While “damp” probably isn’t a word you’ve associated with food before, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers the impact of some foods on the internal balance of the body to be either damp or dry—and neither extreme is ideal. Here’s what you should know about this school of thought, and how to tell if certain foods are having a damp or drying effect on your internal systems.
Dampness and dryness are two of the six “pernicious influences” (essentially the six evils that are thought to disrupt your body) in TCM that are believed to affect your body’s balance and cause illness and disharmony—along with cold, heat, wind and summer heat.
Basically, after being consumed and digested, some foods are thought to create an environment of internal dampness or dryness. Although some people are inherently predisposed to be either damp or dry, it’s thought that diet really exacerbates this existing predisposition.
With dampness, it’s thought that the symptoms start in the digestive symptom and spleen, and then build up and wind up bringing stagnation to the rest of the body. This stagnation lends itself to unpleasant symptoms like lethargy, bloating, unwanted weight gain and phlegmy lungs, and an excess of dampness can lead to things like yeast infections, sinus infections and cystic acne.
According to Shine Holistic, foods known to cause dampness include milk products (except yoghurt and especially ice cream), sugar and sweets, white-wheat flour, refined starch and highly processed starch products, excess raw fruits and raw vegetables, excess mushrooms, cold beverages and an excess of fermented foods to name just a few.
There are a number of things you can do if you think you’re suffering from excess dampness, including acupuncture, exercising more, avoiding ice cold drinks and foods and limiting consumption of alcohol and greasy foods. Incorporating more onions, ginger, aromatic spices and garlic is also thought to promote balance in an excessively damp body.
At the other end of the spectrum, dry foods typically include things like whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, animal products, roasted vegetables, beans and lentils plus anything remotely spicy. The impact of too much dryness in the body manifests itself through fevers, headaches, dry mouth, nose and throat, thirst, chills and a whole lot more.
Balancing excessive dryness requires eating an abundance of calories, eating foods that are lightly cooked or steamed and drinking heaps of H2o. Incorporating foods like pears, apples, eggs, mushrooms and honey to your diet is also thought to help alleviate symptoms of an excessively dry internal body.
When looking to treat the different ‘climates’ of the human body, TCM believes it’s important to remember that they may not always match the external climate—i.e., it’s pretty common for a person to develop symptoms of cold and dampness in rainy winter weather, but it is also possible to develop heat symptoms under the same weather conditions.
It’s thought that illness is the combination of the particular pathogen involved and a person’s unique response to it. It is also possible for excessive dampness or dryness to arise from internal causes—usually as a result of a chronic internal imbalance.
Ultimately, when it comes to dampness and dryness, the goal is to be neither. Finding equilibrium is key—and looking to find the root of your issue is important to healing the imbalance.