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August 17, 2011

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Putting a damper on damp

Dampness is the main pathogenic factor causing illness and various kind of discomfort in the late summer since it is the most humid and rainy season, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

TCM practitioners say the invasion from outside of "pathogenic damp" upsets the internal balance of yin ("cold" energy) and yang ("hot" energy), interfering with metabolism, circulation of blood and energy and healthy organ system functioning.

In TCM, there are six so-called "pathogenic factors," which invade the body from outside through the skin, mouth, nose and other orifices. They are dampness, wind, cold, summer-heat, dryness and heat (fire).

Pathogenic damp is one of the most difficult to treat and too much internal damp may cause digestive problems, lack of appetite, weight gain (from water) without much eating, phlegm, fatigue and lack of strength, cold extremities, drowsiness, persistent skin problems, edema, puffy eyes and assorted ailments and discomforts.

There's a Chinese saying that "it's easy to expel a hundred invasions of pathogenic cold but difficult to expel one case of pathogenic damp." It often exacerbates other pathogenic factors.

TCM doctors lay much of the blame today on unhealthy living - eating too much fatty, greasy, over-processed and sweet foods, eating irregularly, getting insufficient exercise, staying up too late and getting insufficient rest.

Spending too much time in air-conditioned rooms and not sweating enough to expel toxins is also a problem in summer. Sweating is essential in summer.

Clearly, healthy eating and more exercise, especially cardio, are called for. Foods like pearl barley (job's tears), which contains mild yin energy are recommended.

Pearl barley is commonly used to treat indigestion, arthritis and any phlegm-induced ailment. Eating more fiber and grains is recommended. Other healthy, damp-expelling foods include yams, ginger, garlic and red kidney beans. A daily bowl of congee made of pearl barley and red kidney beans is recommended.

Moxibustion (burning herbs above acupuncture points) can also help by warming the body and expelling toxic damp.

At this time of year, there's a lot of dampness or humidity in the universe, which enters the body and accumulates if the body is not healthy and systems are not in balance.

It is essential, especially at this time of year, to eat healthy and keep the metabolism running efficiently, says Dr Zhang Zhongyi, deputy director of the Acupuncture Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.

Eating too much oily, fatty, sweet and over-processed foods results in less efficient metabolism, excess fluids and "rubbish energy" that blocks energy channels with pathogenic damp.

"Other unhealthy habits like spending all day in an-conditioned room without sweating, and not getting enough physical exercise to consume excess energy often aggravates the problem for many young people today," says Dr Zhang.

Too much alcohol, fried food and fatty meat is especially bad in summer and foods that are cold in temperature such as iced drinks and ice cream also burden the digestive system and undermine metabolism. Fiber-rich vegetables and grains are recommended.

A few 'damp' symptoms

? Do you have a bad appetite? Do you feel full after eating only a little? Do you feel nauseous while eating?

? Do you gain weight though you are eating as usual?

? Do you have puffy eyes and a puffy tongue in the morning?

? Does you have aches and pains or swollen legs when you wake up?

? Are you frequently drowsy and fatigued during the day?

? Are your stools watery?


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