Traditional Chinese Medicine recognises different influencers on the energetic and physical systems of our bodies, such as Wind, Heat and Dampness.
Here we will look at the effects of Dampness according to the ethos of Traditional Chinese medicine.
One of the most central concepts of TCM is that of the intimate connection between the body and the environment. The physiology of the cells, tissues, organs and the meridian system of the body, is in dynamic internal equilibrium and constantly adjusts to the vagaries of the external environment.
If the body is not able to cope with changes in the environment, internal equilibrium will be lost and disease will possibly result.
Dampness is a condition existing within the body. We can understand it as a reflection of dampness as it occurs in nature. Dampness arises from the body being affected in several ways. It can be due to either a problem arising from the inability of the digestive system to transport fluids, or from the body being overwhelmed by external damp from the environment (damp weather, damp living conditions, damp-producing foods). It can also arise as a response to illness, or from the overuse of medication that promotes dampness, such as certain antibiotics. A condensed, easily recognized, form of dampness is Phlegm.
According to the constitution of any particular individual, the presence of disease is due to a lack of adaptability by the physiology of that individual, to the conditions of the environment.
There is a saying in TCM: “The earth element creates damp and the metal element stores it.” The organs associated with the earth element are the stomach and spleen. The organs associated with the metal element are the lungs and large intestine.
When dampness is created by impaired digestion, it tends to end up in the lungs and large intestine.
When dampness moves into the lungs, the usual symptom is phlegm coming up while coughing (especially after eating something that is inherently difficult to digest such as cold dairy products or greasy foods).
When dampness is stored in the large intestine, we find various intestinal disturbances, more on the side of loose stools, diarrhea etc. Even intestinal rumblings are due to dampness. Internal dampness is directly due to the impaired transformation and transportation functions of the spleen.
In Chinese medicine, dampness is considered to be the cause or contributing factor of many illnesses such as high cholesterol, cancer, metabolic disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, fibromyalgia, eczema, allergies and environmental illness.
There are two general categories of dampness: external and internal.
Internal dampness is the most common and easily will combine with heat or cold to cause damp-heat or damp-cold.
Symptoms include a feeling of heaviness, puffiness of the skin, swelling or water retention, distended abdomen, phlegm discharge, nodular masses, loose bowels etc. People with a dampness condition often have sluggish energy and/or easily gain weight.
External dampness is a condition of prolonged high humidity that usually occurs in late summer/early autumn or during long-lasting rainy weather.
People often complain of dizziness, a heavy sensation in the head and body, and joint soreness and pain. In both external and internal dampness, there may be discharges that form on the body (such as suppurating sores, weeping eczema, thrush/yeast infections etc.).
The role of poor diet in contracting internal dampness and food therapy in combating internal dampness is well known. Foods that impair digestion, yield food stagnation and interfere with the spleen, contributing to the development of internal dampness, due to the impairment of water metabolism within the body.
Foods known to cause dampness include: milk products (except yogurt), sugar and sweets, white-wheat flour, refined starch and highly processed starch products, excess raw fruits (sugar) and raw vegetables (mould from the soil), excess mushrooms and fungi, peppers, cold beverages (which immobilize immune cells on the walls of the digestive tract), an excess of fermented foods, foods containing yeast and an excess of vinegar.
Foods known to cause damp-heat include: alcohol, fatty, greasy and deep-fried food.
The spleen is probably the most important organ used for healing according TCM, because it affects the body’s immunity and capacity to maintain and heal. If one can understand the diagnostic indications for spleen patterns and a treatment used for them, then it is possible to achieve satisfactory results with acupuncture, combined with nutritional advice, herbs/supplements and even visiting a sauna to get the warmth and dryness from an artificial environment into the muscles and bones (including sweating of the excessive dampness from the tissues).
Using a sauna can be a relaxing treat, but are you aware of just how beneficial a sweat session can be?
Reportedly, spending time in a sauna – (which is basically a hot box, heated to approximately 150-200 degrees F)
for at least 10-15 minutes each week can help you in more ways than one. Not only does the deep, penetrating heat help your body to get rid of toxins, which are easily accumulated in today’s polluted world, it also helps boost the immune system, as heat and dryness tonifies the spleen. Indeed, sweating in a sauna could be one of the keys to living a longer, happier, and healthier life.
Top 5 Health Benefits of Sauna use:
1. Improves Skin Appearance
Perhaps the best-known benefit of using a sauna is that it helps flush toxins from the body. Because skin is the body’s largest organ, cleaning it through profuse sweating often results in better skin, due to improved blood circulation. One might also notice a decline in acne and blackheads, as saunas help to remove dead skin cells. Finally, saunas provide a significant boost in growth hormone levels, which provide a bounty of anti-aging benefits.
2. Boosts The Immune System
It’s easy in today’s world to become bogged down by environmental pollution, stress, and unhealthy dietary and eating habits. Luckily, saunas help boost the immune system because the heat stimulates the body to produce more white blood cells (spleen function again). Of course, properly detoxifying the body and adopting healthy habits will naturally improve the immune system, but this is an extra benefit of regularly using a sauna.
3. Provides Stress Release
When the body temperature is increased, endorphins are released. Endorphins, known as the “feel good drug,” are naturally produced by the central nervous system and help to de-stress. Because stress is at the root of most illnesses, this is an important benefit that should not be overlooked.
4. Assists In Weight Loss
Most people think of obesity as its own issue, but did you know that being overweight is actually a symptom of having an acidic, inflamed, and toxic body? Detoxifying by sitting in a sauna will not only help you remove pollutants and reduce the inflammation in your body, it will stimulate increased burning of calories. Regular sauna sessions, coupled with a healthy diet, exercise and regular acupuncture treatment can help you naturally lose weight and feel at your greatest!
5. Promotes Social Interaction
Some people prefer to sit in silence as they sweat in a sauna, but if you utilize the hot box with friends and/or family members, it could be an excellent opportunity to catch up and socialize.
Sauna’s help the brain by:
- Growing new brain cells
- Helping it to function faster
- Improving memory, attention, and focus
- Preventing degenerative diseases
- Enhancing the power of meditation and visualization
- Relieving anxiety and depression
- Giving a natural, drug-free ‘high’
Sauna’s help the body by:
- Helping muscles grow bigger, stronger, and more efficient
- Increasing longevity with various anti-aging benefits
- Causing a massive release of growth hormone naturally
- Boosting the immune system
- Improving insulin sensitivity
Keep in mind, saunas aren’t for everyone. Consult with your doctor or naturopathic physician before you commit to a regular sauna regime. And, be sure to hydrate if you do regularly use a sauna.
Sources and reference: Amanda Froelich; July 4, 2016; www.trueactivist.com