In TCM, dampness and phlegm develop when digestion and fluid metabolism are sluggish. This is addressed through a combined approach to nutrition. It is important to emphasize foods that support healthy digestion, and also avoid foods that contribute to dampness and phlegm. Pungent flavours like onion, garlic, and ginger help to disperse congested fluids. Rich, oily, or heavy foods should be avoided because they can overwhelm the digestive system and contribute to dampness. Also, cold foods, including raw fruits and vegetable should also be avoided because they slow down digestion.
It is best to consume foods that are slightly cooked. By lightly cooking food, you preserve the nutrients, and also ensure that they are readily digested and absorbed.
Some general recommendations include eating smaller meals, eating more frequently, enjoying meals by sitting down to relax (rather than while working, or watching the news, for example), and chewing thoroughly so you can both savor the flavors and adequately stimulate the digestive process.
To resolve dampness and phlegm, the ratio of food groups should be as follows:
30-40% complex carbohydrates, especially rice, rye, barley, millet
40-50% cooked vegetables
Foods that Resolve Dampness and Phlegm
cooked whole grains-especially rice, toasted oats, barley, rye, millet, buckwheat, sourdough breads
asparagus, cucumber, celery, pumpkin, squash, carrots, corn parsnips, peas, onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, turnip, radish, mustard greens, chrysanthemum, water chestnuts, mushrooms
adzuki beans, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, fava beans
chicken, quail, lean meat goose, rabbit
clam, seaweed, mackerel, tuna, anchovy, perch, eel, catfish, crab, oyster
black pepper, fresh ginger, mustard, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, thyme, basil, fennel, horseradish, chili peppers, jasmine, rose
rice syrup, barley malt
dates, figs, stewed fruit-especially pear, persimmons, kumquats, grapefruit, cherries
Foods to Restrict or Avoid
salads, raw vegetables, raw fruit, citrus, avocado, wheatgrass, wheat, sprouts, seaweed
tofu, dairy (except goat milk products), nut butter, pork, duck, eggs, soy milk
overly sweet food, refined sugar, high doses of vitamin C, chocolate, cold food like ice cream or smoothies, iced drinks
Clinical Handbook of Internal Medicine, Vol. 2. MacLean & Lyttleton. University of Western Sydney: Australia. 2002.
Chinese Dietary Therapy. Liu, J. Churchill Livingston: Edinburgh.1995.
The Healing Cuisine of China. Zhao & Ellis. Healing Arts Press: Vermont. 1998
This factsheet is not intended to diagnose or assess. The information provided is meant to complement rather than substitute for a consultation with a qualified TCM practitioner.