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Dampness and Fluid Metabolism

Is all this rain we’ve had lately making you feel a soggy mess? Just like the vegetation outside, our bodies can hold on to excess water and leave us feeling heavy and damp inside.  Dampness can cause a host of unwanted symptoms: fatigue and fog, worsened allergic rhinitis, digestive problems, increased joint pain, and edema in the lower body.

In Chinese medicine dampness is a condition related to an inability to properly metabolize fluids. The organs directly related to metabolism of fluids are the spleen, kidney, triple burner, and the lungs. The spleen is an organ of digestion; its job is to transform and transport all the food and drink we consume and provide nutrients to the body. When the spleen is weak the result is poor digestion, fatigue, foggy mind, loose stools, gas, bloating, increased phlegm, low appetite, and edema. The spleen is greatly affected by poor food choices which puts even more stress on an already stressed spleen. As to the kidney, if the qi and yang is weak and fluid metabolism is affected, there may be problems with urination and edema. When dampness accumulates it sinks to the lower body.  In my practice I see that the spleen is primarily affected when damp conditions arise outside taking an already out of balance body even further out of balance.

Now what can you do to combat this dampness! Chinese medicine, through the use of acupuncture and heat therapy or moxibustion, powerfully boosts the spleen qi and its ability to transform and transport fluids, optimize digestion, boost yang qi and drain the dampness from the body. Chinese herbs are another terrific way to treat dampness lurking in the body. Herbs are chosen specifically for each patient to drain or dry the dampness and boost the spleen and harmonize digestive function. If you have a tendency toward a weak spleen from a stressful lifestyle, poor diet, weak digestion, or chronic illness, the damp weather will aggravate your condition so it’s important to make optimal dietary changes and schedule regular acupuncture visits.

Food therapy is my number one choice in practice to help strengthen the organs of fluid metabolism and bring your body back into balance. Foods to focus on to support the spleen and leach out dampness include corn, celery, watermelon, brown rice, barley, oats, kidney and adzuki beans, lemon, organic meats, whole fruits in moderation (not juice), sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, raspberry leaf tea, seafood, nutmeg, thyme, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel. Foods to avoid are just as important; these include dairy of all types, tofu, bananas, refined sugar, alcohol, fried foods, raw foods, and cold or iced drinks.  Encourage warm cooked foods, especially when there is weak digestion, and if cooking during the summer months just isn’t for you, eating foods at room temperature is a great alternative.

Other important ways to boost the spleen qi and resolve dampness are to chew your food thoroughly and focus only on your meal or snack and not multitasking while eating. Seek out joy each day, relax and properly manage stress in your life. Enjoy sweets in moderation and focus on warm and cooked foods.

We cannot control the weather nor stop the rain, but we can make the right choices when it comes to what we are putting in our body to impact our health and wellbeing. But I’m hopeful the rain will stop soon and allow the sun to come out and help dry up some of the dampness outside!

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