GallBladder Damp-Heat is common! You’ve probably experienced it mildly after a long, frustrating week at work followed by a large meal with lots of fat in it. Read the symptoms below and decide for yourself!
Causes of Gallbladder Damp-Heat
Damp-Heat in the Gallbladder occurs when two conditions converge.
Long term frustration, stress or anger causes Liver qi stagnation which transforms into Heat and Fire. Note: Climactic heat can also produce the necessary Fire, such as in a long-hot summer when it is not possible to cool down.
Too much greasy, fatty or rich food creates Damp. Hot, spicy foods and seasonings and too much red meat also contribute to formation of Heat – as does chocolate and alcohol. Many curries are both spicy and rich in fats – the perfect vehicle for this. Just think of the typical Christmas-tide drinks and puddings!
If you have these underlying situations, you become more susceptible to infection or irritation on your mucosal surfaces. As you’ll read below, the symptoms nearly always then include redness, swelling and eventually purulent, fetid discharges.
When Fire combines with Damp, you get Damp-Heat.
Why has this got anything to do with the Gallbladder? Because heat in the Liver organ spills over into the Gallbladder, its paired organ in the Wood element, and because too much greasy food overwhelms the supply of bile. Then you get GallBladder Damp-Heat!
Symptoms of GallBladder Damp-Heat
Hypochondriacal pain: this is pain under your ribs towards the side of your abdomen. If feels full, ‘stuffed’, more likely on your right side than your left. The area often feels distended.
Nausea and/or vomiting: you’ll feel better when you’ve got rid of your stomach contents, though some of the other symptoms will stick around for a while.
Heat, probably fever: you may think you have an infection, a bug. If you have the other symptoms listed here, it’s probably not a bug. The fever will come and go, so you may feel hot then suddenly cold; you may sweat and if you do it may have a sour smell; possibly burnt, or frequently a rather sickly sweet smell, technically called ‘fragrant’.
Thirst: with the heat comes thirst, and dryness. Curiously, however, you may not want to drink – a common symptom when there is damp in your body.
Bowels: whether you get diarrhoea or constipation depends on a number of factors. Both will be smelly and your stools may lack their usual colour if the colour of your skin, or the flesh under your fingernails, or the whites of your eyes, goes yellow. In that case you’ve got jaundice too. Your stools lose their colour because what would otherwise have been bile salts colouring your stools back up into your liver and enter the blood stream giving you skin its yellow sheen.
Limbs: can swell in the feet or round the ankles, particularly on the outside, and legs may feel heavy or numb.
Tired heaviness: you probably won’t want to move much and may even feel a bit numb in your hands and feet. This heaviness comes mainly from the damp part of Gallbladder damp-heat.
Skin: yellow, from bile backing up from gallbladder and liver into your blood stream. Can start as yellow fingernails or in the whites of your eyes.
Urine: You pee less because heat has dried it out. Urine will be darker and smell stronger.
Discharges: yellow, sticky and smelly.
Genitals: rashes, itchy, swelling.
Temper: you’ll be poor company, irritable, peevish, demanding or sullen and unresponsive.
Eyes: may be yellow, as explained above. May also be sore.
Dizziness: this is because damp-heat gets into your ears. At least that’s the easy way to explain it. The proper explanation is more complicated and involves deficiency of Blood, Liver Yang, and heat causing internal Wind, depending on the exact nature of your symptoms. Let’s just call it damp-heat in your ears, messing up your vestibular apparatus.
Ears – tinnitus: noises in your ears are probably loud and unpleasant. This comes from what Chinese Medicine calls Liver Yang. The more often you get tinnitus the more likely you will be to keep it. You can get it in a number of different ways, and Gallbladder Damp-Heat is just one of them. Try to get tinnitus treated early because in my experience once you’ve had it continuously for two years it involves something else (Kidney qi deficiency) which can be harder to treat.
Appetite and Digestion: apart from nausea and vomiting, you probably won’t be able to face, let alone eat, fatty food, such as pork or cream.
Tongue: the coating on your tongue will be yellow, greasy and is often thick. Typically it runs in two streaks one on each side of the midline of your tongue.
Pulse: rapid, slippery, wiry. Rapid from Heat. Slipperiness from Damp. Wiriness from discomfort and frustration.
Points Gallbladder Damp-Heat are chosen to clear the heat, transform the damp, get your Qi moving again, and calm the Shen – your ‘spirit’, meaning your wretched state of mind!
Zhiyang Du-9: clears heat in the Gallbladder, helps get your Qi moving and clears damp. The perfect point: just a pity it’s not so easy to treat yourself, at least with acupuncture. But you can rub or press it. It lies just under the seventh dorsal vertebra, about level with the inferior edge of your shoulder blades when you are sitting. (If you’re rubbing or pressing it for a friend who has this syndrome, please don’t expect them to be particularly appreciative: they may well complain it’s sore!)
Yanglinquan Gb-34: an important point that you can rub, just lateral and inferior to the head of your fibula. It will probably be quite sore to press. It helps clear damp-heat in the Gall Bladder. It also helps Liver qi flow again. There’s also another point about a centimetre inferior to Gb-34 which will be sore if it needs to be treated. This point (Dannangxue) is what is called an ‘extra’ point that becomes useful when your gallbladder is affected.
Riyue Gb-24: helps clear heat in the Gallbladder and calms the Liver.
Danshu Bl-19: also clears damp-heat
Qimen Liv-14: helps steady your Stomach function and spreads the Liver Qi that’s got all snarled up.
Ganshu: Bl-18: like Danshu, this helps spread Liver Qi and clear Heat in the Liver.
Points specially for Damp
For dampness there are several acupuncture pints, but dampness is not cleared so easily and may need several treatments:
Other useful points increase the effectiveness of the treatment, such as on the Gallbladder channel itself:
Tianchong Gb-9: helps with headache and tinnitus, fear and anxiety, even palpitations, if your condition is making you feel that way.
Naokong Gb-19: if this is sore to the touch, your eyes will probably be troubling you. To find it, feel across the back of your head (the occiput) until you find a sore bit about 2 to 4 cms from the mid-line. Rub or squeeze it firmly. (It might make you a bit more nauseous but at least your eye pain and eyesight will improve.)
Zulinqi Gb-41: on the foot, between the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones just distal from their proximal junction. It is a great point for helping to clear the hypochondriacal pain and discomfort and it helps clear your head too. This is hard to treat yourself as the point is quite deep, and can be sore.
Herbs for Gallbladder Damp-Heat
There are many formulae, used as the basis for prescribing a herbal decoction to suit you. Some are more for treating jaundice, others for different symptoms. Here are two possibles:
zhong man fen xiao wan – this is more for the earlier or less extreme stages when there is fullness and irritability, even fever, but probably not yet jaundice
yin chen hao tang – this is more a basis for treating jaundice
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