Stomach Damp-Heat

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I used to get Stomach Damp-Heat a lot, until I worked out that it nearly always followed eating the wrong foods.

Now you may be someone who can eat what are, for me, the wrong foods to your heart's content and you may never notice a problem.

But, just possibly, one day, you'll notice the symptoms, possibly caused by different circumstances. Then I would advise you very quickly to reduce your intake of the 'wrong' foods. If you don't, your unpleasant 'damp-heat' symptoms will last and last.

(This syndrome is also called Damp-Heat in the Stomach.)

I once had a patient who came for treatment for sinusitis. I told him about the foods which I thought were his problem, and I did treat him once, but he never came back so I didn't know whether I'd helped.

Years later, at a party, we met. He recognised me (I'm sorry to say I didn't recognise him) and he told me that as soon as he corrected his diet, all his symptoms went: for good. So I still don't know whether the treatment I gave, as opposed to the advice, did any good!

By the way, if you want to read about the important functions which the Stomach performs, according to Chinese (as opposed to Western) medicine, click Stomach.

Read about these two factors separately under Damp and Heat.

Symptoms of Stomach Damp-Heat

You won't necessarily get all these symptoms! Even a few of them will probably be enough to diagnose this syndrome if you see an acupuncturist. The main ones are usually those in bold.

  • discharge from your nose, usually yellow, but can be white to start with: usually quite thick, creamy but thick.
  • eventually, pain in your face. This can be behind or in your nose, but is commonly in your cheeks, under your eyes. Can also be above your eyes. These facial symptoms are explained in Chinese medicine by the pathway of the Stomach channel over your face. 
  • nose feels blocked. May be one-sided to start with. You may have the urge to blow it. If it dries, you'll want to pick it. Try not to, because that way, even if there was no infection before you did so, there probably will be once you've had a go at it! Then you'll get more pain, more inflammation, more yellow snot and more misery. And it will have been your fault!
  • epigastrium, your stomach area at the top of your abdomen, feels full and becomes painful to pressure. This can combine with other Stomach syndromes as it worsens - see below for a list of them. This pain on pressure means this is a 'full' or 'excess' kind of condition.
  • you feel tired and heavy. Lack of energy. Legs may feel weak, a symptom of Stomach Qi Deficiency - see below.
  • nausea: you feel sick, whether or not you have eaten. 
  • tendency to feel hot. This may initially simply be a preference for wearing less or opening windows. Later you may look a bit yellow or red and easily become a little stroppy. As the condition progresses you may get a fever, more likely later in the day, ie afternoon onwards.
  • complexion goes yellow. Not a bright yellow, but a dull yellow, which your friends may be able to see in certain lights.
  • you may begin to have a bit of a smell, either of infected phlegm or sometimes a slightly sickly-sweet aroma. You won't notice it. Some women get the same smell, pre-menstrually.
  • a curious symptom: you don't want to drink, but you still feel a bit thirsty. The reason for this in Chinese medicine is that the Damp in your syndrome is blocking the proper flow of liquids. You feel hot but because of the Damp, there's no room for more fluid, or so your body would have you believe.
  • Tongue: you may have a sticky taste, but your tongue will look a bit red (because of Heat, and will have a sticky yellow coating on it (because of Damp and Heat).
  • Pulse: will be slippery, because of the Damp, and rapid, because of the Heat, depending on the comparative levels of Damp and Heat.

Why you get this

1. Tension and Worry: your emotions

In the West, we don't tend to think our emotions can affect us physically. But they do, mightily. Whether you dismiss them as psychosomatic is your problem!

In Chinese medicine, everything is interconnected and emotions can certainly affect physical symptoms, and vice versa.

The emotions that upset the Stomach are 

  • worry influenced or caused by
  • frustration
  • anger
  • resentment
  • bitterness
  • anxiety and 
  • sometimes, grief

But the main ones are frustration and anger. This could arise from home or at work. It could develop over a long period.

2. Food

What you eat makes a huge difference to your health. If you are sensitive to the following foods, they may quickly produce in you the symptoms described above.

Some people notice symptoms when they eat even the smallest amount; others have to eat lots in one go; still others notice symptoms only if they eat even a moderate amount but they eat it consistently, regularly. For many people this is the most difficult variation, because they eat other things too and don't realise the specific cause of their problems.

Here are the main culprits, though for you, (yes you!), these foods might be no problem, and something else might be what causes you to have Stomach Damp-Heat.

  • Dairy foods: milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, butter. Remember that lots of foods, including soups and curries, puddings and biscuits, contain dairy food. It's hard to avoid in many Western countries: you have to look a the label.
  • Fried food: the fattier and greasier the worse the problem
  • Grease, fat and oil in your food. Some kinds of food contain high quantities of fat but because the fat is bound, the food doesn't feel fatty or greasy. For example, many pastries and crusts contain high amounts of fat. Indian and Chinese foods sometimes contain lots of oil. Biscuits and cakes contain fats. 
  • How you cook your food can cause Stomach damp-heat. If you always or often eat fried or deep-fried food, which produces Heat in your body, you will become more susceptible to Stomach Damp-Heat. Frying increases the Heat in a food.

Note! Your body needs oils and fats! Without them it soon gets ill. It needs fats both unsaturated (eg in seeds and nuts and fish oil) and saturated - as found in many meats.

It does not need trans-fats, which make it ill. Some fats are essential for your health, specifically the unsaturated so-called Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. 

For more on this read the excellent - and very readable - book on the right by Udo Erasmus: "Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill".

3. Weather

Although on its own warm, humid weather doesn't cause Stomach Damp-Heat, it can certainly exacerbate the symptoms, and make it harder to clear.

Why Stomach Damp-Heat is a problem

Like the compost heap in the picture (©Barbara Reddoch) the inside of your body is a warm, damp place. Consequently any pre-existing damp in your body can be transformed into Damp-Heat by your metabolism's natural warmth and humidity.

This is more likely to happen if you are subject to the above causes. Anger, in particular, can heat you.

Stomach Damp-Heat is not always easy to remove, even by eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones, or by avoiding situations that anger and frustrate you.

People who live in cold climates are naturally drawn to eat oils and fats by their metabolism/appetite and they need the fats for health. So they can become more susceptible to Damp-Heat.

Just like a thick, humid fog, Stomach Damp-Heat blocks things up and Qi cannot flow properly. In particular, in the Stomach Damp-Heat disrupts Stomach Qi from flowing in its natural direction.

This can cause nausea as Stomach Qi, which should flow downwards, goes upwards. It also blocks up the natural needs of your body, making you sometimes feel thirsty or dry-mouthed but without a desire to drink.

Several other syndromes, if they already exist in your body. make Stomach Damp-Heat more likely:

How to get rid of Stomach Damp-Heat!

In Chinese medicine, there are three parts to the treatment for Stomach Damp-Heat ie three things to do:

  1. 'Resolve' the Damp. Your acupuncturist has an array of points that can help. There are also very good herbal recipes eg Lian Po Yin. If you are the patient, you must, at least for a while, stop eating whatever foods are causing the Damp.
  2. Clear the Heat. Acupuncture and herbs work here too. If you are the patient, stop eating foods that are too heating. And learn either to avoid situations that make you emotional, especially those that make you angry. Or learn to control your tendency to get angry: perhaps take up meditation or go to anger-management classes. Exercise - vigorous - that makes you get out of breath and sweat, is good for burning off Heat. But to begin with, you may feel too tired and heavy to do this. Still, perhaps you can go for walks.
  3. Regulate the Stomach so that it starts descending its Qi in the natural healthy downwards direction. Acupuncture is excellent here. You can help, not just by eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones, but by chewing what you eat very thoroughly. To find out more click on Nutrition.

And make sure you eat the right oils! Udo Erasmus' book "Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill" (left) explains how important oils are for your metabolism.

The right oils are very unlikely to cause Stomach Damp-Heat.

The wrong ones, especially if you take too many of them, certainly will.


If you find giving up the 'wrong foods' very difficult, go and see your acupuncturist. Often, when a particular energy organ is out of balance, it makes itself even worse by craving the wrong foods. Your acupuncturist may be able to 're-set' your Stomach so that you find you don't crave the wrong foods.

Of course, nothing is perfect and you will need to exercise some self-control, but you'll find that easier after the treatment.

If you eat the right foods, including the right oils (together with enough vegetables and protein) your skin will look luminous and you'll feel great!

Get back from this page on Stomach Damp-Heat to our general page on Damp-Heat by clicking here.

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