Key Learning Points
Defensive level damp heat syndrome? What on Earth can this be?
By the way! If you’ve arrived at this page by clicking on ‘influenza’ somewhere, welcome! This site is about how Chinese medicine explains and treats disease, and this page is on a syndrome that is very like influenza.
As a contagious disease attacks you, your body responds with symptoms. If your body responds to the pathogen with symptoms of what in Chinese medicine is called ‘damp heat‘, then this first response is said to be on the outside, because the disease has not gained a strong foothold inside you.
In the case of influenza, Western medicine considers it more a problem of the lungs.
Chinese medicine approaches it rather differently, but don’t let that stop you benefiting from this page.
Chinese medicine certainly doesn’t ignore the lung problem!
That outside or exterior level is where your defensive, or wei qi energy works to defend you.
This is a bit like saying your immune system strives to keep the disease as far from your important inner organs as possible, ie on the outside or as near the outside as possible.
So, if you’re reading this page, perhaps you’ve already caught the bug. But if not, and assuming you don’t want to catch it, click here to see what to do.
This is a contagious disease that your body is fighting, and its first and often best response is a fever.
These defensive level damp heat symptoms are produced mainly because of the nature of damp. Damp affects the Stomach and Spleen energy organs more than the others. Like a damp, foggy day, which slows traffic and produces condensation that makes clothes heavy, everything gets blocked up in your body.
Notice that in the following treatment plan for defensive level damp heat, no mention is made of the kind of pathogen, the actual disease – other than its damp-heat nature! To work, this treatment doesn’t need to know which bacteria or virus caused your problem and its symptoms.
So it could be many diseases, ranging from the common cold to influenza. Theoretically it could be almost any disease, though some pathogens don’t play the game and romp straight past this defensive level damp heat into deeper and more serious levels.
This is very different from Western medicine, which might perhaps take a swab for a laboratory to discover which disease you had, and so identify the best antibiotic or treatment for it. Meantime, your doctor might give your a broad-action antibiotic in the hope that this would hamper the bug’s movements.
For defensive level damp heat, the aim of treatment in Chinese medicine is to
Releasing the exterior means helping the body to throw the pathogen out, ensuring that any perspiration that occurs is not prevented or suppressed.
However, sweating too much can be draining so at the same time as ‘resolving’ the Damp and clearing the Heat, the inside energy of the body is regulated by ‘steadying’ the Spleen and Stomach.
The basic, or commonly used, herbal recipe suggested for defensive level damp heat is huo xiang zheng qi tang, which does all these things.
The relative amount of the ingredients of the basic formula would be varied according to how much heat and damp there were.
This formula for defensive level damp heat has often been used for diseases like colds and influenza in their early stages.
Because Damp has a stultifying effect on the mind, get someone else to diagnose and treat you! It is easy to forget that sick people take sick decisions! If you are the sick person, you may not be thinking straight!
Acupuncture points often used for defensive level damp heat include LI 4, LI 11, CV9 & 12, Sp9, Sp6 with other points on the back. But these would vary according to your symptoms and the syndrome(s) you had. For example, if you had a cough as well, then other points would be added.
If you have this condition and don’t want to use Western medicine to suppress it, (mainly by cooling you down and often by preventing a proper fever then perspiration), then go to bed and husband your resources.
Most kinds of stress strain your Spleen Qi, because you get worried, and worry/anxiety is a particular drain on your Spleen.
They also often stop you breathing properly. Why? Because – in Chinese medicine – your Liver energy when stressed hits out specifically at your Spleen and Lungs.
I appreciate that just telling you that may not be enough!
When I started thinking about this, initially I wrote a page on Liver Qi stagnation. It’s quite a good page, though I say it myself.
But lots of people wanted to know more.
So I wrote a book on it – Qi Stagnation – Signs of Stress. This wasn’t for professionals, although to judge from feedback, many who read it are either students or practising Chinese medicine as a career.
It was written for you. At the time of writing, the book has been publicised only on this website. If people find it, they find it here. I have had many very positive responses, that it’s easy to read, very informative, quite different from most books on stress and so on.
I’m very grateful for what people say. They have contributed their opinions without special prompting, other than on this site or on Amazon. None of the opinions about it are from professional or paid reviewers.
Do read what they said – here. If you are troubled by stress, I hope the book will help you.
You may be tempted to get vaccinated against influenza, a disease with symptoms very similar to those of defensive level damp heat.
Although doctors insist that the latest ‘flu vaccines will protect you, there are disadvantages to having the jab, too. And of, course, if the ‘flu turns out to be different to the virus against which you’ve been vaccinated, it won’t work much if at all.
What is more, according to recent reviews in the Cochrane Database of Systematic reports, there is very little evidence that the vaccination makes much difference, for instance for the elderly or for the healthcare workers who care for them. Similar reports cast doubt on the beneficial effects of influenza vaccination in children.
There are some things you can do about this defensive level damp heat syndrome, both to avoid it in the first place, and to reduce the severity of your symptoms should it get you in its grip.
First, prevention, so please read our page on hygiene and skin care.
Also, read our page on influenza. There’s much more on that page on prevention than we can easily cover here.
Just touching something recently touched by someone with ‘flu can spread it to you.
But even then, you won’t necessarily catch the virus.
To catch it (a disease of the defensive level damp heat type) you have to be susceptible, and there is plenty you can do to make yourself less susceptible. If your immune system is healthy and active, it can often stop the bug getting a hold. So the reason you catch the bug is also because your immune system is impaired.
The main thing to realise is that defensive level Damp Heat severely compromises the action of your Spleen and Stomach. Different bugs affect different organs: influenza, for instance, also affects the Lungs, and your Lung energy works very closely with Stomach and Spleen. Indeed, the Lung channel starts in the region of your stomach.
So there are three main zangfu – energy organs – that your actions can weaken; Stomach, Spleen and Lungs.
Let’s face it, a fever is unpleasant. But that’s how your body uses its genetic know-how to fight the invader. Unless your fever exceeds 40 Celsius for long periods – please, let it do its work! You’ll recover faster. So try to avoid aspirin and other painkillers that reduce your fever – which they all do.
We take analgesics like aspirin for the discomfort and fever. They do work, but at they same time they ‘suppress’ or weaken your body’s natural response.
In healthy people, this suppression of ‘defensive level damp heat’ reactions may not matter much, but prolonged or frequent suppression may weaken your health. To understand more about why this could happen, read up on suppression.
There are foods that stop your Stomach and Spleen working properly. If you eat a lot of these ‘wrong’ foods, your body will be less able to defend itself against defensive level damp heat type situations.
That means you are more likely
Here’s a list of the problem foods, ie those that weaken the Stomach and Spleen:
Sunbathing girls by the pool
© Rebecca Abell
Bear in mind that once you’ve caught the bug, and symptoms have settled into this defensive level damp-heat pattern, the emphasis on what to do changes from avoiding other people who may be contagious and being scrupulous about hygiene, to avoiding people who have NOT caught it – whilst still remaining careful of hygiene!
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How do these help with defensive level damp-heat?
With defensive level damp heat, after your Spleen, your Lung energy comes next. Your Lungs Qi looks after not just your lungs and your respiration but also your skin. What can you do to help your skin?
There’s more on this on our page Skin Care and Hygiene.
Just because we’ve mentioned influenza and colds as being more prevalent in autumn and winter, it doesn’t mean defensive level damp heat problems don’t occur in other seasons or conditions.
Of course they do! For example, people returning from summer holidays are often cooped up in warm, damp transports such as cars, buses and trains, even planes.
Or they eat all the wrong foods at this time.
Try to become aware of how your body is reacting. Start taking precautions if possible even before symptoms appear, and certainly as they occur.
For information how different phases of life and the seasons affect you, read up on the 5 Elements.
Return from this page on defensive level damp heat to our main page on the four levels.
You could also read our page on the remaining pathogenic factor – the dead burglar in your house!
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.
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