Clinical Application of Five Element Theory to Autoimmune Disease by M.M. Van Benschoten, OMD

TCM Five Element theory describes interacting cycles of energy between internal organ systems with both physiological and pathological effects. This concept is similar to the biomedical understanding of autoimmune disease. Counteracting, encroachment, and violation, xiang ke, xiang cheng, and xiang wu, describe these interactions. Autoimmune responses to common respiratory tract infections and air pollutants can be described as Lung/Metal damaging the other elements and their related internal organs. Autoimmune responses to intestinal flora are related to the Spleen/Earth damaging other organs.

TCM theory states that the Lungs do not like dryness. This corresponds to increased susceptibility to infections from dehydration due to toxic air quality and inadequate water intake. Frequent flyers are often our most challenging cases as the exposure to jet fuel damages yin and wei qi, creating the ideal conditions for chronic infection. Home painting and remodeling, gardening, and toxic dust and chemical exposures from cleaning products can also contribute to cycles of recurrent infection.

TCM theory states that excess of sweet flavor and raw, cold foods damage the Spleen. This is the inflammatory effect of bacterial overgrowth due to food poisoning, high fat and sugar intake. When chronic infections persist due to errors in diet and toxic environments, secondary inflammatory responses become more complex over time and involve more healthy tissues. The TCM correspondences are wind, heat, and damp generating phlegm and blood stasis. Clinical correlations may be considered according to the table below:

Lung/Metal attacking Heart/Fire - arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, insomnia

Lung/Metal attacking Spleen/Earth - diabetes, hypoglycemia, fibromyalgia, leukemia, lymphoma

Lung/Metal attacking Kidney/Water - arthritis, osteoporosis, nephritis, myeloproliferative disorders

Lung/Metal attacking Liver/Wood - anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, sleep disorders, ADHD, Autism, OCD, PANDAS, Tourette’s syndrome

Spleen/Earth attacking Liver/Wood - depression, hyperlipidemia, hormonal imbalances

Spleen/Earth attacking Kidney/Water - interstitial cystitis, kidney stones, prostatitis

Spleen/Earth attacking Lung/Metal - recurrent respiratory tract infections, skin disorders

Spleen/Earth attacking Heart/Fire - fatigue, obesity