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Headaches Part 11: Internal Dampness or Phlegm

VI. Internal Dampness or Phlegm

This is a common cause of headaches and is associated with a digestive deficiency which results in the accumulation of undigested food in the form of “dampness”, phlegm, or excess mucus in the body. It is often caused by the pattern of Qi Deficiency (page 22), and many symptoms overlap. It can be caused by overeating in general, and is usually associated with poor diet. The modern western diet of fast food, junk food, and generally processed food is a planetary plague contributing to many health problems and disease processes. Hydrogenated oil, refined sugars including high fructose corn syrup, and refined, bleached, and enriched white flour are found in most processed foods. These are often the source of dampness in modern westernized society. Some people are able to digest these food poisons, as I like to call them, and the dampness is not evident, until after years of eating these poisons, the digestion and immunity are weakened and eventually the accumulation of these poisons or toxins becomes apparent as obesity, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders such as Chron’s disease, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and other modern digestive disorders. It can also result from eating too much raw or cold food, or just by consuming very rich, damp natured food like dairy, pork, duck and other fatty meats, eggs, nuts, shellfish, and others in excess proportions, or without other foods which promote digestion like warming aromatic herbs (ginger, cinnamon, onion, garlic, and others). While diet and digestion play key roles in the formation of this pattern, it can be aggravated by living in a damp climate (external dampness) as well.
In Chinese Medicine the emotional state of worrying, or over thinking, as it is often translated into English, can be the source or the symptom of this pattern of imbalance. Basically, the energetic resources of the body are allocated to mental processes instead of to digestion (transformation and transportation) of food. In other words, the act of worrying or excessive mental pressure consumes the Qi which should be used for digestion. In our modern culture of long working hours, followed by recreational activities of over-stimulation of the mind (think of watching television, computer activities, being bombarded by loud stimulating music, etc.), the mind never really gets a proper rest. The physical body is often pushed to exhaustion as well. The energy needed to sustain these human processes is becoming more and more difficult to extract from modern degraded food sources. All these factors combined lead to another hallmark pattern of our modern world, the accumulation of undigested or untransformed food in the form of “Internal Dampness”. Here are the symptoms related to this pattern:
1) The headache can be in the whole head, but is often located in the forehead. It is usually a dull ache (as opposed to a sharp headache from “Blood Stagnation” or throbbing headache from “Liver Yang Rising”). It is often described as a heavy sensation of the head, and the sense organs and thinking is often cloudy. It can manifest as a feeling of the head being “wrapped in a cloth” or “full of cotton”. Often the pain is worse in the mornings. The headache may be alleviated by inhaling strongly dispersing aromatic oils (like camphor, menthol, borneol) or by consuming herbs which disperse phlegm in the body (like cardamom, coriander, fennel, anise, and others).
2) This pattern is often associated with digestive problems, especially modern conditions like lactose or food intolerances, “food allergies” or the inability to digest dairy, wheat, nuts, and other damp forming foods. Symptoms include abdominal pain, especially above the umbilicus (belly button), loose or watery stools, fatigue or low energy in general, poor appetite (but could manifest as overeating or sweet cravings as well), a feeling of fullness or distention after eating, tiredness after eating.
3) There may be edema, swelling, or water retention in the body, or a generally overweight condition.
4) Nausea and/or vomiting of saliva or sputum
5) A feeling of fullness or pressure in the chest and upper abdomen (epigastric distention)
6) Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses of the nose), ear infections or blockage of the ear, and cloudy or fuzzy vision or thinking in general.
7) The classic tongue has a thick sticky tongue coating, and often the body of the tongue is large or swollen, with teeth marks visible ( small scallops on the side of the tongue caused from indentations of the teeth, due to edema of the tongue from improper circulation of water in the body)
8) The classic pulse is weak and floating, or soft, so it is easy to push down and feel no pulse at all, especially in the middle right position. If the dampness is strong, the pulse will feel rolling or slippery, as if a pearl or little ball was moving through the blood vessel, pushing up on the finger.

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Headaches Part 10: Cold Stagnation (in the Liver)

V. Cold Stagnation (in the Liver) This is an uncommon cause of headache, but if you fit the pattern, it is easy to identify. It is caused by a pathogenic internal cold in the Liver channel or meridian. It is often caused by being exposed to external cold, as in cold weather, and especially beingContinue Reading

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Headaches Part 9: Blood Stagnation or Blood Stasis

IV. Blood Stagnation or Blood Stasis This pattern often develops from the above “Qi Stagnation” pattern, but usually the key symptom is that the headache pain is fixed in one location, and usually, but not always, sharp like a knife, or at least very intense in nature (8 or more on a scale of 1Continue Reading

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Headaches Part 8: Qi Stagnation, also known as “Liver Qi Stagnation”, “Qi Stasis”, or “Blockage of Qi”.

FURTHER EXCESS PATTERNS: III. Qi Stagnation, also known as “Liver Qi Stagnation”, “Qi Stasis”, or “Blockage of Qi”. This is the basic pattern of blockage of energy flow in the body, and if untreated, can lead to more severe patterns, commonly Blood Stagnation. The main difference between Qi Stagnation and Blood Stagnation is that inContinue Reading

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Headaches Part 7, Yang Deficiency, also known as “Kidney Yang Deficiency”

C. Yang Deficiency, also known as “Kidney Yang Deficiency” This pattern usually includes the above symptoms of Yin Deficiency with some added symptoms unique to “Kidney Yang Deficiency”. For simplification we will call this pattern Yang Deficiency. If Kidney Yang is deficient for a long period of time, it can lead to Kidney Yin Deficiency,Continue Reading

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Headaches Part 6: Yin Deficiency

B. Yin Deficiency, or more specifically “Liver Yin Deficiency” and “Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency” Other patterns which can lead to “Liver Yang Rising” or “Liver Fire” are called “Liver Yin Deficiency” or “Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency”. For practical purposes, we will consider these patterns as the same, since the symptoms overlap tremendously. ThisContinue Reading

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Headaches Part 5: Blood Deficiency

DEFICIENY PATTERNS WHICH COMMONLY CAUSE THE ABOVE EXCESS PATTERNS: A. Blood Deficiency, also commonly called “Liver Blood Deficiency” or “Heart Blood Deficiency” The pattern of Blood Deficiency usually stems from a Qi Deficiency (which is discussed in detail on page 22), especially the Qi of the Spleen and Stomach, in transforming and transporting food. ThisContinue Reading

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Headaches, part 4: Liver Fire

I. Liver Fire The pattern of “Liver Fire” is basically a more severe version of and stems from the pattern “Liver Yang Rising”. We are in the medical age of fire diseases and “Liver Fire” is by far the most common. Cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and many major diseases present with symptoms in this category, andContinue Reading

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Headaches Part 3: MAJOR PATTERNS OF DISHARMONY LEADING TO HEADACHES IN CHINESE MEDICINE

MAJOR PATTERNS OF DISHARMONY LEADING TO HEADACHES IN CHINESE MEDICINE: Internal vs. External Causes of Headaches External causes include exposure to the elements, like wind, water, heat, or cold, and also exposure to pathogens like bacteria or viruses which we call “heat/toxins” in Chinese Medicine. This includes common cold, sinusitis, head cold, and in moreContinue Reading

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Headaches Part 2: Western Causes or Diagnoses of Headaches

Western Causes or Diagnoses of Headaches: Let’s look at the western causes of headaches in more detail so you have a good understanding of the possibilities that exist. Basically the western causes fall under three categories. The intra-cranial type includes inflammatory diagnoses like meningitis, or inflammation of the meninges, or membranes which envelope the centralContinue Reading

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