Knowing if you have a phlegm damp body constitution will help you make dietary and lifestyle choices that can keep you healthy and happy for many years to come.
According to TCM, phlegm is divided into visible and invisible phlegm. Visible phlegm comes out of your nose, throat, and eyes. Invisible phlegm exists in the organs, tissues, and blood. Phlegm is a disturbance in your water metabolism which can lead to pathological conditions in your body and mind.
What causes a phlegm damp constitution?
Firstly, you can thank your parents. Much like the concept of genetics in western medicine, according to TCM, at conception your parents set your foundational energetic nature. Wang Chong, a Chinese medicine practitioner in the 1st century CE writes that:
Strength and long life, weakness and short life are connected with the copiousness and scarcity of the receive qi…When the qi is copious, the body becomes strong, and the body being strong, life lasts long. On the other hand, when the vital force is scanty, the body is weak, and with a weak body, life is short…A short life is accompanied by much sickness.
You will read later that your health destiny is not sealed in stone. Although you might have been born with a weakened constitution, lifestyle choices can further weaken or, more importantly, strengthen your life force.
How your mind can cause phlegm dampness
For example, if you allow yourself to fall into worry, overthinking, and mental overworking, you contribute to your phlegm damp constitution. In Chinese medicine, this type of mental activity is called “monkey mind.” Imagine a monkey constantly bouncing around, jumping from tree to tree. Uncontrolled, unfocused thinking is just like that. Monkey mind not only plays a role in phlegm damp constitution, but it also leads to other illness and disease.
Also, if you eat foods that harm the spleen and disturb your water metabolism, you further entrench phlegm dampness in your body. A wide range of symptoms occur as a result.
For instance, if phlegm blocks the flow of blood and qi in the heart, you could feel dizzy and mentally confused (foggy headed). If phlegm accumulates in the stomach and spleen, it can cause nausea and anorexia. If it is in channels under the skin, it can create swelling and lumps. In the blood, much like with the western concept of cholesterol damage, it can slow and block the flow of blood in the body and can cause excess weight and body fat.
Furthermore, people with a phlegm damp constitution often have sluggish energy and gain weight easily. Chinese medicine believes that people who are overweight, especially if they have excess belly fat, are more likely to have phlegm damp constitutions.
Information gives you power
Additionally, there is good news. If you currently have a phlegm damp body constitution, you have the power shift to a healthier state. You might have a predisposition to this body constitution, but lifestyle choices entrench phlegm and dampness in your body. Changing your dietary, exercise, and emotional habits can radically shift you from phlegm damp to neutral, the ideal or healthy state.
Here are some general patterns associated with a phlegm damp body constitution. You may have overcome some of these tendencies with lifestyle choices you make. Well done! Read on to learn how to improve your health further.
Common physical symptoms of phlegm damp constitution
- Oily looking skin on the face
- Extreme sweating that is sticky
- A feeling of heaviness in the chest
- A lot of phlegm in the throat
- Sticky coating on the tongue
- Sweet taste in the mouth
- A preference for fatty and sweet food
- Hair loss
- Sluggish and sticky bowel movements
- Phlegm discharge
Common physical characteristics
- Without lifestyle adjustments, overweight
- Oily skin
- Fat and soft belly
- Abdominal fullness
Common emotional characteristics
People with phlegm damp constitution often:
- have a mild temperament,
- are steady and patient, and
- may have a tendency towards depression.
Phlegm damp constitution greatest health risks
- Hyperlipidemia (high lipids)
- Coronary heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Multiple ovarian cysts
How to off-set your phlegm damp constitution through diet
As stated above, you have the power to strengthen your body, regardless of the body constitution with which you were born. The recommendations that follow are specially designed for people with a phlegm damp constitution.
In summary, you should avoid eating sweet and fatty food. You should also commit to consistent movement and exercise. Lastly, you need to strengthen you digestive system to help your body absorb and move nutrients.
By way of illustration, to strengthen you digestion, you can adjust how and what you eat. To give an example, look at overeating. Even when eating healthy foods, overeating can lead to food stagnation. That means your digestive system gets stuck, and your body cannot absorb nutrients properly. If you find yourself burping frequently, dealing with acid reflux, feeling distended or bloated, having pain in your abdomen, losing your appetite, or suffering from diarrhea, you know your digestion is struggling.
Therefore, you adjust how you eat by making sure you only eat to 70% full.
Another helpful dietary change is to eat on a fixed schedule. Following the Chinese medicine body clock, you should eat a large breakfast between 7:00-9:00 AM, an even larger lunch between 11:00 AM-1:00 PM, and a light dinner between 5:00-7:00 PM.
Additionally, you need to adjust what you eat if you have a phlegm damp constitution. You need to add certain foods to your diet and avoid others.
Foods to add
People with a phlegm damp constitution should add foods that help their water metabolism and digestive system. These foods are great choices.
Aduki beans, also called adzuki beans
Lettuce (lightly cooked)
Foods and beverages to avoid
If you have a phlegm damp constitution, you will feel healthier and more joyful if you avoid the following foods and beverages as much as possible. They worsen your condition and shorten your lifespan.
All dairy, except plain yogurt
Fermented foods in excess (such as miso, soy sauce, sauerkraut, etc.)
Mushrooms in excess
Raw fruit in excess (because of the sugar)
Raw vegetables in excess
Vinegar in excess
Fatty, greasy, and deep-fried foods
Foods containing yeast
Highly processed foods
Sugar and sweets
White wheat flour
Plain yogurt in moderation is okay to eat in moderation.
How to heal your body with lifestyle changes
While you cannot always control where you live, people with a phlegm-damp constitution should avoid living in humid places. If you live in a humid climate, do everything possible to reduce the humidity in your immediate living environment. For example, if at all possible, you should invest in a dehumidifier. Sitting in a sauna can also off-set some of the effects of a humid climate as well.
Additionally, you need to recharge your qi each day. Getting enough, but not too much sleep, provides nourishing qi energy for people with a phlegm damp constitution. Getting at least 30 minutes of sun each day, when weather permits, will also charge your stores of qi and help break up stagnant phlegm. Make sure to take brisk walks whenever the weather is nice.
Focus your mind
Furthermore, cultivate your mind. Remember that monkey mind you read about at the beginning of the article? It contributes to more and more phlegm, depression, sluggishness, and so on. A calm mind prevents liver qi stagnation, which harms your spleen, and makes your phlegm damp condition worse. Meditation and contemplation teach you how to focus and relax your mind.
More importantly, they help you control your emotional responses. Reacting to situations with extreme emotions harms the liver and spleen, causing phlegm to increase and thrive. When you learn to focus your mind, you have the power to choose how to react, instead of finding emotions carrying you away.
Guided meditation to calm your mind
Doing guided meditations help you focus your attention and calm your monkey mind.
How to exercise for your phlegm damp constitution
Long slow walks outside help you draw in qi energy from nature, which helps clear stagnation and phlegm. Any sport you enjoy, that is not over-taxing, is perfect. If you push too hard, or worry too much about how you are exercising, you negate the positive benefits and in turn create more stagnation.
Also, remember not to drink cold water during or after exercise. Cold water worsens phlegm build up and stagnation because it harms the digestive energy of your spleen.
What is more, start a qigong practice. These deceptively easy exercises have tremendous power to unblock stuck energy and body fluids in every joint, ligament, tendon, and muscle in your body. They are also accessible for everyone. Even if you have not exercised in decades, have poor balance, and suffer from dizziness, you can modify qigong routines and follow the upper body motions while sitting safely in a chair.
Quick qigong exercises
Moving consistently throughout your day is a better way to break up phlegm than doing a one-hour workout. Enjoy this sample of a quick, seated qigong exercise.
Acupressure massage to strengthen your digestion
A weak digestive system is one of the main problems for people with a phlegm damp constitution. This abdominal massage is perfect to do after each meal to strengthen your digestive energy.