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Damp :The Most Common Chinese Medicine Diagnosis and How to Treat It

What is Damp and Do I Have It?


If I was as savvy as the budget airlines I would have added an additional pound to every treatment that ‘damp’ was mentioned or treated. Damp is the ‘excess baggage’ of Chinese Medicine. It can make your body heavy and lethargic and causes disharmony within your system.

It’s a common Chinese Medicine (CM) diagnosis and is seen as a foundation to many Western conditions. There can be many other factors at play both in an Eastern and Western medical diagnosis so consider this blog as a simple overview.


Common Conditions That Are Attributed to Damp are:



Arthritis, fibromyalgia

Sinus, hayfever and some allergies

Eczema,skin rashes and acne

Thrush and BV

Digestive disorders, bloating, reflux

Brain fog and lethargy

Persistent Cough or nasal congestion

Weak immune system

PCOS and some infertility


Damp Explained in Layperson’s Terms


Having a damp constitution in CM is not too dissimilar as to having damp in your home. It weakens the bodies foundations, makes things soggy and boggy.  This results in fluids pooling and they can’t move or move slowly and are therefore more difficult to resolve and for want of a better term ‘dry out.’


Common signs of damp are feeling groggy and heavy limbed upon waking, consistently loose stools or mucus in the stools, snotty nose, sinus, brain fog/ lack of energy and topical skin complaints. You might also have a poor immune system and pick up every bug around.


Diagnosis and Cause

We can diagnose damp through symptoms and pulse taking but also by looking at the tongue. Poke out your tongue in the mirror- does it often have a white coat on it? Even when you scrape your tongue it’s there again in the morning?  Another sign your body isn’t moving the excess fluids is if it swollen with bite marks on the side.


It is very common in the UK to see patients with damp especially because of the climate- it rains A LOT. Think how hard it is to dry your washing in this climate- same happens to your body.  For double your efficiency I recommend a dehumidifier for both the washing and your body.


Damp can develop externally by living in a damp environment or internally from an improper diet, stress, worry/overthinking and too much screen time.  Those internal factors we are all guilty of in modern life.


Western Diets Versus Eastern Diets


The easiest way to help reduce damp is to make some dietary adjustments.  The foods that exacerbate damp are dairy products, too many raw and cold foods ( food and water at room temperature or warm is preferable), refined sugar, fried foods and alcohol. White carbs like cake, processed breads and refined pastas. Occasionally okay but multiple servings is where the issues take hold.

Foods that counteract damp are soups and stews, baked vegetables, good cuts of lean meat, stir frys, legumes, porridge (without cow’s milk), herbal teas with eggs in moderation.

Here is a table I complied from Paul Pitchford’s ‘Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (Third Edition) that might give some guidance.





White Pepper







Aduki beans




Sweet Potato






Moderate amount of all vegetables and legumes-




Raw Honey

Goats,oat,rice milk ok. Almond/coconut milk in moderation

Goats or sheep cheese and yoghurts have a neutral effect.





All Grains:




In moderation:


Brown Rice







Excess Meat and

Protein including nuts and seeds




Recreational Drug







Refined Sugar

Excess sweets

Dairy foods from cows





Bananas ( not one a day- 1 a week)




( tropical fruits only to be eaten in the Summer)


·      Limited intake of highly sweet foods including and dried fruit

·      Small amounts of red meat, eggs, oils, dairy products

·     Excessive consumption of raw or cold foods- (including raw juices

Do not eat cold foods from the fridge and ice in drinks ( room temperature is best)

·      Avoid too many ingredients in one meal ( poor food combining)

·      Late night eating

·      Over eating

·      Avoid highly processed food or preserved with chemicals

·      Exercise is encouraged to stop the formation of mucus within the body.

·      To avoid damp environments where possible- damp flats etc

How Do I Apply The Theory?


If you are suffering from any of the outlined symptoms it might seem counterproductive to reduce foods perceived as healthy in the West.

The popular smoothie is the perfect example of how things can get very confusing.

Smoothies are not to blame it’s the frequency of consumption of these foods especially if you already have damp.

Smoothies made with fresh fruit and spinach or kale, a banana and milk (or milk alternative) seem a good way to introduce lots of 5 a day and are easy to prepare. I get it.


However the majority of ingredients are cold and raw and sugary ( I hate to say a banana is the devils work for people with damp). 


Our stomach is the central furnace to our whole body so seasonal eating is important here too. In the West we eat salads in the middle of Winter when its freezing cold and raining. This diet makes it hard for our body to keep us and our digestion warm and working well.


Often my patients with damp are people who are generally health conscious. For e.g They have fruit and yoghurt for breakfast ( out of the fridge- raw, cold and dairy) eat a cold/raw salad at lunch and have a home- made lasagne for dinner with cheese.

 From a Western perspective this looks balanced and healthy but if you are prone to damp it’s making your ‘digestive fire’ weak and you fill up with water- (just like damp walls of a house) and you become essentially ‘waterlogged’.

If you subbed out two of the meals to not contain damp ingredients that brings down the load. It’s about reduction in most cases - finding a balance is required.


Dietary changes will help but supporting the body by building the stomach and spleen energy with acupuncture is recommended and in my clinical experience very effective. I’ve seen chronic cases turn around with diet adjustments and acupuncture.


Below is a fantastic blog from a Singaporean practitioner Xiang Jun and she does a very detailed explanation if you would like to read further.











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