Now I’m Convinced I’m Too Damp

Photo: Sergey Ivanychev / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Recently my colleague Katie Heaney alerted me to the concept of physical and dietary “dampness.” In traditional Chinese medicine, dampness is considered to be one of the “6 Pernicious Influences” that cause disease, alongside heat, cold, wind, dryness, and summer heat.

At the time, the idea of dampness seemed funny, in part because of the word itself — I envisioned food looking sad out in the rain — but also because the site Heaney shared with me was sort of out-there.

But I kept thinking about and Googling dampness (also just repeating “dampness” to myself), and I’m now tentatively 100 percent into it. It’s fun to think about anyway. Also maybe damp season is upon us? (It’s worth noting that the pernicious influence of dampness is not scientifically proven.)

The rationale is that people become damp when they have too much fluid to process in the body, specifically in the spleen system — or, when external and internal factors throw off the body’s equilibrium by impairing digestion and water metabolism. As far as I understand it, dampness makes us cold, clammy, phlegm-y, tired, and generally gross. Or, as Acupuncture Today summarizes:

Dampness can be thought of as the condition of “high humidity” inside the body. Symptoms can include a feeling of heaviness, swelling or water retention, distended abdomen, phlegm discharge, nodular masses, loose bowels and turbidity of fluids. Individuals with a dampness condition often have sluggish energy and easily gain weight.

Last week, Mind Body Green also ran a post about dampness, from an acupuncturist, outlining the main ways of determining whether your body and diet are damp, and how to prevent against dampness going forward.

For avoiding or correcting dampness, the main idea is to avoid cold foods — as well as sugar, white flour, booze, and fried food (here is a longer list). Also, bananas are unexpectedly dampness-promoting, which has sort of captured my imagination. (Despite yellow foods being otherwise generally dampness-eliminating.) I like this chatty guide of what to eat if you’re feeling internally damp. (If you fail, “Just climb back on that seabull and catch another wave!”) The more I dig into dampness, though, the more it seems as if practically all foods are damp (nearly everything I eat, for instance), which is either telling or ridiculous or both.

Dampness can be countered with certain non-damp foods, as well as with exercise, spices, warm drinks, and trips to the sauna.

If you feel like getting on board with the idea that dampness may be your problem, I enjoyed acupuncturist Amy C. Darling’s summary of and guide to dampness (and dampness elimination). For instance: “Some foods act like kindling … Other foods are like slow burning briquettes.”

Well, that’s been the dampness report for this week.

Now I’m Convinced I’m Too Damp