A few years ago, I started seeing an acupuncturist that taught me about the dampness diet. I didn’t believe in this diet at the time, but the more I’ve witnessed other people’s eating habits along with my own I’m starting to see that this diet has an effect on depression, and on SAD (Seasonal Adjustment Disorder or seasonal depression).
The dampness diet comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The concept behind the dampness diet is that the body is weighed down. Whether associated by a constantly damp environment (Hello, Seattle!) or from eating foods that can’t properly digest and lead to a build up in the system, the body feels damp like a pair of soggy shoes after walking in the river. While some might find the concept of the dampness diet a little “hippie”(I’m talking to you dad), it still might be worth giving it a try. Some of the eastern medicine mumbo-jumbo might just be the tool you’ve been looking for to feel better.
The premise of the dampness diet is to eat as your grandparents did essentially, which is what most of my nutrition research and advice would conclude. However, this diet takes it a step further by having you eliminate seven things for at least a month and slowly reintroduce them, one-at-a-time; this includes, Yeast, Sugar, Dairy, Alcohol, Caffeine, Vinegar and Soy. I quickly noticed what a difference I felt by removing these things. Yeast, Sugar, and Soy have the most significant effects on me, but recently trying to cut back on caffeine has also shown a difference in my energy levels and mood.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an easy diet to make if you aren’t used to eating this way. Having recently cut out gluten and dairy from my diet I understand the struggle of finding food that works and craving the foods you’re used to. Here’s the trick, I look at Pinterest to find recipes that look good and don’t have these ingredients on this list. I usually search for Whole 30, Paleo or Keto recipes since the perimeters of those diets fit closely to this. When a recipe calls for soy, I switch it out with liquid aminos. It tastes the same but isn’t made from soybeans. Instead of using salad dressing I stick with olive oil and lemon juice, although you can also find vinegar and sugar-free dressings at the store or recipes on Pinterest. Caffeine and alcohol are two of the harder ingredients to remove since our society has them ingrained in our culture. Switch to an herbal tea in the morning or Caffeine-free coffee if you just love the taste (do note that there is still a small amount of caffeine in the in caffeine-free coffee). Alcohol is the harder one. Most of the drinks you can get as virgins are still high in sugar so this needs to be cut out completely. Getting a tonic with lime is a great thing to hold and sip at a party or the end of the day if you need to keep the ritual. Or switch to tea.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sugar and soy are added to almost all processed food. The pre-made sauces you buy will have sugar in them and most likely soy too. You’ll need to be reading labels to figure out what you can and can’t eat at least for this month experiment. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store to find your ingredients. This is where fresh fruits and veggies are, the deli section and fresh bread all live. Which brings me to yeast. Yeast is a hard one. If it’s fluffy, it has yeast. You’ll want to be looking for bread that is flat like tortillas or pita bread. If you make it yourself, you’ll know whether baking soda, powder or yeast was used. Bread also has a ton of added sugar, often use dairy and sometimes even use soy. So again you’ll need to pay close attention to those food labels.
Are you overwhelmed? That’s normal. Changing your diet, even for a short time is scary. It’s a challenge as you see all the yummy treats the people at work are eating or your kids are bringing home from school. Here’s the good news. It’s only four weeks. You need enough recipes (maybe 12) to get you through the month with snacks you’ll enjoy and keep you full (fat and protein, baby!) and then you can decide how you want to continue eating. The dampness diet, while a tremendous long-term diet, doesn’t have to be forever. Get an idea of what does and doesn’t work for your body. See how good you can feel and then decide how much of this new found lifestyle you want to keep. And remember that none of this diet will last 100% of the time. Even if you decide this is the right diet for you long-term, you’ll still have the occasional glass of wine or cup of coffee with a friend. You’ll eat cake at friends birthdays and will get Chinese takeout too. The idea is to eat in a way that makes you feel good 90% of the time and the other 10% of the time should be things that bring you real joy without completely throwing you out of whack!
If you don’t know where to begin with this diet, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the Dampness Diet.
Want to know more?
I am not a health professional and cannot give medical advice. This style of eating has benefited my body and I tell my story in hopes that others will be able to benefit from it. If you are thinking of drastically changing your diet in hopes of a change in your life, I suggest speaking to a doctor or health professional first.