Phlegm: now you see it, now you don’t

Phlegm: now you see it, now you don’t

Phlegm” is such a fascinating topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

“Phlegm” is such a fascinating topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There is much more to it than meets the eye. While “Phlegm” may be quite a straightforward concept to most, it takes on a different meaning when discussed as a pathological factor in TCM diagnosis. “Phlegm” can be considered to be “visible” (substantial) or “invisible”. We may see it, we may not, but it can be the underlying factor in many diseases in TCM, from the obvious colds & flu to diseases you would never think of, and this is where it gets interesting.

The “visible” kind is easy and doesn’t require much of an introduction. It is exactly what you think it is. It runs or gets stuck in your nose, throat, head, chest. It has multiple possible colour possibilities; clear, white, yellow, green, orange, red; it can be thick or thin; but whatever its form, it’s definitely annoying!! This is the “phlegm” that are involved with flu, coughs, colds, bronchitis, rhinitis, pneumonia, etc.

“Invisible phlegm” can be found anywhere in the body. In the head it can lead to dizziness, vertigo, dulling of the senses, deafness, confusion, forgetfulness, brain fog, headaches, convulsions. Related diseases may be Alzheimers, dementia, meniere’s, stroke, epilepsy, insomnia, depression, schizophrenia, and a myriad of other mental health disorders. In the throat, there can be goiter or other thyroid disorders, or just a sensation of something feeling stuck in your throat with no obvious swellings. In the heart, arteries & chest it can produce palpitations, arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart attack, or stifling/heavy sensations. It can also lead to accumulations that form stones in the bladder, kidneys, or gallbladder. Accumulations may also result in nodules, lumps, lipomas, fibroids, abnormal bone growth/deformities. In the joints, it can cause arthritis. In the skin and muscle areas, in addition to lumps and bumps, it can also be the reason for numbness and tingling sensations commonly felt by the elderly when there is no other explanation.

“Phlegm” is mainly produced by a challenged digestive system (Spleen in TCM). It can either be because the Spleen is inherently weak or because we bombard it with too many heavy dietary factors; dairy, wheat, sugar, overconsumption of cold/raw food, and deep fried/greasy food being the largest culprits. The Lungs and Kidneys can also contribute to the formation of phlegm if they do not do their part in the distribution and excretion of body fluids.

“Phlegm” is exactly like its nature, sticky, and therefore can be difficult to treat. The best thing, but probably the most challenging thing you can do for yourself if you have a “phlegm” condition, is to start with your diet. Limit your consumption, or better yet, completely eliminate those troublesome foods mentioned above. TCM treatment, such as acupuncture & cupping, and some Chinese Medicine herbal formulas can diagnose and assist with & / accelerate the elimination of “phlegm” over time.

Overall in general health, combating “phlegm” will leave you feeling clearer, lighter, happier, and healthier as viruses and bacteria are far less likely to stick around if there is not anything for them to stick to.

Dove Sprout (R.TCM.P) and her husband, Paul Gaucher (R.TCM.P) co-own & operate Creston Acupuncture & Natural Health Centre located in downtown Creston. For more information or to book an appointment, call the clinic at 250-428-0488. For further questions about what acupuncture and herbal medicine can treat, you can e-mail Dove at or check out her website