it. But you know people who have it, for sure, even if they keep quiet about it.

Actually, in its milder form it's not too bad, and quite common. In fact, you will almost certainly have had it yourself.

What is it?

The Large Intestine is the last stage of your intestines, following on from the Small Intestine.

The large intestine organ starts in the right side of your abdomen, low-down. It rises upwards to a point under your right ribs, then traverses right across your abdomen to a similar point under your left ribs, then descends vertically but veers off towards the centre at the back, in front of your spine where it opens into your rectum, prior to opening to the outside at your anus.

Having said that, the Large Intestine (Capital Letters) is in Chinese medicine seen as having a wider remit than being just the end of the digestive tube starting in your mouth. It works with your Lungs and what affects the Lungs can affect it too, including emotions and respiratory conditions.

The path takes it through almost all parts of your abdomen and some diseases which are described in Western medicine as being located in the Small Intestine are in Chinese medicine located in the Large Intestine. Equally, some syndromes affecting the abdomen affect it.

You can't easily equate disease syndromes in Chinese medicine with organ syndromes in Western medicine. It can cause confusion until you know which system of medicine you are using.

Symptoms of Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine

  • Abdominal 'fullness'
  • Abdominal pain
  • The pain continues even after a good bowel movement
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mucus in your stools (Mucus is a sign of Damp)
  • Blood in your stools  (Blood present in the stools shows that there is Heat)
  • Very offensive-smelling stools
  • Burning pain in your anus
  • Urine that is dark in colour and small in quantity
  • Fever in extreme cases of Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine
  • Sweating that fails to ease the fever
  • General sense of Heat
  • Thirsty, but no great desire to drink
  • General sense of heaviness in your limbs and body: a kind of weariness
  • Tongue: red body with a coating that is yellow and sticky
  • Pulse: fast and 'slippery'

How do you get this syndrome?

1/ Diet - What you eat

This, combined with emotions and stress, see below, is the problem.

  • Any foods that cause Damp-Heat in your body can lead to Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine.
  • What you eat also affects other parts of you, so Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine may not be the only syndrome that the wrong foods cause you.
  • It is possible to get to the stage when you have a chronic condition of Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine. When you reach that stage you may find almost any food will give you symptoms.
  • But at the start, it is usually too much fried or greasy food that leads to the condition.
  • Some people have good digestions and it takes a lot of fried food to cause the syndrome. Others, not so fortunate, find that even a little greasy food sets it off.
  • Foods such as the following:
  • Fried bacon and eggs with fried bread
  • Fish and chips
  • Deep-fried food
  • Some forms of curry
  • A Scottish delicacy, usually served fried: black pudding
  • Crisps and similar snacks
  • Some grilled meats have so much fat in them that they have the same effect
  • Alcohol has a similar effect if taken in excess or with fried or greasy foods. Most forms of alcohol are heating, though some seem cooling or are less heating. For example, beer is thought to be cooling unless taken in huge quantities, likewise white wine. But red wine and spirits are heating.
  • Some foods have considerable amounts of fat in them that are not immediately apparent, such as pastries and cakes.

2/ Emotions

Perhaps emotions make us human, but in excess, when they take over our lives, they can deeply affect our health.

Likewise, stress has a huge effect on our health.

  • Continued worry, and anxiety, affect our Spleen and Stomach and this can lead to Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine. It doesn't happen immediately, but over months or years.
  • Some emotions lead more to Damp, others to Heat.
  • Anxiety, sadness and worry incline more to Damp. They also lead to Qi Stagnation and Qi deficiency.
  • Anger, bitterness, envy, frustration, resentment, lead more to Heat.

3/ Other factors

Of lesser importance, but still relevant may be factors like the weather and the environment.

  • Sunbathing for too long introduces Heat into the system
  • Very hot climates may also incline your body to produce Heat syndromes more easily
  • Some contagious diseases and parasites can produce similar syndromes
  • Impure water, eg contaminated with sewage, often introduces pathogens that to some extent work like greasy, fried food.

Difference between Damp and Heat

Damp causes heaviness, fullness, diarrhoea, and mucus in your stools.

Heat causes bleeding, thirstiness, concentrated urine and offensive smells, fever and burning pains.


In Chinese medicine, the protocol is to 

  • Clear the Heat
  • Resolve the Damp
  • Stop the diarrhoea
  • In addition, treatment may be given to strengthen the Qi and Blood

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have a long history of success. However, there is seldom a single treatment that suits everyone.

Both the acupuncture points and the herbal recipe need to be adjusted to your particular symptoms. 

What can YOU do about it?

Some of the following are easier said than done:

  • Resolve emotional issues. Either use meditation or talk to someone, either the person causing you stress, or a friend or counselor.
  • Avoid foods that cause the problem! Cut out fried and greasy food or foods containing lots of fat.
  • Eat a better range of foods. Read more under Nutrition. Start with simple foods that are easily digested such as rice gruel. Later, cook root and green vegetables and make sure the patient chews them well - or liquidise the foods before offering them warm, like a soup. White fish, lightly cooked, comes next. Rice pudding, made with organic milk, is good.
  • Eat regularly, and make sure you chew well.
  • Warmth on the abdomen suits many people - but not everyone. Keep a bean-bag, or a hot water bottle, handy.
  • Avoid eating too late in the evening before bedtime. Leave several hours at least between the last meal of the day and going to bed. Otherwise, the food may sit around inside you and heat up, causing Damp and Heat again.
  • Although someone with severe Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine is in no condition to take exercise - they just need to rest - some exercise is otherwise good, even if it amounts to just walking round the room! But a walk outside is better as it helps to move the Qi.
  • Ginger added to some of the foods you eat may help your Spleen energy work better. This will ease the strain on your Large Intestine. You don't need much, just a slice or two of fresh root ginger, either cut up into small dots then added when cooking, or put in a mug with boiling water poured over it. Ginger is warming without being heating, and by stimulating the Spleen helps to resolve Damp.
  • Raspberry Leaf tea: this has a cooling and drying effect on the intestines whilst at the same time 'un-stagnating' Qi: exactly what you want for Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine. Not only does it cool the heat and dry the damp, it also arrests bleeding and mucousy discharges. Put 1 oz of leaves in half a pint of water, and simmer for 20 minutes, then let it cool. Drink it before it gets cold, when it is warm. (By the way, raspberry has other uses, especially for the uterus.)
  • Slippery Elm also dries Damp and clears Heat. However, it is also a Yin tonic so perhaps better for chronic Damp-Heat in the Large Intestine. Put 1 oz in 2 pints of boiling water, then simmer until only 1 pint remains. Take a teaspoon every half-hour.
  • Barley added to soups and stews helps to control diarrhoea and is nutritious.

Types of Damp-Heat

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