Foods with draining qualities such as aduki beans and alfalfa sprouts as especially useful in resolving Dampness in the lower abdomen, affecting the genitourinary system and colon. Dampness in the middle zone of the body which inclusion the Liver Gall Bladder and Stomach can be helped by bitter foods which dry Dampness such as endive and dandelion and pungent foods which break through Dampness such as the onion family. In the upper body, Phlegm in the Lung can be helped by pungent foods such as radish, garlic or mustard greens.
Fruit is generally moistening but certain fruits have decongesting qualities that can benefit Dampness. Papaya, pineapple and pears can be useful helper. Papaya enzymes have sometimes been used to increase the digestibility of meat, and pineapple is a natural accompaniment to cheese. It would be a mistake, and a shame, to cut out fruit; rather, more care needs to be taken not to cause fermentation though combining fruit with starchy foods. It is the more lubricating fruits such as banana and the tropical fruit the are most likely to aggravate Dampness; although, where cold and Dampness combine, all raw fruit intake needs to be very restricted.
The treatment of Dampness depends on how and where it is manifesting. It may be combining with Heat or Cold and focused in the Gall Bladder or manifesting as Phlegm in the Lung. Generally speaking all bitter flavor herbs will be helpful. For example, a cup of coffee a after a meal can help the breakdown of food and when Dampness is affecting the skin, burdock is a good remedy Barley water is an excellent general counter to Dampness (see recipe section). It is customary in China to serve jasmine or green tea with a meal to reduce its Dampening effects. Sage I also recommended as a general remedy for all Damp conditions.
Pungent, decongesting foods can be used to accompany rich foods such as meat. Mustard and horseradish are particularly useful in damp and cold climates such as northern Europe's. These are native plants ideally suited to the civilizations they live with.
Spleen Dampness is addressed by strengthening the Spleen Qi and by stimulating the Spleen's action through the use of bitter and aromatic flavor. This makes aromatic basement rice the rice of choice, especially when flavoring by aromatic herbs and spices such as basil, thyme and fennel. Most beans have a strengthening as well as a drying action: broad bean, which is somewhat a romantic, and chickpea are especially helpful. Corn-on-the-cob and pumpkin provide both Spleen-nourishing and Damp-resolving actions. The combined condition of Cold and Dampness affecting the Spleen can be countered by the inclusion of warm and pungent herbs such as horseradish, cardamom, ginger, clove and black pepper.
Porridge made from millet will help remove Damp Heat from the Stomach and spleen whilst strengthening the kidney at the same time. It is also common to find conditions of Damp Heat in the Intestines. Here both cooling and draining qualities are called for rice and barley are mildly diuretic grains which will help as will the diuretic actions of aduki and mung beans and the draining action of celery, seaweed or watercress. When bloods present in the stool, auburn can be helpful. The bitter nature of pumpkin seedling is also useful.
Dampness in the Stomach, Liver and Gall Bladder
When Dampness combines with Heat and affects the Stomach, Gall Bladder and Liver this may manifest as nausea, discomfort around the lower ribcage, a bilious taste in the mouth and reactionary to foods with moist and hot energies such as fried and fatty food. Bitter foods are called for here and food with cool the system and drain moisture. Judiciously use of sour foods such as unsweetened pickles will also help to decongest the Liver.
Such bitter leaves as chicory and endive are helpful; rye and roasted barley are helpful grains; mung beans will cool and drain moisture. Soup of mung bean and seaweed or water crease soup would be appropriate. A dish of barley and lightly cooked cabbage also has a reputation for helping this condition. Useful herbs include inclusive purslane, wormwood, golden seal, the gentian and dandelion root.
Dampness in the Bladder
Dampness in the Bladder can combine with either Heat or Cold. Its characteristic symptoms are difficult, frequent and cloudy urination. Heat or coldly are distinguished by the color of the urine: more yellow in cased of Heat and more paled in cases of Cold. This pattern frequently occurs as a result of exposure to cold or damp environments. The appropriate dietary approach is to drain the Dampness and resolve the Heat or Cold.
Diuretic foods such as aduki bean or peas are helpfully for all conditions of Dampness in the Bladder. Where Heat is present, melon, alfalfa, aduki or mung bean are good choices; golden-seal, celery seed or corn-silk (the taste on the end of corncob) are very effective as tea and barley water is a classic remedy (see recipe section). Where Cold is present, some warming spices such as fennel, fenugreek or ginger can be added to support the Kidney Yang.
In cases of Hot Phlegm such cooling, bitter and/or pungent foods as radish, watercress and seaweed are appropriate. Where there is Cold, more warming foods such as garlic, onion, horseradish, mustard greens or kohlrabi can be chosen. A simple dish of turnip can be used as a remedy for both Hot and Cold Phlegm.
Expectorant herbs such as mullein, colts-foot, eucalyptus and elderly flower help to resolve conditions of Hot Phlegm. An effective and pleasant tea can be made from equal parts colts-foot, mullein and licorice. Thyme, hyssop, basil and winter savory can be used to resolve Cold Phlegm and tangerine peel is excellent in tea. Nettles provide a useful tonic for the Lung and help resolve all conditions of Phlegm.
Moderating the Effects of Dampening Food
To moderate the Dampening nature of wheat, wheat bread can be toasted; or less Dampening flours such as rye can be used. Caraway, dill seed or other decongesting spices and herbs can be added when making your own bread. In the case of pasta, use pesto, garlic, pepper, onions or walnuts to create a decongesting sauce. Pizza can be served with toppings of anchovy. Garlic, onion, tuna, sweets-corn and olives, flavoured with Damp-resolving herbs such as basil and thyme and accompanied by a small bitter salad.
If using dairy, try goat and sheep, soured dairy products, soya milk and unpractical raw milk and consider combining them with some Damp-resolving spices. Hard cheese can be eaten with apple or onion, cottage cheese, which is a less Dampening option, can be accompanied by chives, the garlic, a pineapple. Rye crackers make a more drying base.
Beef and heavy meat can be served with horseradish or mustard and accompanied by green leafy vegetables or a bitter salad. Beer drinkers can favor more bitter varieties, organically produced and served at room temperature. Nuts can be dryly roasted gently to lessen the effects of rancidity. Sugar 'fixes' can make use of less refined sweeteners such as molasses malt extract, date syrup, anmsake or honey.
The absolve avoidance of Dampen foods isn't fun. When Dampening food is consumed try to limit the amount, avoid overeating and offset the food's Dampening nature with foods that have Damp-resolving properties.
Some Guidelines for Eating
- Eat simply. Too many ingredients poorly combined make hard work for the Spleen (the Organ governing the digestive process in traditional Chinese medicine). Simple food will help support easy digestion as well as an inner sense of clarity.
- Eat lightly. Overeating will congest the Spleen's function and is a major cause of Stagnation and Dampness. The art is to stop just before becoming full. If we can do this we will find that we have much more energy levels.
- Reduce sugar. Sugar and all highly sweet foods can easily over whelm the Spleen. The over-consumption of sugar easily leads to intestinal fermentation and creates a happy home for intestinal parasites. It also weakens the Blood and destination Energetically levels.
- Include a few naturally fermented foods in the diet such as natural sauerkraut, dill pickles or natural yoghurt. These are good helpers to the digestive process.
- Separate sweet foods and fruit from the main meal. For many people this helps reduce digestive fermentation and supports the Spleen's action of sifting and sorting.
- Drink between rather than with meal. The Spleen is easy over whelmed by too much fluid. It is generally better to limit intake to a cupful of water or tea at meals so as not to over-dilute the digestive juices.
- Avoid too much cold food. Cold food overwhelms the digestive fire and can slow down the digestive process.
- Chew well. Chewing starts the digestive process in the mouth. Well-chewed food presents less work for the stomach and intestines.
- Fear, especially of spontaneity and sexual expression, may lead to contraction in the kindness function.
- Impatience is linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the Bladder.
- Over control of the creative drive, a direction life, chronic anger and avoidance of personal power are linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the Liver.
- Chromic indecisiveness is linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the Gall Bladder.
- Anger and resentment, lack of forgiveness, restrained love, loneliness, over-stimulation, or life in the fast land are linked to a pattern of deficiency in the heart.
- Feeling full of restrained tears and chronic states of confusion are linked to pattern of Deficiency in the Small Intestine.
Emotions: Chronic holding of unresolved or unexpressed emotions will impact the physical body and cause under activity over activity or disruptive activity of the QI.
QI is highly responsive to emotional states. In Chinese medicine the effect of emotional experience on the body has been observantly mapped. The list below is drawn from the ancient writing about Chinese medicine and from the experience of modern-day practitioners. I would like to stress that these are observations rather than 'rules
- Self-absorption, over concern with other people or with causes, struggles with dependency, anxiety about the future and any chronic state of insecurity are linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the spleen.
- Chronic dissatisfaction, disgust, disappointment, greed, compulsive behavior and chronic hunger are linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the stomach.
- Grief, aloud self-critic or judgmental attitudes projected out wards, poor self-esteem and pride are linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the Lung.
- Guilt, shame, depression and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility are linked to a pattern of Deficiency in the Large Intestine.