What Is ‘Dampness’ and How to Treat This Debilitating Condition


A person will feel bulky and sleepy all the time when they are damp. (Image: Dreamstime.com / Sick Bed © Manit Larpluechai)

Health in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) hinges on striking a balance between all the elements in our bodies. A person will feel bulky and sleepy all the time when they are damp. The body feels sticky like glue and the person feels sluggish. In TCM, dampness is described as being like cotton that has been soaked in oil. Too much dampness in the body can cause acute or chronic health issues if left untreated for too long.

Yang and yin bodies respond differently to dampness

Dampness affects people with different constitutions, such as yin (cold) and yang (hot) differently. A yin person usually feels very sensitive to the cold and tires easily. A yang person feels hot, is prone to muscle and joint aches, and is more susceptible to skin conditions.

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If the problem worsens, the dampness will affect blood vessels, resulting in high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart and kidney problems. For yang body types, its symptoms are most visible on the skin, in forms such as acne and eczema. Drowsiness is less pronounced for yang people; instead, there’ll be pain around the shoulders, neck, back of the head, waist, and joints.

Causes of dampness

There are many factors that cause dampness in the body, but most are external. Dampness enters the body through the respiratory organs and people who are sensitive to the changes in their environment can develop a conscious sensation of dampness.

Dampness in the body is often characterized by a feeling of thickness and stickiness, moving downward toward the extremities. However, dampness can also be caused by ailments of the digestive system. The reason could be an imbalance of qi flow and stagnation in such organs as the stomach or spleen.

As a result, the dampness that would normally be evenly spread out and utilized by the body and its other organs will accumulate in the area of the organ affected by a qi deficiency or a stagnation.

Dampness can be caused by ailments of the digestive system.
Dampness can be caused by ailments of the digestive system. (Image: Dreamstime.com © motortion )

When the body is damp, metabolic activities also slow down. In this state, the body is more prone to fall victim to ailments, edema, and obesity.

Coinciding with an increased amount of dampness, too much humidity can bring on discomforts such as headaches, eczema, edema, a persistent cough, sore muscles, and tiredness.

Susceptible conditions and symptoms of dampness

Overweight or obese people tend to have dampness. If the condition is serious, it will result in swelling of the lower limbs, especially around the ankles. Thus, weight loss, daily exercise, and a healthy diet are the recommended treatments for immediate results to reduce dampness.

People with heavy dampness often tire easily. They do not want to move and their head feels heavy and thoughts are foggy. Their joints are stiff and their body aches all over. All of these are signs of congested dampness and blocked meridians. These people also often experience chest tightness and need to take deep breaths often.

People suffering from heavy dampness do not feel hungry. A few bites are enough to make them feel bloated and the food feels like it can come up any minute. This is a typical sign of a weak spleen due to dampness.

People with heavy dampness need to urinate often, but the volume each time is not much and may be accompanied by pain.

If the skin and hair are oily, it is often a sign of dampness. Swollen eyelids and bags under the eyes in the morning or a dull or yellowish skin tone are all are signs that point to dampness.

Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, can be helpful in the treatment of dampness.
Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, can be helpful in the treatment of dampness. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Food therapy for dampness

Winter melon

Winter melon clears heat, promotes water flow, and relieves edema. Adding ginger to make winter melon soup can expel the body’s coldness, generate sweating, and quicken the pace of ridding dampness.

Bitter melon

Bitter melon tastes bitter and is cool in nature. It can clear heat, expel dampness, promote urination, lower blood temperature, detoxify, and supplement energy.

Mung beans

Cool in food nature, mung bean can clear heat, detoxify, promote water flow, reduce edema, and relieve eczema itchiness. It is a good food therapy choice.

Coix seed 

Coix seed is sweet and slightly cool in food nature. It functions to reduce edema, clear heat, replenish the spleen and discharge pus. It is good for ridding of dampness, especially for the cases of rheumatism, arthritis, and edema.

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