Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a form of alternative or complementary medicine with a long history. In TCM, the foods you eat play a role in keeping you healthy and treating certain conditions. A TCM practitioner may recommend a damp heat diet, for example, if you suffer from inflammation. As with any alternative or complementary medicine, exercise appropriate caution with TCM and always consult a qualified health care provider.
TCM is based on a complex interplay of a number of factors including two opposing energies called yin and yang, the natural life force called qi, and the five elements of wood, fire, water, metal and earth. To achieve health and wellness, qi must flow freely throughout the body, and yin and yang, together with all five elements, must be in balance. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the three factors that most affect the balance of yin and yang and the flow of qi are internal emotions, external factors and lifestyle choices including diet.
In TCM, dampness is an excess of the water element and heat is an excess of the fire element. Dampness is associated with water retention or swelling and feelings of heaviness or sluggishness. Dampness and heat together are associated with nausea, fever, thirst, dizziness, loose stools and poor appetite, according to AcupunctureToday.com. Illnesses associated with dampness include high cholesterol, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer and fibromyalgia. Damp heat conditions may also include inflammation, high blood sugar, urinary tract infections, weight gain and food allergies.
Foods to Choose
When a TCM practitioner diagnoses you with a damp heat condition, he may recommend that you increase your consumption of foods thought to relieve dampness and damp heat. These foods include onions, leeks, scallions, chives, ginger, cinnamon, lettuce, celery, fennel, turnips, parsley, alfalfa, sage, rosemary, basil, dill, oregano and raw honey, according to Dr. Edward F. Block, a graduate of the American College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Foods to Avoid
According to Dr. Block, a person following a damp heat diet will be asked to avoid alcoholic beverages, greasy and fried foods, spicy foods, sweets and milk products except yogurt. You may also be asked to avoid cold beverages, fermented foods and foods containing vinegar or yeast.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a complicated system. Do not attempt to treat yourself with TCM or Chinese herbs, especially if you are under a doctor's care, are taking prescription or over-the-counter medication, or are breastfeeding or pregnant. A balanced diet is best for your health, and you should not make any drastic dietary changes without consulting a qualified health care professional. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can assist you in finding a certified TCM practitioner.