Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition characterized by the fact that the immune cells, or lymphocytes, promote inflammation of the joints. The exact causes are still unknown and this chronic disease can lead to long-term joint damage resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability.
Rheumatoid arthritis progresses in three stages. The first stage is persisting synovitis, the inflammation of the synovial lining of the joints causing pain, warmth, stiffness, swelling and redness. In the second stage, the rapid division and growth of cells causes the synovium to thicken to the extent that it is palpable as a “boggy” swelling around the joints and tendons. In the third stage, the inflamed cells release enzymes that will damage the underlying cartilage, causing it to thin. Over time, the joint will lose its shape and alignment, eliciting more pain and loss of movement. Rheumatoid arthritis may at times last only for a while and go away; it may also go into remission and then flare up again, or it may continue indefinitely.
In Chinese Medicine, this condition is called Bi syndrome and is typically characterized into four types: Wind-Cold, Cold, Damp and Heat. During an initial consultation, including an assessment of the pulse and tongue, a diagnosis is made and your type of arthritis is determined. Specific acupuncture points are used and an appropriate diet is designed.
Green onions and ginger will help cases of Wind Bi. For Cold-Bi, black pepper and dry ginger are beneficial. Soy bean sprouts and pearl barley help cases of Damp-Bi while mung bean sprouts and winter melon are advised for Heat-Bi.
In addition, the following are useful for arthritis:
Helpful herbs and spices:
Black peppercorn, dill, fennel, coriander, marjoram, sage, saffron, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, onion, chives, garlic, horseradish (best if pickled in vinegar) and ginger root. Of these foods, onion and garlic are especially helpful in reducing the formation of inflammation as they contain the bioflavonid quercetin.
Fish with ample Omega-3 such as trout, anchovy, sardines, salmon, tuna and butterfish, chicken
Angelica, cinnamon bark (these last two as part of a herbal treatment). Pearl barley, tofu, celery and Chinese yam to help alleviate swollen joints.
You should also avoid any calcium inhibitors: excess meat or protein from any source (especially red meat, which tends to cause more inflammation), intoxicants (alcohol, tobacco, coffee), refined sugar and too many sweets, excess salt. Also restrict foods in oxalic acid, such as rhubarb, cranberry, plum, chard, beet greens and spinach.