Adapting to Heat and Dampness

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Tropical rainforest by Lexe-I

Heat and Dampness

The rainforest hums. Tiny feet pitter-patter over wet leaves. In the warm nights animals sing erotic serenades. Life is abundant and competition is fierce. Trees race to reach the canopy, choking out their competition. The fallen quickly rot and rejoin the soil. These hot, wet climates host most of Earth’s species. This rivalry inspires living things to adorn themselves with bright colors. They spread seeds in sweet fruit. They display beauty in movement, color and sound. They protect themselves with piercing points and with poison. This is where you can find some of the most chemically active plants and animals. You can also find intensity of decay.

Leaves spread out evenly across a forest floor will turn into mulch at a consistent rate. If you rake those same leaves into a pile and cover them to retain moisture, they will get hot from all the microbial activity. In some instances, they can get so hot that they catch fire.

Something similar can happen inside the human body. In Chinese medicine, this is called “Damp Fire”. When people have food retention, it leaves piles of debris behind. When your gut gets too moist and compacted, it creates conditions similar to a compost fire. While people don’t tend to catch fire, they can get low-grade fever and chronic inflammation that is associated with a host of chronic diseases.

Hot and humid climates grow mold. To prevent your body from getting a fungal overgrowth, you need to improve water metabolism. When water sits in the space outside of your cells at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit pathogenic microbiota begin to proliferate. Your body will try to kill them off through your inflammatory response. This can give you a low-grade fever of unknown origin. Many people with a chronic low fever are actually in a slow state of composting and the body is fighting in vain to stop it.

Although exercise can help, the body’s sodium potassium pumps are already overloaded, so exercise will tend to make people feel tired. The increased inflammatory reaction in the body also makes it easier for joints to ache. This further immobilizes people and keeps them from exercising. The majority of overweight people have an excess of dampness and heat.

Signs of Damp Heat in the Microbiome

Thirst Feeling dry, but not having a desire to drink liquid or forgetting to drink enough water
Teeth Yellow tint
Ears Increased earwax
Discharge Yellow
Skin Weeping rashes, acne on the insides of the legs, and/or edema
Sleep Sleep obstruction, snoring, or sleep apnea
Eyes In severe cases there is a yellowish tint
Urine Yellow, sandy or frothy
Stools Tendency toward sloppy or sticky stools.
Temperament Tired, lethargic
Fungal infections Tend to get fungal infections. These frequently manifest as toenail fungus, sinus infections, yeast infections, jock itch, athletes foot, chronic mucus, thrush, etc.
Tongue color Red or pale depending on the degree of inflammation
Tongue coating Thick yellow coating
Tense Relaxed


The stagnant water of a  swamp is a good place to find alligators and mosquitoes. If you live in a swamp and choose not to get eaten alive, you have two choices. You can either poison the water, or drain the swamp. If you poison the water, the alligators may swim away for a while and the mosquitoes will die, but eventually both will return when the bleach wears off. If you drain the swamp, it will change the landscape into grassland. The alligators will either have to move on or they will die. The mosquito eggs will also die if they don’t get enough moisture. When it comes to dampness and heat in the body, the most important strategy is to drain off the extra water.

swamp by picturesofyou-(1)

If you live in a moist and warm environment or if your internal microbiome has become too tropical:

hot moist


Reduce water retention: Use bitter and bland foods to increase urination. To lend flavor, use pungent foods to increase sweating and further dry the body.
Enjoy fewer salty, sour, and sweet foods.Instead, introduce more foods which are bitter, sour and slightly pungent.Examples: Ginger, garlic, Kimchi, sauerkraut
Activities that increase sweating, urination, and defecation can be beneficial. Sauna, getting appropriate sunlight, and stomach massage.
Think of things that live in dirty water. These creatures have the chemical structures to deal with water retention and microbes. Meat is generally to be avoided when the microbiome becomes too hot as it tends to be warming.
Freshwater fishFrogsAlligator
Freshwater aquatic plants have incredible water transport mechanisms to stay dry and avoid rotting. If you don’t have these, use other vegetables and add the appropriate spices.

Water pepper

Water spinach



Water chestnut


Chinese water chestnut

Bitter green vegetables

Pearl barley

Job’s tears



Bitter melon

Winter melon



Mushrooms are among the more palatable bitter foods. They are also some of the most useful for maintaining a balanced microbiome. Mushrooms break things down. That is what they do for a living. Not just leftovers in the fridge, but toxic waste, oil sludge and radioactive materials. Mushrooms and fungi are being used to repair damaged ecosystems and renew polluted environments through a process called mycoremediation. World renowned mycologist Paul Stamets explains it like this, “Fungi recycle plants after they die and transform them into rich soil. If not for mushrooms and fungi, the Earth would be buried in several feet of debris and life on the planet would soon disappear.”

mushroom by pelican

Remember that your internal microbiome is not so different from our external one. This is good news because you are constantly eating poison. It’s really okay. Everything has a little poison and it’s not a big deal if you keep it balanced. Mushrooms break down accumulations of food and act as prebiotics. By keeping the gut stocked with beneficial bacteria, they increase competition in the gut making it difficult for food and airborne allergen to disrupt our internal eco system.

Mushrooms help to lower cholesterol and fat. Sun dried mushrooms are also excellent source of vitamin D. Mushrooms contain very little or any vitamin D2 but are abundant in ergosterol, which can be converted into vitamin D2 by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.


You will know that water retention is worse than inflammation if there is no desire to drink water. In those cases, first expel water using warming teas known for settling the stomach, e.g., Pu-er tea.

If inflammation is worse than dampness, there will be constant thirst. In these cases, inflammation is the primary concern, so bitter teas such as bitter melon and ku ding tea are more appropriate. Once the thirst is alleviated, see to warming and drying the digestive system with bland and pungent foods.

Adapting to Heat and Dampness

Adapting to Heat and Dryness

Adapting to Cold and Moist

Adapting to Cold and Dry

kuala marong Endau rompin by Lexe-I

Swamp by picturesofyou-

Saute of enokidake mushrooms by pelican

Creative Commons License Adapting to Heat and Dampness by Andrew Miles & Xuelan Qiu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


6 thoughts on “Adapting to Heat and Dampness

  1. Pingback: Adapting to Cold and Moist | Andrew Miles, LAc & Xuelan Qiu, PhD

  2. Pingback: Adapting to Heat and Dryness | Andrew Miles, LAc & Xuelan Qiu, PhD

  3. Pingback: Adapting to cold and damp | Nudge Acupuncture

  4. Pingback: Adapting to heat and damp | Nudge Acupuncture

  5. Pingback: Adapting to Cold and Dry | Andrew Miles, LAc & Xuelan Qiu, PhD

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