Examples of External Damp-Heat
This syndrome can arise in several ways.
1. As a reaction to a Contagious Disease
Here damp-heat appears as your body’s defence against contagious disease. Your body defends itself through Four levels – already mentioned above – each deeper than the last.
The first of these levels is the wei or Defensive level. You will be familiar with this if you’ve ever suffered from an acute contagious disease.
If the bug is really powerful, it can overcome this level and push deeper. The common cold is usually easily stopped at the wei level – nobody dies at the wei level!
More powerful bugs like Ebola can easily push through this level, for instance to the Qi level, also mentioned below. But for susceptible people, when their immune system is weak, even mild bugs like the common cold can push through the first level and become dangerous.
How do you become susceptible and unable to stop even a mild disease at this level?
Lots of ways! –
- Poor nutrition: either not enough good food or too much bad food, or no food, or not eating food in a healthy way, Very important is that you maintain good levels of yin fluids in your body.
- Tiredness. Overwork or working so much that you become chronically tired.
- Lack of sleep.
- From taking medications that suppress one set of symptoms but cause another (for more on this, read Primary and Secondary actions)
- Illness-causing living conditions, like living in a damp basement, or working too close to fire or heat
- Lack of sunlight. In the West, we might now say this means you lack enough vitamin D, but I think Chinese medicine theory means more than that. Light, especially sunlight, is very yang. We need that for life. Read about yang deficiency here.
- Poor air
- Lack of exercise
- A series of acute, exhausting diseases
- Getting old and infirm
- Ongoing emotional strain or stress (see Qi Stagnation)
- Allowing yourself to harbour unhealthy thought-processes over a long period can make you more susceptible, or so the experience of Chinese medicine suggests.
- Immunisations sometimes produce Damp and Heat. Normally I regard this as a good thing, because the body is trying to externalise the ‘invasion’. But some bodies aren’t very good at this and can’t resolve it, giving an ongoing condition, or too extreme, with high fevers or even convulsions: this is probably more common in babies and young children.
For more on the actual symptoms and what happens, click on Four Levels.
2. As a reaction to an Environmental Hazard
This ‘invades’ through your skin and then along up your acupuncture channels (or meridians). Here there is no contagious disease, just something to which your body responds with this syndrome of damp-heat.
In susceptible people, getting cold and wet might do it: it happened to me once!
After riding my bicycle through a thunderstorm and getting my legs and low back soaked, I had no time to get dry and warm before starting work. The next day I had symptoms of damp and heat (mainly damp) in my back. (What symptoms were these? Stiffness, heaviness, very hard to get moving after rest, temporarily better from continued movement and warmth: aching back.)
I had several massage treatments which helped temporarily, but what got rid of it was a homoeopathic remedy, which worked instantly.
3. Arising from damp-heat building up in one of the susceptible zang-fu
- A common example is a syndrome called Gall-bladder Damp-Heat which happens – for example – when you eat too much food that is ‘heating’: often this is fatty or oily.
- A ‘healthy’ diet usually means that you won’t suffer from this kind of syndrome. For an introduction to the Chinese dietary way of thinking, click on Nutrition.
Internal causes of Damp-Heat
Internal means that the syndromes arose from problems within your body, though they may have started externally.
Damp-Heat (internal) can be either acute or chronic.
- Internally Acute at the ‘Qi level’ [to understand what the Qi Level is, click on Four Levels] occurs when Damp-Heat warm disease has overcome or bypassed your external Wei or defensive barriers (see above under External) and your body is now mounting a huge attack on it. From your point of view this is most unpleasant, but the symptoms you experience are the sign that your body is using its inherited genetic know-how to manufacture a huge defensive effort.
- Chronic: it can occur in your: –
- Skin – for instance as acne or pustular eruptions
- Channels – in your joints but probably affecting your zangfu energy organs eventually, see below – or skin, when it is often a little swollen, localised, and worse for scratching.
- Zangfu energy organs: affecting the functioning of the vital energy organs that power your body.
What can YOU do about your condition of Damp-Heat?
This depends on where your Damp-Heat has reached in your system. For instance, if it has managed to progress into your joints, or deeply into your Zang-fu energy organs, you’ll need treatment from a professional. (Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have helped many.)
You can help yourself, however, wherever it has reached.
The following is pretty well common sense!
- Avoid the causes of your Damp-Heat – see above
- Stop eating the damp heat foods – and drinks! – that make you worse
- Eat in a more healthy way – read Nutrition
- Stop smoking! Smoking puts Heat into you. I’m pretty sure vaping does too
- Eat foods that promote healthy bowel habits
- Take appropriate exercise, sunlight and fresh air
- Wear clothing appropriate to your condition
- Try to keep where you live dry and well ventilated: not too hot
- Get lots of sleep
- Consider whether any medication you are taking could be causing or exacerbating your symptoms
What treatments help Damp Heat?