I am a student nurse studying the effects of the nutrition on Rheumatoid Arthritis. I love the five element theory you described and was wondering if any of the elements (fire, water, etc) represent bones and joints and immune disorders and what foods these these correlate to. Have you had any experience with clients with RA and if so, what did you recommend for them? Any information you could offer me would be much appreciated. Thank you!
From my university classes, I know RA is chronic joints inflammation disease, from TCM theory, the joint swelling of RA is because of phlegm, so clear phlegm is the key of treatment RA, many patients of RA can keep the normal movements function of the joints after the treatment, and the joints swelling condition can be controled by useing acupuncture and herb formulas. Too much phlegm of body is because of spleen deficiency, strong spleen earth energy can move away the phlegm, so tonify kidney fire energy and sedate liver wood energy can help health spleen earth enenergy. The spleen like dry and warm condition, so eat warm food keep away cold and fat food and make emotion smooth are the way to health spleen and good for RA treatment.
With regards to the five elements, if you look at the chart on our five element correspondences page, you will see the "tissue" correspondences. So water/kidney is in charge of the bone, liver/wood in charge of the tendons, etc.
With regards to what is good and bad for people with RA it really depends on their underlying TCM diagnosis. So in Chinese Medicine we treat "patterns" not specific conditions so technically RA can have many underlying patterns. Most of these are listed (we are still working on this section heavily however) within the TCM diagnoses block underneath the introduction on all of our conditions pages - ( RA Conditions Page ).
While Feng is correct in that phlegm (arising from sp qi deficiency and other methods) can be part of RA, Kidney Yin deficiency (a common underlying pattern for autoimmune conditions that we see clinically) is often part of the equation.
From a dietary perspective, then, more precise answers are only offered from having a clear diagnosis. But generally avoiding things which lead to "dampness" in the body from a Chinese Medicine perspective is a strong part - so sugar, too much cold/raw foods (salads, etc.), dairy (particularly avoiding drinking milk).
Thank you to both of you for taking the time to reply. Your responses have helped fabulously with my research!
While you ask specifically about nutrition, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, the following comments are addressed to autoimmune conditions in general. Feng remarks about a frequent finding of Spleen deficiency. In Eden Energy Medicine, we work with the relationship between Triple Warmer and Spleen. These two energies are responsible for keeping the immune system in balance.
Triple Warmer is the meridian corresponding to the fight, freeze, or flight stress response. Triple Warmer has the power to 'grab' energy from every other meridian in the body with the exception of the heart meridian when it perceives danger. It's job is to keep us alive. Spleen is active(meaning it is infused with energy from the universe) at the opposite end of the clock (i.e., 9-11 AM) from Triple Warmer (active from 9-11 pm). Thus the first place that Triple Warmer finds the extra energy it perceives it needs to protect us is from the Spleen meridian.
Chronic stress, often related to trauma, might be one factor that creates a predisposition for autoimmune conditions. There may very well be other causes --- as yet unidentified microscopic inclusions that trigger an autoimmune response --- environmental pathogens and toxins --- etc. Some think that autoimmunity might be the result of "stealth" viruses. The latter are difficult to detect because they lack the usual cell wall. The idea is that the immune system _is_ reacting to something, as yet unidentified.
Whether chronic stress is implicated as a cause or not, it is certainly an effect. Thus anything that can be done to reduce stress is going to be helpful in managing RA and any of the other autoimmune conditions, of which there exists an extensive and growing list.
While there may be specific foods that are recommended, it would seem equally important to make eating a stress free experience. Any rigid ideas about food and diet can easily lead to increased stress, while general guidelines that are easy to follow, and suggested foods that are easy to find and prepare will not only make it easier to follow such guidelines but will make eating a pleasurable rather than a stress-inducing activity.