Rice fields on terrace in rainy season at Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai, Vietnam. Rice fields prepare for transplant at Northwest Vietnam

Dampness and phlegm are accumulations that occur in the body which may make us feel’phlegmy’ or simply heavy and tired. When our diet is out of sync with our body, our mind is working overtime, or when the weather is quite damp and humid, we are apt to become stagnant with damp and phlegm.

Internal Dampness & Phlegm

Dampness is generally regarded as a thicker/heavier viscosity compared to phlegm, however may be less evident in bodily signs. Dampness is felt in the heaviness of the body and fogginess of believing, and can be observed in the tongue coat.

Phlegm is thinner and manifests at a runny nose or moist sort of cough.


Foggy mind; poor memory; difficulty waking up in the morning; low energy, especially after eating; loose Stool; poor concentration; leucorrhoea; wet-pustulent skin ailments.


Swollen tongue with teeth marks; white coating on tongue; runny nose, especially after greasy/dairy food; slippery pulse.

One of the indications of dampness is a thick tongue coating and swelling of the tongue body. Sometimes the coating of the tongue is extremely thick and white, particularly in people who consume plenty of dairy like yoghurt and milk. These people often also scrape the coat of the tongue since it’s so thick! This does not deal with the source of the damp problem, just removes one of the indicators.

Damp and phlegm collect for a couple of different reasons. We can initially break down the causes into two categories: Internal and External routes.



Overthinking/stress causing a deficiency of the spleen qi (digestive energy) which can not cope with all the moist foods being ingested, thus causing a sluggish digestion.

Poor diet. Too much milk, greasy, oily, oily, sweet, cold, raw and abundant natured foods.


Humid environment. Tropical weather. Air-conditioner blasting on you during a hot day for extended amounts of time.

The two weeks between each season change, and the end of summer that’s regarded as the’late summer’ or’moist’ period of the year once we anticipate dampness to accumulate.

5 element theory

Chinese medicine relies on the 5 element theory. Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.

Each component relates to a season, organ, emotion and function etc. Dampness relates most closely to earth. The earth element relates to late summer, and the organs of the spleen and stomach.

The task of the spleen and stomach is to convert water and food to energy and the remainder to waste. However, occasionally when this system is run-down and can not convert things correctly, because of a rich diet by way of example, there’s an extra residue left over that can not be disposed of effectively called dampness.

Chinese medicine also claims that if the dampness over flows from the ground element, it’s found in the metallic component; this being the lungs and large intestine. This can explain why sometimes we eat greasy fish and chips or a milk shake and get a runny nose, cough or diarrhea.

Dampness is thick and likes to drain out and down. Sometimes it can not do so as it has blocked and gluggy. There are a couple of ways we eliminate damp. First we wish to decrease the foods which are adding to the problem.

Then we wish to use acupuncture and herbs to open the pores of the skin to spread through perspiration, purge through the feces or drain during urination. Then we will strengthen the digestion with a bland diet, exercise, acupuncture and herbs.

Matter and Energy

A fantastic way to describe Chinese medicine and what we call’digestive fire’ is via fundamental physics principles.

Matter and vitality. The two basic facets of nature are water and fire. We can refer to those 2 components as matter (water) and energy (fire). Everything is a kind of energy and matter, matter being a more condensed type with less energy and vibration as a dispersed and insubstantial form which has highly vibrational electrons and protons.

This stated, the two are interchangeable; nature and life are constantly moving and changing. We are composed of matter and we’re driven by passion, emotion, love and will, in this case we may say that this is the’energy’ or passion that’s life.

Thus, we’re composed of matter, driven by energy. But what fuels this energy? Food, water and air. So we’ve got life, or this’inner fire’, and we wish to add fuel or timber. What type of wood could we add into a campfire?

What burdens the digestive fire?

When we wish to make a fantastic fire, we want good, light and dry wood; like kindling. We notice once we place green sticks on the fire it smokes and dulls the flame. Likewise, when we place a huge log of moist wood on the fire, we are going to extinguish it completely.

The spleen and stomach such as light, dry food. Thus heavy, oily, greasy, raw and dense foods aren’t the sort of thing to strengthen an already feeble digestion. It is similar to throwing a massive heavy wet log onto a little fire. Goodbye fire!

We need to begin with easily digestible foods and grains which are cooked well and not too processed. This is our kindling.

Foods to decrease dampness & return digestive fire

Beans (if you can endure from the gasoline ), celery, pumpkin, turnip, alfalfa, leafy greens

Ingefära is great to heat the digestive fire, particularly in congee. Kardemumma, cinnamon, fennel, paprika, cumin and pepper are warming to the digestion.

Cooked whole grains
Rice, Oats, Korn, Råg, Hirs, Quinoa, Pearl Barley, Bovete, Amarant, Majs

Small quantities of nicely cooked (even slow cooked/stewed) are nice and damp draining. Beef, Lamb, Chicken.

Foods to prevent that increase dampness & decrease digestive fire

Basically, too much raw, cold, sweet, fatty or mucous-forming foods. Too many raw veggies, vegetable, sprouts, juices, cold food from the refrigerator, salad, sushi in excess. Late nighttime eating, over ingestion, not chewing properly.

Processed foods such as pastries, pork, duck, salads, wheat grass, avocados, bananas, soy, soy milk (soy is 50% fats and oils), eggs, chocolate, ice cream, smoothies, bottled water, lassies, dairy.

A raw salad or food diet sounds great and cleanup but might not be beneficial for everybody. Someone who’s very hot, red faced with a strong constitution will benefit a whole lot, however a skinny, pale, tired individual will end up worse. This is due to their illness, digestive fire, and diet.

Further improving digestion and reducing excess fat

When the digestive fire is diminished and we add more of the wrong foods, we get a leftover residue. This is what we call dampness. This dampness is energy which is becoming more substantial, matter. This left over matter could be deposited as fat or become more solid matter such as cysts. The method to reduce this happening is:

        • Restoring digestive fire
        • Reducing damp accumulating foods
        • Become active and exercise every day
        • Clearing mind with meditation and relaxation breathing