Dampness in the Spleen
Note: In traditional Chinese medicine the Spleen is referred to as the collective work of some organs and systems participating in the digestion rather than the anatomical organ spleen. To get a better grasp about the concept of the Spleen review the introduction material “The Spleen in Chinese medicine” in the Physiology chapter.
- Spleen Qi deficiency
- living in damp environment
There are two causes that lead to the generation of “dampness in the Spleen”. The first cause is deficiency of Spleen Qi.
The Spleen is responsible for the transformation and transportation of food essences but together with the Lungs and the Kidneys the Spleen also governs the body's water metabolism. It is in charge of the separation, transportation, and movement of fluids. If the energy of the Spleen is deficient it cannot sufficiently transport fluids. Eventually this will lead to fluid retention, called “internal dampness”. "Internal dampness" most commonly manifests in the three organs in charge of the water metabolism - the digestive tract (the Spleen), the Lungs, and the Kidneys (according to Chinese medicine the Kidneys govern the Urinary Bladder but also govern the sexual organs).
The other cause for generation of "dampness in the Spleen" is living in a damp environment.
- feeling of heaviness in the body
- cloudy head
- cloudy urine
- edema or swelling
- bloated abdomen
- loose stools
- lack of appetite
- numbness in the limbs
- bacterial and yeast overgrowth
- greasy tongue coating
- cold-damp symptoms - oppression in the chest and epigastrium, feeling of cold in the epigastrium, vaginal dyscharge in women, lack of thirst
- damp-heat symptoms - loose stool with offensive odor, scanty dark-yellow urination, thirst with no desire to drink, nausea, vomiting
Dampness is heavy and turbid in nature. Thus symptoms of internal dampness manifest in feeling of heaviness in the body, cloudy head, cloudy urine. Since "dampness" is water retention one symptom of "dampness" is edema and swelling. Other symptoms include bloated abdomen, loose stools and lack of appetite (the major symptom of deficient Spleen). The pathology is confirmed by looking at the tongue. If the tongue has a thick and greasy coating than there is "internal dampness".
There are two types of internal dampness – cold-damp and damp-heat. Cold-damp symptoms include all the above symptoms of internal dampness together with oppression in the chest and epigastrium, and/or feeling of cold in the epigastrium. The nature of dampness is heaviness, thus dampness has the tendency to sink downward, manifesting in white vaginal discharge in women. As dampness is water retention the body has no need for more fluids thus there is no sensation of thirst. (1)
Damp-heat symptoms include all the above symptoms of internal dampness together with stuffiness or pain in the epigastrium and lower abdomen, loose stool with offensive odor (when there is heat there is odor), and scanty dark-yellow urination. As heat manifests in thirst but with dampness there is no thirst an interesting typical sign of damp-heat is thirst with no desire to drink. Some nausea and vomiting may be present. (1)
Besides having a heavy and turbid nature dampness is also obstructive. Thus dampness blocks the free flow of blood and energy, and invades the joints. Movement becomes difficult and numbness in the limbs is experienced. The pain is fixed in location. The condition worsens in damp environment or in cloudy and rainy days.
Just like bacteria and parasites thrive in an external damp environment so do they do in an internal damp body environment. Therefore chronic internal dampness may lead to bacteria and parasite overgrowth, and is the fittest environment for yeasts, viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. Internal dampness is also more difficult to clear because of its heavy nature, and it takes longer time to cure.
Internal dampness originates from a "deficient Spleen" therefore changing the diet is essential in treating this condition.
Foods that contribute to accumulation of dampness are all “cold” and mucus-forming foods, and they all should be avoided until the dampness is cleared. Such foods are all raw foods (which are cold in nature), eggs, milk, and dairy products (mucus-producing) and sweet foods (the sweet taste tonifies the Qi of the Spleen but taken excessively it has the opposite effect). Fats, oil, butter, nuts, seeds, and all fried foods should also be avoided, meat should be consumed moderately, in small quantities, and very well cooked. The meals should be simple with not too many spices or ingredients. Overeating and late-night eating should be avoided. (1)
Foods that particularly dry dampness are bitter foods. If you want to read the rest of this article and learn the foods and acupressure points that are healing for this condition (as well as watch the instructional acupressure point location videos) you can do so by subscribing to the Customized options of this project. To learn the other benefits you will get as a subscriber click here.
(1) Maciocia, Giovanni (1989). The Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Nanjing: Harcourt Publishers Limited
(2) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books
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