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My Personal Journey of Healing

Julia Chang, MSc

9. Arthritis

I suffered from joint pain from a very young age: a problem which I attributed to a stressful childhood.  At age 14, I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.  I took some Chinese herbs which only gave me temporary pain relief.  At age 29, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was told by my doctor that nothing could be done except taking Aspirin for my pain.

I tried Aspirin, but after taking it, my lips became quite swollen: an indication of an allergic reaction.  Concluding that the painkillers were only hurting my liver, I decided to stop taking them and live with my pain.  Looking back, I consider myself lucky in a way: if I did not have an adverse reaction to the Aspirin, I might have gone to take painkillers for years, and possibly damage my liver.

Painkillers can cause liver damage; in fact, the medical journal Hepatology published a study by the Acute Liver Failure Study Group in December 2005, identifying the painkiller Acetaminophen as the #1 cause of acute liver failure in the United States.  According to Chinese medicine, lip problems are associated with spleen problems, so the painkillers might have been harming my spleen as well.

According to Chinese medicine, chronic pain is basically the result of “blood stasis”.  In other words, arthritis is caused by poor blood circulation in the joint.  If blood circulation (or the flow of “chi” according to Chinese medicine) is good, then there should be no inflammation and no chronic pain.  In Chinese medicine, “cooling foods” (citrus fruits, melons, bananas, tomatoes) tend to slow down energy flow, which may lead to blood stagnation.  In western medicine, “nightshade foods” (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) can cause inflammation, which in turn may lead to arthritic pain.

In my early 40s, my arthritis pain became so bad that I had difficulty climbing stairs.  I tried acupuncture, which did seem to stimulate blood flow and reduce the pain, but the problem always came back a few days later.  What I needed was a way to improve my blood circulation over the long term.

There are two ways to improve blood circulation in a lasting manner: cleansing the blood and physical exercise. 

Blood flows more efficiently with a healthy liver, and carries more oxygen and nutrients to nourish your body's cells.  Toxin-loaded blood from a congested liver is thick and sluggish, and does not flow well.  It tends to cause problems through stagnation.  Physical exercise also stimulates blood circulation, and if you do your exercises in the morning, it helps “activate” the liver, ie- get the blood flowing through it.  I personally do Y-Dan exercises in the morning, and it has really helped.  The liver must work hard at night to filter blood, especially during the early morning hours (1-3AM).  If the liver is sluggish and congested, it might not be able to filter your blood effectively during this time, which makes morning exercise even more important, to get the blood moving.  People who tend to wake up at night may be doing so because they are suffering from liver congestion.

Emotions and stress can also play an important role: nervousness, fatigue, exhaustion, frustrations, disappointment, anxieties or fear can harm the immune system and weaken internal organs.  They also constrict the blood vessels, resulting in poor blood circulation.  During my years of arthritis suffering, I believe that my problems may have been related to my stress level.

After more than 30 years of suffering from arthritic pain, at age 47 I finally managed to eliminate the pain when I did a complete program of liver and gallbladder cleansing in addition to daily morning exercise and control of diet.  In the Gallbladder Flushing section of this article, I list some of the foods I tried to avoid because they weakened my liver and spleen, under the heading “Control of Diet”.  Now that I am in my 70s, I feel I have better mobility and more energy than I did in my 20s.  I used to feel dizzy often and passed out many times, once on a public subway.  Passing out is a sign of poor blood circulation, and in particular, poor blood flow to the brain.  The human brain only weighs roughly 3 pounds, yet it uses up 20% of our entire body's oxygen supply.


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