Inflammation can be a good thing. It is a natural process that helps your body heal and defend itself from harm. However, chronic inflammation is also one of the root causes of many diseases. It may drive obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression and contribute all sorts of serious health problems from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to some cancers. In this article, we outline the many things you can do to reduce inflammation, including the foods you eat, supplements and lifestyle factors, and improve your overall health.
Everyone has experienced the remarkable phenomenon of acute inflammation – a sprained ankle, splinter, or cut – and as a result have witnessed the affected area turn red, puffy and hot as your immune system rushes to your aid to assess the injury and fight any pathogen that might have entered your body.
A normal, healthy inflammatory response should flare up and die down again a short time later, as the healing process resolves the inflammation and the injury heals. Pain and inflammation should not be long term; it should go away – but sometimes inflammation runs wild, become chronic and last for a long time — weeks, months or years — and may lead to various health problems from arthritis to cancer.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s way to protect itself from infection, illness or injury. As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases production of white blood cells, immune cells and substances called cytokines that help fight infection.
Classic signs of acute (short-term) inflammation include redness, pain, heat and swelling. On the other hand, chronic (long-term) inflammation is often silent and occurs inside the body without any noticeable symptoms. This type of inflammation can drive conditions like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and cancer
When doctors look for inflammation, they test for a few markers in the blood, including C-reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, TNF-alpha and IL-6
What drive’s inflammation?
Certain lifestyle factors can promote inflammation, especially when they occur on a regular basis, such as:
- Being an unhealthy weight;
- Eating a diet containing refined, processed carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, pasta, white rice, cereals) and consuming high amounts of sugar and high glycaemic index foods can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity;
- Consuming ’trans’ fats (e.g. fried or fast foods, packaged baked goods, vegetable fats used in some spreads) may promote inflammation and damage the cells that line your arteries;
- Regularly consumption of alcohol, coffee, excess sugar and/ or salt;
- Being sleep deprived;
- Lack of physical exercise especially excess sitting can drive inflammation;
- Experiencing ongoing digestive issues that upset the balance of ‘good’ bacteria (e.g. stomach pain, bloating, diarrhoea); and/or
- Experiencing ongoing psychological stress (unhappy employment situation, social isolation, caring for a sick loved).
Modifying any or all of these is an important step in a holistic approach to reducing inflammation that may be contributing to your pain or illness. If you relate to any of the above factors, speak with your Practitioner who can offer you support.
The inflammatory snowball effect
Imagine if you kept injuring yourself in the same location repetitively. The result would be ongoing unresolved inflammation. However, not all inflammation has a visible injury. For example, if there is inflammation in your gut, the only symptom may be some niggling gut issues, yet you cannot ‘see’ the problem. Nevertheless, there may be an inflammatory snowball effect occurring inside.
Unresolved inflammation, visible or not, becomes more problematic the longer it keeps interfering with the normal workings of your body, and has been linked to many types of chronic disease such as arthritis and type 2 diabetes. Your health practitioner can help with any ‘niggling’ issues, such as gut or maybe joint discomfort, to avoid the snowball effect occurring.
Stop inflammation going ‘through the roof.’
Nobody wants to be in pain, and for optimal health, it is important to stop abnormal inflammation in its tracks. Pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories are commonly used to help relieve persistent pain. However, some medications may be accompanied by unwanted side effects if used ongoing.
Fortunately, there is a natural range of anti-inflammatory and pain relief solutions that can be individualised for your situation, whether you need acute care or more ongoing support.
Safe and natural solutions to reduce inflammation
The anti-inflammatory diet
Research findings indicate that eating a diet focused on anti-inflammatory principles not only helps protect against certain diseases, but it also slows the ageing process by stabilising blood sugar and increasing metabolism. Plus, although the goal is to optimise health, many people find they also lose weight by following an anti-inflammatory eating pattern.
Follow these guidelines and choose a balanced diet that cuts out processed products and boosts your intake of whole, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods.
- Consume at least 25 grams of fibre every day.
- Eat a minimum of nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Eat four servings of both alliums (garlic, scallions, onions, and leek) and crucifers (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.) every week.
- Limit saturated fat to 10 percent of your daily calories.
- Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eat fish at least three times a week.
- Use oils that contain healthy fats.
- Avoid processed foods and refined sugars.
Foods to Eat
Include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.
- Fruit: Especially deeply coloured berries like blackcurrants, grapes and cherries.
- High-fat fruits: Avocados and olives.
- Healthy fats: Olive, avocado and coconut oil
- Fatty fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and anchovies.
- Raw nuts: Almonds and other nuts.
- Peppers: Bell and Chilli peppers
- Dark Chocolate:
- Spices: Such as turmeric, fenugreek and cinnamon
- Green Tea:
- Red wine: Up to 140 ml of red wine per day for women, and 280 ml per day for men.
- Safe and effective anti-inflammatory support with herbs and nutrients
- Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital to good health. They can decrease the inflammation associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other conditions. Look out for one high in a type of omega -3, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects that reduce cytokine levels and promote a healthy gut.
- Turmeric – this traditional anti-inflammatory Ayurvedic herb has a long history of use for injuries, while recent research demonstrates it also helps reduce the swelling and pain of arthritic conditions. It is the Curcumin – a component of the spice that seems to provides several impressive health benefits from decreasing inflammation in diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, and reducing inflammation and improving symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Boswellia – another Ayurvedic herb, Boswellia has analgesic, antirheumatic and anti-inflammatory qualities and may be used for all types of pain, but particularly arthritic or traumatic pain associated with inflammation.
- Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as muscle pain and soreness after exercise. It is also commonly used to treat indigestion and nausea, including morning sickness. Two components of ginger, gingerol and zingerone may reduce the inflammation linked to colitis, kidney damage, diabetes and breast cancer.
- The herbs Devils claw and Jamaica dogwood, when combined, not only help reduce pain but also decrease spasms and improve blood flow, therefore support the healing process.
- Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red wine, peanuts and in grapes, blueberries and other fruits with purple skin. Resveratrol supplements may reduce inflammation in individuals with heart disease, insulin resistance, gastritis, ulcerative colitis and other conditions.
- Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae with strong antioxidant effects. Studies have shown that it reduces inflammation, leads to healthier ageing and may strengthen the immune system.
These anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving herbs and supplements are ‘gut friendly’ and safe for long-term use. Your Practitioner can recommend the best anti-inflammatory combination for your needs.
Put an end to inflammation!
Don’t let visible or invisible inflammation be a perpetuating problem! Your Practitioner has a range of safe and effective natural medicines, along with the knowledge needed to help you address any pain and inflammation you may have. Addressing inflammation can not only improve your quality of life now but reduce your risk of chronic disease in future.