The Dryness Pathogen

Dryness in TCM over a dry beach on the Beachside Community Acupuncture blog

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Many of the ways in which Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views health involve internal balance - such as harmony between Yin and Yang and among the Five Elements - but the Six Pathogenic Factors are all about the effects of pathogens outside of the body. Dryness, Wind, Dampness, Heat, Cold, and Summer Heat are considered exterior causes of imbalance (though many can also be generated from the interior), and each has its own symptomology and remedies. Dryness is fairly easy to understand, but that doesn't always mean its treatment is quick and simple. 

Exterior Dryness

In Five Element theory, Dryness has the biggest impact on Metal, which is related to the Lung system, the skin, the nose, and autumn. All of this makes sense if you think about it: Humidity usually decreases in the fall, which dries out the parts of your body that have the most contact with the air. Modern conveniences like central heat exacerbate the issue, making Dryness a prevalent pathogenic factor through the colder months. Of course, Dryness can also be present with Heat in climates that are naturally arid. Either way, protecting your body from this exterior pathogen is as simple as giving your body the moisture it requires:

  • Run a humidifier: Humidifiers saturate the air with water and can be used at night or throughout the day as needed.
  • Use a saline spray: As we discussed in our blog post on nasal irrigation, spraying saline solution into your nose can keep it from drying out, preventing nose bleeds and benefiting the immune system.
  • Be consistent with moisturizers, especially around your nose: Using a clean store-bought or homemade moisturizer can protect the skin from Dryness. Some ointments can even be applied inside the nose if it needs extra support.

Symptoms like a dry nose, dry throat, and dry cough are cues that the body is battling Dryness; left unchecked, Dryness can penetrate deeper into the body to cause internal imbalances.

Internal Dryness

Internal Dryness can be a result of the exogenous pathogen invading the interior, but it can also be a product of Yin deficiency. Either way, it presents as a Body Fluid deficiency, with symptoms like thirst, dry cough, dry skin, and constipation. The remedies listed above can be helpful, but replenishing fluids at a deeper level is necessary as well:

  • Drink plenty of water: Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces, and consider adding a tiny amount of pink or sea salt to your water to enhance its absorption.
  • Eat hydrating foods: The body absorbs water through food too, so consuming broth-based soups and water-rich produce like watermelon and citrus is a good idea. 
  • Prevent dehydration: Temporarily stop activities that promote profuse sweating, such as hot yoga or sauna usage. Also, limit beverages like coffee and alcohol as they dehydrate the body. 
The Dryness Pathogen in TCM over cracked earth with link to the Beachside blog

Protecting the body against a pathogenic factor is usually much easier than having to treat an invasion, and this is especially true when it comes to the Dryness pathogen. Be mindful of your skin and respiratory system as temperatures drop and heaters kick on or during hot months if you live in an area of low humidity. The tools you need to keep your body hydrating are very inexpensive, and the habits involved in using them take very little time once you build them into your health routine.

Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.