When we experience any kind of inflammation, it’s our body’s way of letting us know we are hurt. Inflammation is the body’s innate way of protecting itself from infection and foreign substances. Everyone has experienced inflammation at one time or another. It is a normal function of our body’s immune system and the first response to an injury.
Inflammation is characterized by redness, swelling, heat, pain and loss of function. When we cut, scratch or bruise ourselves, for example, chemicals in the white blood cells are released, increasing blood flow to the affected area. This can result in redness and warmth. In addition, some of the chemicals set off a leakage of fluids into the tissues causing them to swell. The injury may also stimulate nerves located in the tissues, producing pain.
Tonsillitis, colitis, arthritis and encephalitis are all names used to describe inflammatory disorders of specific organs and are designated with the suffix "itis." Research suggests inflammation may be the root cause for most chronic disorders including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Some evidence has also linked inflammation to issues such as obesity and diabetes.
Called prostaglandins, recent studies have identified this hormone-like compound, made by our body, as playing a role in a wide variety of physiological processes, including inflammation. Some prostaglandins promote inflammation while others reduce it. The kinds of foods that we eat, particularly fats and oils, can greatly influence the types of prostaglandins the body produces.
Omega-6 fatty acids, found in most cooking oils including corn, safflower, peanut and soybean oil, promote inflammation. On the other hand, oils found in cold water species of fish (like salmon), flax seeds and leafy green vegetables contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. It has also been recognized that trans-fatty acids, particularly those found in partially hydrogenated oils, increase inflammation in the body because they interfere with the enzymes needed to process omega-3 fatty acids.
If you suffer from inflammation or an inflammatory disorder, there are a number of natural, alternative health remedies you can try to help reduce the symptoms of inflammation you are experiencing.
Recommendations for wellness
• Avoid or modify activities that may aggravate pain.
• Exercise. Exercise releases compounds such as endorphins into the blood that can soothe inflammation.
• Increase your consumption of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and salads, which also contain anti-inflammatory nutrients.
• Avoid sugar, white breads, pasta and starchy vegetables, which can increase inflammation.
• Avoid polyunsaturated oils like corn, safflower, peanut or soy, which are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Instead, cook with healthier oils like olive oil, macadamia nut oil or cold pressed canola oil.
• Increase your consumption of coldwater fish like salmon, mackerel and herring, which contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids or supplement with omega-3 or flax seed oil that can block inflammation-producing compounds.
• Try an elimination diet that can rule out any food intolerances that may promote an inflammatory response in the body.
• Examine your environment. Eliminate or reduce your use of toxic household cleaners that may be causing an allergic reaction.
• Valued for centuries, ginger has a long history as an anti-inflammatory and has properties similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen.
• Studies have shown that vitamin E can also help with inflammation, which may account for the heart benefits often associated with this vitamin.
• Calcium and magnesium are important minerals in the healing process and are often depleted in conditions of inflammation.
• Chamomile, turmeric, green tea, cat’s claw, boswellia and white willow bark all have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
• Take a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs to operate properly.