When we talk about humidity, often, we’re referring to the weather. But what is humidity or Dampness in terms of our body constitution?
A familiar term in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Dampness (湿气) is a condition believed to cause a person to be unwell. In the long term, the habits that lead to humidity can cause serious illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
This article will delve into Dampness, from its definition to its symptoms. It will also explore the bad habits contributing to Dampness and how to fix them with TCM-approved natural remedies.
What is Humidity and Types of Dampness?
As the temperature gets hot, the natural response of the human body is to sweat. But if there’s high humidity in the air, sweat can’t evaporate, and the body is unable to cool off. This can cause several problems as the body needs to work harder, resulting in excessive sweating and overheating.
A similar principle applies to TCM. The ancient Chinese recognises nine different body constitutions. Each person has their own constitution that affects how they feel, behave and respond to illnesses. Among these nine, two are related to Dampness.
In TCM, phlegm-Dampness is caused by too many toxins and metabolites that remain in the body. This condition is usually found in obese people.
When phlegm-Dampness becomes worse, it can lead to more severe health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
TCM explains this constitution occurring when the Spleen, which regulates transportation and transformation of nutrition through converting food and water into nutrition, doesn’t function properly.
Water and wetness from external (hot, rainy weather) or internal sources (poor digestion) can also cause Damp-Heat. When stored in the body for a long period, water and wetness may turn into heat, triggering Damp-Heat syndrome.
If the condition goes untreated, it may develop into chronic kidney disease, pneumonia, and asthma.
Symptoms of Dampness
These symptoms indicate Dampness in the body:
- A body shape that is heavy and obese with a soft, large belly. You’d experience a rebound after weight loss
- Loose, sticky stool. You always feel that your bowels don’t empty completely
- Constant tiredness that cannot be relieved even after sleeping or heavy-headedness upon waking up
- Thick and greasy tongue coating. In the case of Damp-Heat, the coating is yellowish and greasy
- A greasy face with oily scalp and hair
- A feeling of skin stickiness from sweat and excess mucus
- A bad appetite or tastelessness in the mouth
- Damp scrotum in men
- White or yellow vaginal discharge in women
- Body odour or bad breath
Bad Habits Can Cause Dampness
In TCM practice, each person has a unique body constitution or body type that changes over time. This affects how you feel and behave, and how your body responds to causes of illness. Undesirable health conditions and illnesses can arise if your body is imbalanced.
The food we consume and our lifestyle habits may affect the humidity in your body, causing this imbalance. Examples of these habits are:
- Eating food that is too oily, salty and sugary
- Excessive consumption of meat and processed food such as instant noodles, deli meats, canned and frozen packaged food
- Excessive alcohol, especially cold beer
- Overindulging in cold and raw foods or beverages, for example, ice water, ice cream, salads
- Staying up late too often
- Taking baths late at night and not drying the body and hair immediately
- Prolonged sitting or lack of physical exercise
- Staying too long in a humid environment or an air-conditioned room
- Sleeping on the floor
How to Get Rid of Dampness
Because your lifestyle can bring about Dampness, changing bad habits can reduce its effects on your body. Here are some things you can do:
- Eat balanced meals and avoid overeating
- Avoid eating late
- Consume less oil, salt and sugar
- Limit your intake of cold food and alcohol
- Consume foods that are believed to invigorate the Spleen and reduce Dampness such as tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮), si shen soup (四神汤), millet porridge (xiao mi zhou, 小米粥), cooked barley (da mai, 大麦), red bean (hong dou, 红豆), pearl barley congee (yi yi ren zhou, 薏苡仁粥), Dampness-removing tea (qu shi cha, 祛湿茶)
- Go to bed early. 11pm is the ideal time according to our sleep cycle
- Avoid being sedentary
- Try soaking your feet, taking a bath or doing other activities to stimulate sweating and let water out of your body
- Take earlier showers
We now know what is humidity and that it can be tricky to avoid. This is because we live in a humid country and rely so much on air-conditioning to cool down. But we can try eating healthily, exercising regularly and sleeping on time to counter the impacts of Dampness in the body.
This is an adaptation of an article, “8个坏习惯加重体内湿气”, which first appeared on the Health123 website.
- Hindawi. 2018. Expert Consensus of Syndrome Differentiation for Phlegm Turbidity Syndrome for Coronary Heart Disease. [online] Available at: <https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/8184673/> [Accessed on 29 July 2022]
- Chinese Journal of Experimental Traditional Medical Formulae. 2020. Advances Research on Mechanism of Traditional Chinese Medicine Against Damp-heat Syndrome. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed on 28 July 2022]
- UPMC HealthBeat. 2014. Effects of Humidity on Your Body. [online] Available at: <https://share.upmc.com/2014/06/effects-humidity-body/> [Accessed on 29 July 2022]
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